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NSUN2-mediated m5C methylation of IRF3 mRNA negatively regulates type I interferon responses

By Hongyun Wang, Lu Zhang, Cong Zeng, Jiangpeng Feng, Dehe Wang, Miao He, Ao Jiang, Yuanyuan Cao, Xiao Guo, Jiejie Liu, Kun Yan, Hao Tang, Ke Xu, Chengpeng Fan, Deyin Guo, Ke Lan, Yu Zhou, Yu Chen

Posted 10 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.09.451748

5-Methylcytosine (m5C) is a widespread post-transcriptional RNA modification and is reported to be involved in manifold cellular responses and biological processes through regulating RNA metabolism. However, its regulatory role in antiviral innate immunity has not yet been elucidated. Here, we report that NSUN2, a typical m5C methyltransferase, can negatively regulate type I interferon responses during viral infection. NSUN2 specifically mediates m5C methylation of IRF3 mRNA and accelerates its degradation, resulting in low levels of IRF3 and downstream IFN-{beta} production. Knockout or knockdown of NSUN2 could enhance type I interferon responses and downstream ISG expression after viral infection in vitro. And in vivo, the antiviral innate responses is more dramatically enhanced in Nsun2+/- mice than in Nsun2+/+ mice. Four highly m5C methylated cytosines in IRF3 mRNA were identified, and their mutation could enhance the cellular IRF3 mRNA levels. Moreover, infection with Sendai virus (SeV), vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), Zika virus (ZIKV), or especially SARS-CoV-2 resulted in a reduction in endogenous levels of NSUN2. Together, our findings reveal that NSUN2 serves as a negative regulator of interferon response by accelerating the fast turnover of IRF3 mRNA, while endogenous NSUN2 levels decrease after viral infection to boost antiviral responses for the effective elimination of viruses. Our results suggest a paradigm of innate antiviral immune responses ingeniously involving NSUN2-mediated m5C modification.

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