Mycobacterium tuberculosis-induced miR-155 subverts autophagy by targeting ATG3 in human dendritic cells

Marilena P. Etna, Alessandro Sinigaglia, Angela Grassi, Elena Giacomini, Alessandra Romagnoli, Manuela Pardini, Martina Severa, Melania Cruciani, Fabiana Rizzo, Eleni Anastasiadou, Barbara Di Camillo, Luisa Barzon, Gian Maria Fimia, Riccardo Manganelli, Eliana M. Coccia

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Autophagy is a primordial eukaryotic pathway, which provides the immune system with multiple mechanisms for the elimination of invading pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). As a consequence, Mtb has evolved different strategies to hijack the autophagy process. Given the crucial role of human primary dendritic cells (DC) in host immunity control, we characterized Mtb-DC interplay by studying the contribution of cellular microRNAs (miRNAs) in the post-transcriptional regulation of autophagy related genes. From the expression profile of de-regulated miRNAs obtained in Mtb-infected human DC, we identified 7 miRNAs whose expression was previously found to be altered in specimens of TB patients. Among them, gene ontology analysis showed that miR-155, miR-155* and miR-146a target mRNAs with a significant enrichment in biological processes linked to autophagy. Interestingly, miR-155 was significantly stimulated by live and virulent Mtb and enriched in polysome-associated RNA fraction, where actively translated mRNAs reside. The putative pair interaction among the E2 conjugating enzyme involved in LC3-lipidation and autophagosome formation-ATG3-and miR-155 arose by target prediction analysis, was confirmed by both luciferase reporter assay and Atg3 immunoblotting analysis of miR-155-transfected DC, which showed also a consistent Atg3 protein and LC3 lipidated form reduction. Late in infection, when miR-155 expression peaked, both the level of Atg3 and the number of LC3 puncta per cell (autophagosomes) decreased dramatically. In accordance, miR-155 silencing rescued autophagosome number in Mtb infected DC and enhanced autolysosome fusion, thereby supporting a previously unidentified role of the miR-155 as inhibitor of ATG3 expression. Taken together, our findings suggest how Mtb can manipulate cellular miRNA expression to regulate Atg3 for its own survival, and highlight the importance to develop novel therapeutic strategies against tuberculosis that would boost autophagy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1006790
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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