The RNA-binding protein tristetraprolin schedules apoptosis of immune cells during bacterial infection.
Protective responses against pathogens require a rapid mobilization of resting immune-cells. Neutrophils are exceptionally short-lived leukocytes, yet it remains unclear whether the lifespan of pathogen-engaged neutrophils is regulated differently. An Austrian consortium now reports that under homeostatic conditions, the mRNA-destabilizing protein tristetraprolin (TTP) regulates apoptosis and the numbers of activated infiltrating murine neutrophils but not neutrophil cellularity. Neutrophil transcriptome analysis revealed that decreased apoptosis of TTP-deficient neutrophils was specifically associated with elevated expression of myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl1) but not other antiapoptotic B cell leukemia/lymphoma 2 (Bcl2) family members. Higher Mcl1 expression resulted from stabilization of Mcl1 mRNA in the absence of TTP. The low apoptosis rate of infiltrating TTP-deficient neutrophils was comparable to that of transgenic Mcl1-overexpressing neutrophils. This study now published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation demonstrates that posttranscriptional gene regulation by TTP schedules the termination of the antimicrobial engagement of neutrophils.