N6-Methyldeoxyadenosine (6mA) has recently been shown to exist and play regulatory roles in eukaryotic genomic DNA (gDNA). However, the biological functions of 6mA in mammals have yet to be adequately explored, largely due to its low abundance in most mammalian genomes. Here, we report that mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is enriched for 6mA. The level of 6mA in HepG2 mtDNA is at least 1,300-fold higher than that in gDNA under normal growth conditions, corresponding to approximately four 6mA modifications on each mtDNA molecule. METTL4, a putative mammalian methyltransferase, can mediate mtDNA 6mA methylation, which contributes to attenuated mtDNA transcription and a reduced mtDNA copy number. Mechanistically, the presence of 6mA could repress DNA binding and bending by mitochondrial transcription factor (TFAM). Under hypoxia, the 6mA level in mtDNA could be further elevated, suggesting regulatory roles for 6mA in mitochondrial stress response. Our study reveals DNA 6mA as a regulatory mark in mammalian mtDNA.
Keywords: METTL4; N(6)-methyldeoxyadenosine (6mA); TFAM; methyltransferase; mitochondrial DNA methylation; mitochondrial replication; mitochondrial transcription regulation.
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