Role of miRNAs in T-cell activation and Th17/Treg-cell imbalance in acquired aplastic anemia

Int J Lab Hematol. 2024 Jun;46(3):515-522. doi: 10.1111/ijlh.14243. Epub 2024 Feb 15.


Background: Altered T-cell repertoire with an aberrant T-cell activation and imbalance of the Th17/Treg cells has been reported in acquired aplastic anemia (aAA). miRNAs are well known to orchestrate T-cell activation and differentiation, however, their role in aAA is poorly characterized. The study aimed at identifying the profile of miRNAs likely to be involved in T-cell activation and the Th17/Treg-cell imbalance in aAA, to explore newer therapeutic targets.

Methods: Five milliliters peripheral blood samples from 30 patients of aAA and 15 healthy controls were subjected to flow cytometry for evaluating Th17- and Treg-cell subsets. The differential expression of 7 selected miRNAs viz; hsa-miR-126-3p, miR-146b-5p, miR-155-5p, miR-16, miR-17, miR-326, and miR-181c was evaluated in the PB-MNCs. Expression analysis of the miRNAs was performed using qRT-PCR and fold change was calculated by 2-ΔΔCt method. The alterations in the target genes of deregulated miRNAs were assessed by qRT-PCR. The targets studied included various transcription factors, cytokines, and downstream proteins.

Results: The absolute CD3+ lymphocytes were significantly elevated in the PB of aAA patients when compared with healthy controls (p < 0.0035), however, the CD4:CD8 ratio was unperturbed. Th17: Treg-cell ratio was altered in aAA patients (9.1 vs. 3.7%, p value <0.05), which correlated positively with disease severity and the PNH positive aAA. Across all severities of aAA, altered expression of the 07 miRNAs was noted in comparison to controls; upregulation of miR-155 (FC-2.174, p-value-0.0001), miR-146 (FC-2.006, p-value-0.0001), and miR-17 (FC-3.1, p-value-0.0001), and downregulation of miR-126 (FC-0.329, p-value-0.0001), miR-181c (FC-0.317, p-value-0.0001), miR-16 (FC-0.348, p-value-0.0001), and miR-326 (FC-0.334, p-value-0.0001). Target study for these miRNAs revealed an increased expression of transcription factors responsible for Th1 and Th17 differentiation (T-bet, RORϒt, IL-17, IL-6, and IFN-ϒ), T-cell activation (NFκB, MYC, and PIK3R2), downregulation of FOX-P3, and other regulatory downstream molecules like SHIP-1, ETS-1, IRAK-1, TRAF-6, and PTEN.

Conclusion: The study for the first time highlights the plausible role of different miRNAs in deregulating the Th17/Treg-cell imbalance in aAA, and comprehensively suggest the role of altered NF-kB and mTOR pathways in aAA. The axis may be actively explored for development of newer therapeutic targets in aAA.

Keywords: NF‐kB; Th17 cells; Treg cells; aplastic anemia; mTOR; miRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Aplastic* / genetics
  • Anemia, Aplastic* / immunology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory* / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory* / metabolism
  • Th17 Cells* / immunology
  • Th17 Cells* / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs