Methionine deficiency facilitates antitumour immunity by altering m6A methylation of immune checkpoint transcripts

Gut. 2022 Jul 8;gutjnl-2022-326928. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2022-326928. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Methionine metabolism is involved in a myriad of cellular functions, including methylation reactions and redox maintenance. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether methionine metabolism, RNA methylation and antitumour immunity are molecularly intertwined.

Design: The antitumour immunity effect of methionine-restricted diet (MRD) feeding was assessed in murine models. The mechanisms of methionine and YTH domain-containing family protein 1 (YTHDF1) in tumour immune escape were determined in vitro and in vivo. The synergistic effects of MRD or YTHDF1 depletion with PD-1 blockade were also investigated.

Results: We found that dietary methionine restriction reduced tumour growth and enhanced antitumour immunity by increasing the number and cytotoxicity of tumour-infiltrating CD8+ T cells in different mouse models. Mechanistically, the S-adenosylmethionine derived from methionine metabolism promoted the N6-methyladenosine (m6A) methylation and translation of immune checkpoints, including PD-L1 and V-domain Ig suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA), in tumour cells. Furthermore, MRD or m6A-specific binding protein YTHDF1 depletion inhibited tumour growth by restoring the infiltration of CD8+ T cells, and synergised with PD-1 blockade for better tumour control. Clinically, YTHDF1 expression correlated with poor prognosis and immunotherapy outcomes for cancer patients.

Conclusions: Methionine and YTHDF1 play a critical role in anticancer immunity through regulating the functions of T cells. Targeting methionine metabolism or YTHDF1 could be a potential new strategy for cancer immunotherapy.

Keywords: colorectal cancer; immunotherapy; methylation.