The role of ZC3H12C in the posttranscriptional regulation of Tnf
AuthorClayer, Elise Anna
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2021 Elise Anna Clayer
Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) is one of the most potent pro-inflammatory cytokines and it is secreted in response to danger signals, such as those caused by pathogen infection. High levels of TNF have been associated with many chronic and inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and psoriasis. To prevent high TNF levels and uncontrolled inflammation, Tnf mRNA is degraded when not required, making post-transcriptional regulation a central mechanism to control Tnf expression. Post-transcriptional control operates through cooperation between cis-elements present in the 3’UTR and trans-acting proteins such as RNA-binding proteins. Until recently, knowledge about post-transcriptional regulation of Tnf was limited to the role of the AU-Rich Element (ARE), and to a lesser extent to that of the Constitutive Decay Element (CDE). In 2015, our group identified a New Regulatory Element (NRE), which changed the view on the post-transcriptional regulation of Tnf. Importantly, we have discovered a cooperative mechanism between two or more elements to regulate Tnf mRNA stability in vitro. In this thesis, I have translated our previous in vitro observations, in vivo, using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to generate mice with deletions of one or two regulatory elements in the Tnf 3’UTR. I showed that the variety of phenotypes of the mice changed greatly in severity, including a concomitant deletion of the ARE and the CDE causing embryonic death. This suggests that not only different cis-elements cooperate to destabilise Tnf mRNA efficiently, but the mechanisms involved also appear to operate in a cell- and tissue-specific manner. Furthermore, I aimed to characterise a new trans-acting RBP called ZC3H12C that was previously identified by our group as involved in the post-transcriptional regulation of Tnf in vitro. To study the physiological role of ZC3H12C and the consequences of its loss, and its expression in vivo, I engineered a mouse deficient in Zc3h12c, in which the green fluorescent protein GFP that can be used as a marker of expression replaces ZC3H12C. Zc3h12c-deficient mice are found as adults at the expected Mendelian frequency and look outwardly normal. In particular, they do not present with any phenotype related to an excess of TNF (like cachexia or arthritis), even at an advanced age. However, loss of Zc3h12c causes aberrations in the structure of secondary lymphoid tissues, and hypertrophic skin-draining lymph nodes with supernumerary B cells and inflammatory dendritic cells in ageing mice. Flow-cytometry analysis of our GFP-reporter mouse showed that dendritic cells (DCs) are the immune cell type expressing ZC3H12C the most. RNA-seq analysis on splenic DCs suggested that loss of Zc3h12c affected the anti-viral immune response. Accordingly, when challenged with chronic LCMV, Zc3h12c-deficient mice presented with an abnormally exaggerated immune response. I characterised the impact of the loss of Zc3h12c in the context of psoriasis to confirm previous Gene Wide Association Studies (GWAS) suggesting that Zc3h12c was one of the risk genes involved in psoriasis incidence in human. I found that loss of Zc3h12c did not impact psoriasis’ development, but this observation could be due to the limits of the psoriasis model used in my study. I further characterised the role of Zc3h12c in skin homeostasis by mimicking the Toxic-Epidermal Necrolysis disease using subcutaneous injection of SMAC-mimetics to induce TNF-dependent cell death in the skin. In this context, loss of Zc3h12c appeared to be beneficial and reduced the lesions and the cell death induced by the SMAC mimetic compound. Finally, to evaluate the potential role of TNF in this phenotype, I generated mice lacking both Tnf and Zc3h12c. While double-deficient (DKO) mice never developed lymphadenopathy, around 30% of the Tnf/Zc3h12c DKO mice developed severe multiorgan inflammation, including pancreatitis, myocarditis, otitis, myositis, pyelonephritis, anaemia, extramedullary haematopoiesis and bone marrow failure. Histopathological analysis suggested that concomitant loss of Tnf and Zc3h12c rendered the mice immunocompromised and potentially sensitive to the opportunistic pathogen Pasteurella pneumotropica, for which they tested positive. To evaluate the role of the TNF-TNFR2 signaling in the phenotype, and given the widely known role of TNFR2 in autoimmunity development, I generated Tnfr2 and Zc3h12c double-deficient mice. While I failed to observe a single Tnfr2/Zc3h12c DKO mouse falling sick, I also observed an absence of disease development in the Tnf/Zc3h12c DKO mice and this coincided with the clearance of P. pneumotropica from the animal facility. These observations raise new questions on the role of Tnf and Zc3h12c in the control of immune responses and inflammation, and further investigation will have to be conducted. Overall, my work suggests that Zc3h12c might be a risk factor in the context of anti-TNF treatment leading to autoimmunity in some patients.
KeywordsZc3h12c; Regnase-3; Tnf; Post-transcriptional regulation; Inflammation; Lymphadenopathy; Autoimmunity; Anti-tnf; Zinc finger proteins; RNA-binding proteins; in vivo; immunology; innate immunity; 3'UTR; Psoriasis
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