Date of this Version
Nat ure Immunology VOL 19 AUGUST 2018, 828–837
Memory T cells are critical for the immune response to recurring infections. Their instantaneous reactivity to pathogens is empowered by the persistent expression of cytokine-encoding mRNAs. How the translation of proteins from pre-formed cytokine-encoding mRNAs is prevented in the absence of infection has remained unclear. Here we found that protein production in memory T cells was blocked via a 3′ untranslated region (3′ UTR)-mediated process. Germline deletion of AU-rich elements (AREs) in the Ifng-3′ UTR led to chronic cytokine production in memory T cells. This aberrant protein production did not result from increased expression and/or half-life of the mRNA. Instead, AREs blocked the recruitment of cytokine-encoding mRNA to ribosomes; this block depended on the ARE-binding protein ZFP36L2. Thus, AREs mediate repression of translation in mouse and human memory T cells by preventing undesirable protein production from pre-formed cytokine-encoding mRNAs in the absence of infection.