Cell Death Differ 2019 06 26;26(6):1169-1180. Epub 2018 Sep 26.
Laboratory of Neuroembriology, Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy.
Polarization of naive T cells into interferon (IFN)-γ-producing T helper 1 (Th1) cells is an essential event in the inflammatory response to pathogens. Herein, we identify the RNA binding protein Sam68 as a specific modulator of Th1 differentiation. Sam68-knockout (ko) naive T cells are strongly defective in IL-12-mediated Th1 polarization and express low levels of T-bet and Eomes. Consequently, Sam68-ko Th1 cells are significantly impaired in IFN-γ production. Moreover, we found that Sam68 is required for the induction of an inflammatory Th1 response during Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) infection, thus limiting bacterial dissemination in the lungs. Mechanistically, Sam68 directly binds to the microRNA miR-29, a negative regulator of Th1 response, and inhibits its expression during BCG infection. These findings uncover a novel post-transcriptional mechanism required for the Th1-mediated defense against intracellular pathogens and identify a new function for Sam68 in the regulation of the immune response.