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Pericentromeric hypomethylation elicits an interferon response in an animal model of ICF syndrome

By Srivarsha Rajshekar, Jun Yao, Paige K Arnold, Sara G Payne, Yinwen Zhang, Teresa V Bowman, Robert J. Schmitz, John R Edwards, Mary G Goll

Posted 23 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/396671 (published DOI: 10.7554/elife.39658)

Pericentromeric satellite repeats are enriched in 5-methylcytosine (5mC). Loss of 5mC at these sequences is common in cancer and is a hallmark of Immunodeficiency, Centromere and Facial abnormalities (ICF) syndrome. While the general importance of 5mC is well-established, the specific functions of 5mC at pericentromeres are less clear. To address this deficiency, we generated a viable animal model of pericentromeric hypomethylation through mutation of the ICF-gene ZBTB24. Deletion of zebrafish zbtb24 caused a progressive loss of 5mC at pericentromeres and ICF-like phenotypes. Hypomethylation of these repeats triggered derepression of pericentromeric transcripts and activation of an interferon-based innate immune response. Injection of pericentromeric RNA is sufficient to elicit this response in wild-type embryos, and mutation of the MDA5-MAVS dsRNA-sensing machinery blocks the response in mutants. These findings identify activation of the innate immune system as an early consequence of pericentromeric hypomethylation, implicating derepression of pericentromeric transcripts as a trigger of autoimmunity.

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