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m6A modifications regulate intestinal immunity and rotavirus infection

By Shu Zhu, Anmin Wang, Jinghao Wang, Wanyiin Tao, Siyuan Ding, Richard A. Flavell, Jiyu Tong, Gaopeng Hou, Juanzi Gao, Guorong Zhang, Runzhi Li, Xingxing Ren, Decai Wang, Kaiguang Zhang, Wen Pan, Huabing Li, Chen Qian

Posted 17 Sep 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.17.460776

N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is an abundant mRNA modification and affects many biological processes. However, how m6A levels are regulated during physiological or pathological processes such as virus infections, and the in vivo function of m6A in the intestinal immune defense against virus infections are largely unknown. Here, we uncover a novel antiviral function of m6A modification during rotavirus (RV) infection in small bowel intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). We found that rotavirus infection induced global m6A modifications on mRNA transcripts by down-regulating the m6a eraser ALKBH5. Mice lacking the m6A writer enzymes METTL3 in IECs (Mettl3{Delta}IEC) were resistant to RV infection and showed increased expression of interferons (IFNs) and IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). Using RNA-sequencing and m6A RNA immuno-precipitation (RIP)-sequencing, we identified IRF7, a master regulator of IFN responses, as one of the primary m6A targets during virus infection. In the absence of METTL3, IECs showed increased Irf7 mRNA stability and enhanced type I and III IFN expression. Deficiency in IRF7 attenuated the elevated expression of IFNs and ISGs and restored susceptibility to RV infection in Mettl3{Delta}IEC mice. Moreover, the global m6A modification on mRNA transcripts declined with age in mice, with a significant drop from 2 weeks to 3 weeks post birth, which likely has broad implications for the development of intestinal immune system against enteric viruses early in life. Collectively, we demonstrated a novel host m6A-IRF7-IFN antiviral signaling cascade that restricts rotavirus infection in vivo.

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