Long noncoding RNA LIRIL2R modulates FOXP3 levels and suppressive function of human CD4+ regulatory T cells by regulating IL2RA

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 Jun 4;121(23):e2315363121. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2315363121. Epub 2024 May 28.


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are central in controlling immune responses, and dysregulation of their function can lead to autoimmune disorders or cancer. Despite extensive studies on Tregs, the basis of epigenetic regulation of human Treg development and function is incompletely understood. Long intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNA)s are important for shaping and maintaining the epigenetic landscape in different cell types. In this study, we identified a gene on the chromosome 6p25.3 locus, encoding a lincRNA, that was up-regulated during early differentiation of human Tregs. The lincRNA regulated the expression of interleukin-2 receptor alpha (IL2RA), and we named it the lincRNA regulator of IL2RA (LIRIL2R). Through transcriptomics, epigenomics, and proteomics analysis of LIRIL2R-deficient Tregs, coupled with global profiling of LIRIL2R binding sites using chromatin isolation by RNA purification, followed by sequencing, we identified IL2RA as a target of LIRIL2R. This nuclear lincRNA binds upstream of the IL2RA locus and regulates its epigenetic landscape and transcription. CRISPR-mediated deletion of the LIRIL2R-bound region at the IL2RA locus resulted in reduced IL2RA expression. Notably, LIRIL2R deficiency led to reduced expression of Treg-signature genes (e.g., FOXP3, CTLA4, and PDCD1), upregulation of genes associated with effector T cells (e.g., SATB1 and GATA3), and loss of Treg-mediated suppression.

Keywords: FOXP3; IL2RA; LIRIL2R; long noncoding RNA; regulatory T cells.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors* / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit* / genetics
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit* / metabolism
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory* / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory* / metabolism


  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • IL2RA protein, human
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • FOXP3 protein, human