The STAT4/MLL1 epigenetic axis regulates the antimicrobial functions of murine macrophages

William F. Carson, Karen A. Cavassani, Elyara M. Soares, Soichiro Hirai, Nicolai A. Kittan, Matthew A. Schaller, Melissa M. Scola, Amrita Joshi, Akihiro Matsukawa, David M. Aronoff, Craig N. Johnson, Yali Dou, Katherine A. Gallagher, Steven L. Kunkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Macrophages are critical immune cells for the clearance of microbial pathogens and cellular debris from peripheral tissues. Macrophage inflammatory responses are governed by gene expression patterns, and these patterns are often subject to epigenetic control. Chromatin modifications, such as histone methylation, regulate gene accessibility in macrophages, and macrophage polarization is governed in part by the expression and function of chromatin-modifying enzymes. The histone methyltransferase mixed-lineage leukemia 1 (MLL1) preferentially modifies lysine residue 4 on the unstructured protein tail of histone H3. MLL1 expression and function have been shown to be governed by signal transduction pathways that are activated by inflammatory stimuli, such as NF-kB. Therefore, we sought to investigate the role of MLL1 in mediating macrophage inflammatory responses. Bone marrow-derived macrophages from mice with a targeted MLL1 gene knockout (Lys2-Cre+/2 MLL1fx/fx) exhibited decreased proinflammatory gene expression with concurrent decreases in activating histone methylation. However, MLL1-deficient macrophages also exhibited increased phagocytic and bacterial killing activity in vitro. RNA profiling of MLL1-knockout macrophages identified numerous genes involved with inflammatory responses whose expression was altered in response to TLR ligands or proinflammatory cytokines, including STAT4. STAT4-dependent cytokines, such as type I IFNs were able to drive MLL1 expression in macrophages, and MLL1-knockout macrophages exhibited decreased activating histone methylation in the STAT4 promoter. These results implicate an important role for MLL1-dependent epigenetic regulation of macrophage antimicrobial functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1865-1874
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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