The epitranscriptomic writer ALKBH8 drives tolerance and protects mouse lungs from the environmental pollutant naphthalene

Andrea Leonardi, Nataliia Kovalchuk, Lei Yin, Lauren Endres, Sara Evke, Steven Nevins, Samuel Martin, Peter C. Dedon, J. Andres Melendez, Laura Van Winkle, Qing Yu Zhang, Xinxin Ding, Thomas J. Begley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The epitranscriptomic writer Alkylation Repair Homolog 8 (ALKBH8) is a transfer RNA (tRNA) methyltransferase that modifies the wobble uridine of selenocysteine tRNA to promote the specialized translation of selenoproteins. Using Alkbh8 deficient (Alkbh8def) mice, we have investigated the importance of epitranscriptomic systems in the response to naphthalene, an abundant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and environmental toxicant. We performed basal lung analysis and naphthalene exposure studies using wild type (WT), Alkbh8def and Cyp2abfgs-null mice, the latter of which lack the cytochrome P450 enzymes required for naphthalene bioactivation. Under basal conditions, lungs from Alkbh8def mice have increased markers of oxidative stress and decreased thioredoxin reductase protein levels, and have reprogrammed gene expression to differentially regulate stress response transcripts. Alkbh8def mice are more sensitive to naphthalene induced death than WT, showing higher susceptibility to lung damage at the cellular and molecular levels. Further, WT mice develop a tolerance to naphthalene after 3 days, defined as resistance to a high challenging dose after repeated exposures, which is absent in Alkbh8def mice. We conclude that the epitranscriptomic writer ALKBH8 plays a protective role against naphthalene-induced lung dysfunction and promotes naphthalene tolerance. Our work provides an early example of how epitranscriptomic systems can regulate the response to environmental stress in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1138
Number of pages18
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2 2020


  • ALKBH8
  • Epitranscriptomics
  • RNA modification
  • naphthalene
  • selenoprotein
  • stress response
  • tolerance
  • translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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