The RNA-binding protein tristetraprolin schedules apoptosis of pathogen-engaged neutrophils during bacterial infection

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Protective responses against pathogens require a rapid mobilization of resting neutrophils and the timely removal of activated ones. Neutrophils are exceptionally short-lived leukocytes, yet it remains unclear whether the lifespan of pathogen-engaged neutrophils is regulated differently from that in the circulating steady-state pool. Here, we have found that under homeostatic conditions, the mRNA-destabilizing protein tristetraprolin (TTP) regulates apoptosis and the numbers of activated infiltrating murine neutrophils but not neutrophil cellularity. Activated TTP-deficient neutrophils exhibited decreased apoptosis and enhanced accumulation at the infection site. In the context of myeloid-specific deletion of Ttp, the potentiation of neutrophil deployment protected mice against lethal soft tissue infection with Streptococcuspyogenes and prevented bacterial dissemination. 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. Our study demonstrates that posttranscriptional gene regulation by TTP schedules the termination of the antimicrobial engagement of neutrophils. The balancing role of TTP comes at the cost of an increased risk of bacterial infections.

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