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Epitranscriptomic regulation of the response to the air pollutant naphthalene in mouse lungs: from the perspectives of specialized translation and tolerance linked to the writer ALKBH8

By Andrea Leonardi, Nataliia Kovalchuk, Lei Yin, Lauren Endres, Sara Evke, Steven Nevins, Samuel Martin, Peter C. Dedon, J. Andres Melendez, Laura Van Winkle, Qing-Yu Zhang, Xinxin Ding, Thomas J. Begley

Posted 07 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/727909

Background: The epitranscriptomic writer Alkylation Repair Homolog 8 (ALKBH8) is a tRNA methyltransferase that modifies the wobble uridine of selenocysteine tRNA to promote the specialized translation, via stop codon recoding, of proteins that contain selenocysteine. Corresponding selenoproteins play critical roles in protecting against reactive oxygen species and environmental stress. Using a novel animal model deficient in Alkbh8 , we have investigated the importance of epitranscriptomic systems in the response to naphthalene (NA), an abundant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, glutathione depleter and lung toxicant found in tobacco smoke, gasoline and mothballs. Objectives: Our goal was to define the molecular reprogramming of Alkbh8 deficient ( Alkbh8def ) mice and evaluate the roles that the epitranscriptomic writer ALKBH8 and selenoproteins play in mitigating NA-induced toxicity and lung dysfunction. Methods: We performed basal lung analysis and NA exposure studies using WT, Alkbh8def and Cyp2abfgs-null mice, the latter of which lack the cytochrome P450 enzymes required for NA bioactivation. We characterized gene expression, molecular markers of damage, viability and tolerance to NA. Results: Under basal conditions, lungs from Alkbh8def mice have increased oxidation- reduction potential (ORP) and 8-isoprostane levels, and have reprogrammed at the molecular level to display increased stress response transcripts. In addition, the ALKBH8 writer deficient lungs have a decreased GSH/GSSG ratio. Alkbh8def mice are more sensitive to NA than WT, showing higher susceptibility to lung damage both at the cellular and molecular levels. WT mice develop a tolerance to NA after 3 days, defined as resistance to a high challenging dose after repeated exposures, which is absent in Alkbh8def mice, with writer deficient not surviving NA exposure. Discussion: We conclude that the epitranscriptomic writer ALKBH8 plays a protective role against NA-induced lung dysfunction and promotes NA tolerance. Our work provides an early example of how epitranscriptomic systems can regulate the response to environmental stress in vivo.

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