SUMMARY Long intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNA) are important regulators of gene expression. Although lincRNAs are expressed in immune cells, their functions in immunity are largely unexplored. Here we identify an immunoregulatory lincRNA, lincRNA-EPS, that is precisely regulated in macrophages to control the expression of immune response genes (IRGs). Transcriptome analysis of macrophages from lincRNA-EPS-deficient mice, combined with gain-of-function and rescue experiments, revealed a specific role for this lincRNA in restraining IRG expression. Consistently, lincRNA-EPS-deficient mice manifest enhanced inflammation and lethality following endotoxin challenge in vivo. lincRNA-EPS associates with chromatin at regulatory regions of IRGs to control nucleosome positioning and repress transcription. Further, lincRNA-EPS mediates these effects by interacting with heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein L via a CANACA motif located in its 3′ end. Together, these findings identify lincRNA-EPS as a repressor of inflammatory responses highlighting the importance of lincRNAs in the immune system.
Detection of DNA is an important determinant of host-defense but also a driver of autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Failure to degrade self-DNA in DNAseII or III(TREX1)-deficient mice results in activation of the cGAS-STING pathway. Deficiency of cGAS or STING in these models ameliorates disease manifestations. However, the contribution of the cGAS-STING pathway, relative to endosomal TLRs, in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is controversial. In fact, STING deficiency failed to rescue, and actually exacerbated, disease manifestations in Fas-deficient SLE-prone mice. We have now extended these observations to a chronic model of SLE induced by the i.p. injection of TMPD (pristane). We found that both cGAS- and STING-deficiency not only failed to rescue mice from TMPD-induced SLE, but resulted in increased autoantibody production and higher proteinuria levels compared to cGAS STING sufficient mice. Further, we generated cGASKOFaslpr mice on a pure MRL/Faslpr background using Crispr/Cas9 and found slightly exacerbated, and not attenuated, disease. We hypothesized that the cGAS-STING pathway constrains TLR activation, and thereby limits autoimmune manifestations in these two models. Consistent with this premise, mice lacking cGAS and Unc93B1 or STING and Unc93B1 developed minimal systemic autoimmunity as compared to cGAS or STING single knock out animals. Nevertheless, TMPD-driven lupus in B6 mice was abrogated upon AAV-delivery of DNAse I, implicating a DNA trigger. Overall, this study demonstrated that the cGAS-STING pathway does not promote systemic autoimmunity in murine models of SLE. These data have important implications for cGAS-STING-directed therapies being developed for the treatment of systemic autoimmunity.
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