N(6)-methyladenosine (m(6)A) is the most prevalent internal (non-cap) modification present in the messenger RNA of all higher eukaryotes. Although essential to cell viability and development, the exact role of m(6)A modification remains to be determined. The recent discovery of two m(6)A demethylases in mammalian cells highlighted the importance of m(6)A in basic biological functions and disease. Here we show that m(6)A is selectively recognized by the human YTH domain family 2 (YTHDF2) 'reader' protein to regulate mRNA degradation. We identified over 3,000 cellular RNA targets of YTHDF2, most of which are mRNAs, but which also include non-coding RNAs, with a conserved core motif of G(m(6)A)C. We further establish the role of YTHDF2 in RNA metabolism, showing that binding of YTHDF2 results in the localization of bound mRNA from the translatable pool to mRNA decay sites, such as processing bodies. The carboxy-terminal domain of YTHDF2 selectively binds to m(6)A-containing mRNA, whereas the amino-terminal domain is responsible for the localization of the YTHDF2-mRNA complex to cellular RNA decay sites. Our results indicate that the dynamic m(6)A modification is recognized by selectively binding proteins to affect the translation status and lifetime of mRNA.
Antioxidant genes such as ferritin are transcriptionally activated in oxidative stress via the antioxidant responsive element (ARE), to which nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) binds and activates transcription. Histone modification plays a cooperative and essential role in transcriptional regulation; however, its role in antioxidant gene transcription remains elusive. Arsenic exposure activated ferritin transcription via the ARE concomitant with increased methylation of histones H4Arg3 (H4R3) and H3Arg17 (H3R17). To test our hypothesis that histone H4R3 and H3R17 methylation regulates ferritin transcription, H4R3 and H3R17 protein arginine (R) methyltransferases 1 and 4 (PRMT1 and PRMT4) were investigated. Arsenic exposure of human HaCaT keratinocytes induced nuclear accumulation of PRMT1 and PRMT4, histone H4R3 and H3R17 methylation proximal to the ARE, but not to the non-ARE regions of ferritin genes. PRMT1 or PRMT4 knockdown did not block Nrf2 nuclear accumulation but inhibited Nrf2 binding to the AREs by ∼40% (P<), thus diminishing ferritin transcription in HaCaT and human primary keratinocytes and fibroblasts, causing enhanced cellular susceptibility to arsenic toxicity as evidenced by 2-fold caspase 3 activation. Focused microarray further characterized several oxidative stress response genes are subject to PRMT1 or PRMT4 regulation. Collectively, PRMT1 and PRMT4 regulate the ARE and cellular antioxidant response to arsenic.