Infection and immunity

MicroRNA 21 (miR-21) and miR-181b couple with NFI-A to generate myeloid-derived suppressor cells and promote immunosuppression in late sepsis.

PMID 24980967


The sepsis initial hyperinflammatory reaction, if not treated early, shifts to a protracted state of immunosuppression that alters both innate and adaptive immunity and is associated with elevated mortality. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are myeloid progenitors and precursors that fail to differentiate into mature innate-immunity cells and are known for their potent immunosuppressive activities. We previously reported that murine MDSCs expand dramatically in the bone marrow during late sepsis, induced by cecal ligation and puncture, and demonstrated that they contribute to late-sepsis immunosuppression. However, the molecular mechanism responsible for generating these immature Gr1(+) CD11b(+) myeloid cells during sepsis remains unknown. We show here that sepsis generates a microRNA (miRNA) signature that expands MDSCs. We found that miRNA 21 (miR-21) and miR-181b expression is upregulated in early sepsis and sustained in late sepsis. Importantly, we found that simultaneous in vivo blockade of both miRNAs via antagomiR (a chemically modified miRNA inhibitor) injection after sepsis initiation decreased the bone marrow Gr1(+) CD11b(+) myeloid progenitors, improved bacterial clearance, and reduced late-sepsis mortality by 74%. Gr1(+) CD11b(+) cells isolated from mice injected with antagomiRs were able to differentiate ex vivo into macrophages and dendritic cells and produced smaller amounts of the immunosuppressive interleukin 10 (IL-10) and transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) after stimulation with bacterial lipopolysaccharide, suggesting that immature myeloid cells regained their maturation potential and have lost their immunosuppressive activity. In addition, we found that the protein level of transcription factor NFI-A, which plays a role in myeloid cell differentiation, was increased during sepsis and that antagomiR injection reduced its expression. Moreover, knockdown of NFI-A in the Gr1(+) CD11b(+) cells isolated from late-septic mice increased their maturation potential and reduced their production of the immunosuppressive mediators, similar to antagomiR injection. These data support the hypothesis that sepsis reprograms myeloid cells and thus alters the innate immunity cell repertoire to promote immunosuppression, and they demonstrate that this process can be reversed by targeting miR-21 and miR-181b to improve late-sepsis survival.