RNA editing of adenosine to inosine (A to I) is catalyzed by ADAR1 and dramatically alters the cellular transcriptome, although its functional roles in somatic cell reprogramming are largely unexplored. Here, we show that loss of ADAR1-mediated A-to-I editing disrupts mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) during induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming and impedes acquisition of induced pluripotency. Using chemical and genetic approaches, we show that absence of ADAR1-dependent RNA editing induces aberrant innate immune responses through the double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) sensor MDA5, unleashing endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and hindering epithelial fate acquisition. We found that A-to-I editing impedes MDA5 sensing and sequestration of dsRNAs encoding membrane proteins, which promote ER homeostasis by activating the PERK-dependent unfolded protein response pathway to consequently facilitate MET. This study therefore establishes a critical role for ADAR1 and its A-to-I editing activity during cell fate transitions and delineates a key regulatory layer underlying MET to control efficient reprogramming.
Keywords: ADAR1; ER stress; MET; RNA A-to-I editing; UPR; iPSC; innate immune response; pluripotency; somatic cell reprogramming; subcellular localization.
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