Expression of cytokines and chemokines is regulated at multiple steps during the transfer of the genetic information from DNA sequence to the functional protein. The multilayered control of cytokine expression reflects the need of the immune system to precisely and rapidly adjust the magnitude and duration of immune responses to external cues. Common features of the regulation of cytokine expression are temporal and highly dynamic changes in cytokine mRNA stability. Failures in the timing and extent of mRNA decay can result in disease. Recent advances in transcriptome-wide approaches began to shed light into the complex network of cis-acting sequence elements and trans-acting factors controlling mRNA stability. These approaches led to the discovery of novel unexpected paradigms but they also revealed new questions. This review will discuss the control of cytokine mRNA stability both in the context of high content approaches as well as focused mechanistic studies and animal models. The article highlights the need for systems biology approaches as important means to understand how cytokine mRNA decay helps maintain the immune and tissue homeostasis, and to explore options for therapeutical exploitation of mRNA stability regulation.
Keywords: Cytokine; Gene expression; Posttranscriptional regulation; mRNA decay.
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