Thousands of long noncoding RNAs are encoded in mammalian genomes, yet most remain uncharacterized. In this study, we functionally characterized a mouse long noncoding RNA named U90926. Analysis of U90926 RNA levels revealed minimal expression across multiple tissues at steady state. However, the expression of this gene was highly induced in macrophages and dendritic cells by TLR activation, in a p38 MAPK- and MyD88-dependent manner. To study the function of U90926, we generated U90926-deficient (U9-KO) mice. Surprisingly, we found minimal effects of U90926 deficiency in cultured macrophages. Given the lack of macrophage-intrinsic effect, we investigated the subcellular localization of U90926 transcript and its protein-coding potential. We found that U90926 RNA localizes to the cytosol, associates with ribosomes, and contains an open reading frame that encodes a novel glycosylated protein (termed U9-ORF), which is secreted from the cell. An in vivo model of endotoxic shock revealed that, in comparison with wild type mice, U9-KO mice exhibited increased sickness responses and mortality. Mechanistically, serum levels of IL-6 were elevated in U9-KO mice, and IL-6 neutralization improved endotoxemia outcomes in U9-KO mice. Taken together, these results suggest that U90926 expression is protective during endotoxic shock, potentially mediated by the paracrine and/or endocrine actions of the novel U9-ORF protein secreted by activated myeloid cells.

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