m6A Modification Prevents Formation of Endogenous Double-Stranded RNAs and Deleterious Innate Immune Responses during Hematopoietic Development

Immunity. 2020 Jun 16;52(6):1007-1021.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.05.003. Epub 2020 Jun 3.


N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most abundant RNA modification, but little is known about its role in mammalian hematopoietic development. Here, we show that conditional deletion of the m6A writer METTL3 in murine fetal liver resulted in hematopoietic failure and perinatal lethality. Loss of METTL3 and m6A activated an aberrant innate immune response, mediated by the formation of endogenous double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). The aberrantly formed dsRNAs were long, highly m6A modified in their native state, characterized by low folding energies, and predominantly protein coding. We identified coinciding activation of pattern recognition receptor pathways normally tasked with the detection of foreign dsRNAs. Disruption of the aberrant immune response via abrogation of downstream Mavs or Rnasel signaling partially rescued the observed hematopoietic defects in METTL3-deficient cells in vitro and in vivo. Our results suggest that m6A modification protects against endogenous dsRNA formation and a deleterious innate immune response during mammalian hematopoietic development.

Keywords: METTL3; N(6)-methyladenosine; RNA modification; double-stranded RNA; dsRNA; epitranscriptome; hematopoiesis; hematopoietic development; innate immune response; m6A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Marrow Failure Disorders / etiology
  • Bone Marrow Failure Disorders / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Failure Disorders / pathology
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression
  • Hematopoiesis / genetics*
  • Hematopoiesis / immunology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / chemistry
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Methyltransferases
  • Mettl3 protein, mouse
  • Adenosine