MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in healthy B cell responses and the loss of tolerance in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), although the role of many miRNAs remains poorly understood. Dampening miR-21 activity was previously shown to reduce splenomegaly and blood urea nitrogen levels in SLE-prone mice, but the detailed cellular responses and mechanism of action remains unexplored. In this study, using the TLR7 agonist, imiquimod-induced SLE model, we observed that loss of miR-21 in Sle1b mice prevented the formation of plasma cells and autoantibody-producing Ab-forming cells (AFCs) without a significant effect on the magnitude of the germinal center (GC) response. We further observed reduced dendritic cell and monocyte numbers in the spleens of miR-21-deficient Sle1b mice that were associated with reduced IFN, proinflammatory cytokines, and effector CD4+ T cell responses. RNA sequencing analysis on B cells from miR-21-deficient Sle1b mice revealed reduced activation and response to IFN, and cytokine and target array analysis revealed modulation of numerous miR-21 target genes in response to TLR7 activation and type I IFN stimulation. Our findings in the B6.Sle1b.Yaa (Sle1bYaa) spontaneous model recapitulated the miR-21 role in TLR7-induced responses with an additional role in autoimmune GC and T follicular helper responses. Finally, immunization with T-dependent Ag revealed a role for miR-21 in foreign Ag-driven GC and Ab, but not AFC, responses. Our data suggest a potential multifaceted, context-dependent role for miR-21 in autoimmune and foreign Ag-driven AFC and GC responses. Further study is warranted to delineate the cell-intrinsic requirements and mechanisms of miR-21 during infection and SLE development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy