Objective: miR-21 is highly expressed in iNKT and activated T cells, but its T-cell autonomous functions are poorly defined. We sought to investigate the role of miR-21 in the development and functions of T and iNKT cells, representing adaptive and innate-like populations, respectively. Methods: We studied mice with a conditional deletion of miR-21 in all mature T lymphocytes. Results: Thymic and peripheral T and iNKT compartments were normal in miR-21 KO mice. Upon activation in vitro, miR-21 depletion reduced T-cell survival, TH17 polarisation and, remarkably, T- and iNKT cell ability to respond to low-affinity antigens, without altering their response to high-affinity ones. Mechanistically, miR-21 sustained CD28-dependent costimulation pathways required to lower the T-cell activation threshold, inhibiting its repressors in a positive feedback circuit, in turn increasing T-cell sensitivity to antigenic stimulation and survival. Upon immunisation with the low-affinity self-epitope MOG35–55, miR-21 KO mice were indeed less susceptible than WT animals to the induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, whereas they mounted normal T-cell responses against high-affinity viral epitopes generated upon lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection. Conclusion: The induction of T-cell responses to weak antigens (signal 1) depends on CD28 costimulation (signal 2). miR-21 sustains CD28 costimulation, decreasing the T-cell activation threshold and increasing their sensitivity to antigenic stimulation and survival, broadening the immune surveillance range. This occurs at the cost of unleashing autoimmunity, resulting from the recognition of weak self-antigens by autoreactive immune responses. Thus, miR-21 fine-tunes T-cell response and self-/non-self-discrimination.
miR-21 sustains CD28 signalling and low-affinity T-cell responses at the expense of self-tolerance / Fedeli, M.; Kuka, M.; Finardi, A.; Albano, F.; Vigano, V.; Iannacone, M.; Furlan, R.; Dellabona, P.; Casorati, G.. - In: CLINICAL AND TRANSLATIONAL IMMUNOLOGY. - ISSN 2050-0068. - 10:9(2021), p. e1321. [Epub ahead of print] [10.1002/cti2.1321]