Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Epigenetic Modulation of Class-Switch DNA Recombination to IgA by miR-146a Through Downregulation of Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4.


IgA is the predominant antibody isotype at intestinal mucosae, where it plays a critical role in homeostasis and provides a first line of immune protection. Dysregulation of IgA production, however, can contribute to immunopathology, particularly in kidneys in which IgA deposition can cause nephropathy. Class-switch DNA recombination (CSR) to IgA is directed by TGF-β signaling, which activates Smad2 and Smad3. Activated Smad2/Smad3 dimers are recruited together with Smad4 to the IgH α locus promoter to activate germline Iα-Cα transcription, the first step in the unfolding of CSR to IgA. Epigenetic factors, such as non-coding RNAs, particularly microRNAs, have been shown to regulate T cells, dendritic cells and other immune elements, as well as modulate the antibody response, including CSR, in a B cell-intrinsic fashion. Here we showed that the most abundant miRNA in resting B cells, miR-146a targets Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4 mRNA 3'UTRs and keeps CSR to IgA in check in resting B cells. Indeed, enforced miR-146a expression in B cells aborted induction of IgA CSR by decreasing Smad levels. By contrast, upon induction of CSR to IgA, as directed by TGF-β, B cells downregulated miR-146a, thereby reversing the silencing of Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4, which, once expressed, led to recruitment of Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4 to the Iα promoter for activation of germline Iα-Cα transcription. Deletion of miR-146a in miR-146a -/- mice significantly increased circulating levels of steady state total IgA, but not IgM, IgG or IgE, and heightened the specific IgA antibody response to OVA. In miR-146a -/- mice, the elevated systemic IgA levels were associated with increased IgA+ B cells in intestinal mucosae, increased amounts of fecal free and bacteria-bound IgA as well as kidney IgA deposition, a hallmark of IgA nephropathy. Increased germline Iα-Cα transcription and CSR to IgA in miR-146a -/- B cells in vitro proved that miR-146a-induced Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4 repression is B cell intrinsic. The B cell-intrinsic role of miR-146a in the modulation of CSR to IgA was formally confirmed in vivo by construction and OVA immunization of mixed bone marrow μMT/miR-146a -/- chimeric mice. Thus, by inhibiting Smad2, Smad3 and Smad4 expression, miR-146a plays an important and B cell intrinsic role in modulation of CSR to IgA and the IgA antibody response.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View