Abstract

Tuberculosis has the highest mortality rate worldwide for a chronic infectious disease caused by a single pathogen. RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) are involved in autophagy — a key defense mechanism against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) infection — by modulating RNA stability and forming intricate regulatory networks. However, the functions of host RBPs during M. tuberculosis infection remain relatively unexplored. Zinc finger NFX1-type containing 1 (ZNFX1), a conserved RBP critically involved in immune deficiency diseases and mycobacterial infections, is significantly upregulated in M. tuberculosis–infected macrophages. Here, we aimed to explore the immunoregulatory functions of ZNFX1 during M. tuberculosis infection. We observed that Znfx1 knockout markedly compromised the multifaceted immune responses mediated by macrophages. This compromise resulted in reduced phagocytosis, suppressed macrophage activation, increased M. tuberculosis burden, progressive lung tissue injury, and chronic inflammation in M. tuberculosis–infected mice. Mechanistic investigations revealed that the absence of ZNFX1 inhibited autophagy, consequently mediating immune suppression. ZNFX1 critically maintained AMPK-regulated autophagic flux by stabilizing protein kinase AMP-activated catalytic subunit alpha 2 mRNA, which encodes a key catalytic α subunit of AMPK, through its zinc finger region. This process contributed to M. tuberculosis growth suppression. These findings reveal a function of ZNFX1 in establishing anti–M. tuberculosis immune responses, enhancing our understanding of the roles of RBPs in tuberculosis immunity and providing a promising approach to bolster antituberculosis immunotherapy.

Authors

Honglin Liu, Zhenyu Han, Liru Chen, Jing Zhang, Zhanqing Zhang, Yaoxin Chen, Feichang Liu, Ke Wang, Jieyu Liu, Na Sai, Xinying Zhou, Chaoying Zhou, Shengfeng Hu, Qian Wen, Li Ma

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