Macrophages play a crucial role in host innate anti-mycobacterial defense, which is tightly regulated by multiple factors, including microRNAs. Our previous study showed that a panel of microRNAs was markedly up-regulated in macrophages upon mycobacterial infection. Here, we investigated the biological function of miR-146a during mycobacterial infection. miR-146a expression was induced both in vitro and in vivo after Mycobacterium bovis BCG infection. The inducible miR-146a could suppress the inducible nitric oxide (NO) synthase (iNOS) expression and NO generation, thus promoting mycobacterial survival in macrophages. Inhibition of endogenous miR-146a increased NO production and mycobacterial clearance. Moreover, miR-146a attenuated the activation of nuclear factor Î° B and mitogen-activated protein kinases signaling pathways during BCG infection, which in turn repressed iNOS expression. Mechanistically, miR-146a directly targeted tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) at post-transcriptional level. Silencing TRAF6 decreased iNOS expression and NO production in BCG-infected macrophages, while overexpression of TRAF6 reversed miR-146a-mediated inhibition of NO production and clearance of mycobacteria. Therefore, we demonstrated a novel role of miR-146a in the modulation of host defense against mycobacterial infection by repressing NO production via targeting TRAF6, which may provide a promising therapeutic target for tuberculosis.
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