Iron deposition is frequently observed in human autoinflammatory diseases, but its functional significance is largely unknown. Here we showed that iron promoted proinflammatory cytokine expression in T cells, including GM-CSF and IL-2, via regulating the stability of an RNA-binding protein PCBP1. Iron depletion or Pcbp1 deficiency in T cells inhibited GM-CSF production by attenuating Csf2 3' untranslated region (UTR) activity and messenger RNA stability. Pcbp1 deficiency or iron uptake blockade in autoreactive T cells abolished their capacity to induce experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model for multiple sclerosis. Mechanistically, intracellular iron protected PCBP1 protein from caspase-mediated proteolysis, and PCBP1 promoted messenger RNA stability of Csf2 and Il2 by recognizing UC-rich elements in the 3' UTRs. Our study suggests that iron accumulation can precipitate autoimmune diseases by promoting proinflammatory cytokine production. RNA-binding protein-mediated iron sensing may represent a simple yet effective means to adjust the inflammatory response to tissue homeostatic alterations.
Keywords: 3′ UTR; CLIP; EAE; GM-CSF; PCBP1; RNA; RNA-binding protein; T cells; iron; post-transcription regulation.
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