Letter | Published:

Tet2 promotes pathogen infection-induced myelopoiesis through mRNA oxidation

Nature volume 554, pages 123127 (01 February 2018) | Download Citation


Varieties of RNA modification form the epitranscriptome for post-transcriptional regulation1. 5-Methylcytosine (5-mC) is a sparse RNA modification in messenger RNA (mRNA) under physiological conditions2. The function of RNA 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) oxidized by ten-eleven translocation (Tet) proteins in Drosophila has been revealed more recently3,4. However, the turnover and function of 5-mC in mammalian mRNA have been largely unknown. Tet2 suppresses myeloid malignancies mostly in an enzymatic activity-dependent manner5, and is important in resolving inflammatory response in an enzymatic activity-independent way6. Myelopoiesis is a common host immune response in acute and chronic infections; however, its epigenetic mechanism needs to be identified. Here we demonstrate that Tet2 promotes infection-induced myelopoiesis in an mRNA oxidation-dependent manner through Adar1-mediated repression of Socs3 expression at the post-transcription level. Tet2 promotes both abdominal sepsis-induced emergency myelopoiesis and parasite-induced mast cell expansion through decreasing mRNA levels of Socs3, a key negative regulator of the JAK–STAT pathway that is critical for cytokine-induced myelopoiesis. Tet2 represses Socs3 expression through Adar1, which binds and destabilizes Socs3 mRNA in a RNA editing-independent manner. For the underlying mechanism of Tet2 regulation at the mRNA level, Tet2 mediates oxidation of 5-mC in mRNA. Tet2 deficiency leads to the transcriptome-wide appearance of methylated cytosines, including ones in the 3′ untranslated region of Socs3, which influences double-stranded RNA formation for Adar1 binding, probably through cytosine methylation-specific readers, such as RNA helicases. Our study reveals a previously unknown regulatory role of Tet2 at the epitranscriptomic level, promoting myelopoiesis during infection in the mammalian system by decreasing 5-mCs in mRNAs. Moreover, the inhibitory function of cytosine methylation on double-stranded RNA formation and Adar1 binding in mRNA reveals its new physiological role in the mammalian system.

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We thank R. L. Levine for providing Tet2 knockout mice, and K. Wang and C. Yi for helping with LC–MS analysis of RNA methylation. We thank C. Hu and W. Huang for technician support. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81788101, 31390431, 91542204, 31670884), the Shanghai Rising-Star Program (17QA1405300) and the CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Science (2016-12M-1-003).

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Author notes

    • Qicong Shen
    •  & Qian Zhang

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. National Key Laboratory of Medical Immunology & Institute of Immunology, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, China

    • Qicong Shen
    • , Qian Zhang
    • , Yanyan Jiang
    • , Yan Gu
    • , Nan Li
    •  & Xuetao Cao
  2. Department of Immunology & Center for Immunotherapy, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking Union Medical College, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing 100005, China

    • Qian Zhang
    • , Xia Li
    • , Kai Zhao
    • , Chunmei Wang
    •  & Xuetao Cao
  3. Institute of Immunology, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou 310058, China

    • Yang Shi
    • , Qingzhu Shi
    •  & Zhiqing Li


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X.C. designed and supervised the study. X.C., Q.Z. and Q.She. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. Q.She. established pathogen infection mouse models. Q.She. and Q.Z. confirmed and genotyped mice, performed RNA methylation- and RNA editing-related experiments and analysed all the data of this study. Q.She. and Q.Z. performed CLIP, bisulfite sequencing and analysed the sequencing data. Y.S. performed the dot plot assays. Q.She. and Q. Shi constructed plasmids with aid from Q.Z. Y.J. performed parasite infections of mice. Y.G. and Z.L. sorted and analysed immune cells. X.L., K.Z., C.W. and N.L. provided reagents and advice.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xuetao Cao.

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