Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) damages multiple organs by producing various autoantibodies. In this study, we report that decreased microRNA (miR)-200a-3p causes IL-2 hypoproduction through zinc finger E-box binding homeobox (ZEB)1 and C-terminal binding protein 2 (CtBP2) in a lupus-prone mouse. First, we performed RNA sequencing to identify candidate microRNAs and mRNAs involved in the pathogenesis of SLE. We found that miR-200a-3p was significantly downregulated, whereas its putative targets, ZEB2 and CtBP2, were upregulated in CD4+T cells from MRL/lpr-Tnfrsf6lpr mice compared with C57BL/6J mice. ZEB1 and ZEB2 comprise the ZEB family and suppress various genes, including IL-2 by recruiting CtBP2. IL-2 plays a critical role in immune tolerance, and insufficient IL-2 production upon stimulation has been recognized in SLE pathogenesis. Therefore, we hypothesized that decreased miR-200a-3p causes IL-2 deficit through the ZEB1-CtBP2 and/or ZEB2-CtBP2 complex in SLE CD4+T cells. Overexpression of miR-200a-3p induced IL-2 production by downregulating ZEB1, ZEB2, and CtBP2 in EL4 cell lines. We further revealed that miR-200a-3p promotes IL-2 expression by reducing the binding of suppressive ZEB1-CtBP2 and ZEB2-CtBP2 complexes on negative regulatory element A in the IL-2 promoter in EL4 cells. Interestingly, the ZEB1-CtBP2 complex on negative regulatory element Awas significantly upregulated after PMA/ionomycin stimulation in lupus CD4+T cells. Our studies have revealed a new epigenetic pathway in the control of IL-2 production in SLE whereby low levels of miR-200a-3p accumulate the binding of the ZEB1-CtBP2 complex to the IL-2 promoter and suppress IL-2 production.
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