Mitochondrial double-stranded RNA triggers induction of the antiviral DNA deaminase APOBEC3A and nuclear DNA damage

Chloe Wick, Seyed Arad Moghadasi, Jordan T. Becker, Elisa Fanunza, Sunwoo Oh, Elodie Bournique, Rémi Buisson, Reuben S. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


APOBEC3A is an antiviral DNA deaminase often induced by virus infection. APOBEC3A is also a source of cancer mutation in viral and nonviral tumor types. It is therefore critical to identify factors responsible for APOBEC3A upregulation. Here, we test the hypothesis that leaked mitochondrial (mt) double-stranded (ds)RNA is recognized as foreign nucleic acid, which triggers innate immune signaling, APOBEC3A upregulation, and DNA damage. Knockdown of an enzyme responsible for degrading mtdsRNA, the exoribonuclease polynucleotide phosphorylase, results in mtdsRNA leakage into the cytosol and induction of APOBEC3A expression. APOBEC3A upregulation by cytoplasmic mtdsRNA requires RIG-I, MAVS, and STAT2 and is likely part of a broader type I interferon response. Importantly, although mtdsRNA-induced APOBEC3A appears cytoplasmic by subcellular fractionation experiments, its induction triggers an overt DNA damage response characterized by elevated nuclear γ-H2AX staining. Thus, mtdsRNA dysregulation may induce APOBEC3A and contribute to observed genomic instability and mutation signatures in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105073
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • DNA damage response
  • cancer mutagenesis
  • innate immune signaling
  • mitochondrial dsRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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