Research Papers: Pathology:

Tet methylcytosine dioxygenase 2 inhibits atherosclerosis via upregulation of autophagy in ApoE−/− mice

Juan Peng, Qin Yang, A-Fang Li, Rong-Qing Li, Zuo Wang, Lu-Shan Liu, Zhong Ren, Xi-Long Zheng, Xiao-Qing Tang, Guo-Hua Li, Zhi-Han Tang _, Zhi-Sheng Jiang and Dang-Heng Wei

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:76423-76436. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13121

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Juan Peng1,*, Qin Yang1,*, A-Fang Li1,*, Rong-Qing Li1, Zuo Wang1, Lu-Shan Liu1, Zhong Ren1, Xi-Long Zheng2, Xiao-Qing Tang3, Guo-Hua Li1, Zhi-Han Tang1, Zhi-Sheng Jiang1 and Dang-Heng Wei1

1. Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, Key Lab for Arteriosclerology of Hunan Province, University of South China, Hengyang, Hunan, China

2. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, The University of Calgary, Health Sciences Center, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

3. Department of Physiology & Institute of Neuroscience, Medical School, University of South China, Hengyang, PRC, China

* Co-first author

Correspondence to:

Zhi-Han Tang, email:

Zhi-Sheng Jiang, email:

Dang-Heng Wei, email:

Keywords: TET2, autophagy, endothelial cells, inflammation, atherosclerosis, Pathology Section

Received: June 08, 2016 Accepted: October 21, 2016 Published: November 04, 2016


Tet methylcytosine dioxygenase 2 (TET2) mediates the conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC). The loss of TET2 is associated with advanced atherosclerotic lesions. Our previous study showed that TET2 improves endothelial cell function by enhancing endothelial cell autophagy. Accordingly, this study determined the role of TET2 in atherosclerosis and potential mechanisms. In ApoE−/− mice fed high-fat diet, TET2 overexpression markedly decreased atherosclerotic lesions with uniformly increased level of 5hmC and decreased level of 5mC in genomic DNA. TET2 overexpression also promoted autophagy and downregulated inflammation factors, such as vascular cell adhesion molecule 1, intercellular adhesion molecule 1, monocyte chemotactic protein 1, and interleukin-1. Consistently, TET2 knockdown with small hairpin RNA (shRNA) in ApoE−/− mice decreased 5hmC and increased 5mC levels in atherosclerotic lesions. Meanwhile, autophagy was inhibited and atherosclerotic lesions progressed with an unstable lesion phenotype characterized by large lipid core, macrophage accumulation, and upregulated inflammation factor expression. Experiments with the cultured endothelial cells revealed that oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL) inhibited endothelial cell autophagy. TET2 shRNA strengthened impaired autophagy and autophagic flux in the ox-LDL-treated endothelial cells. TET2 overexpression reversed these effects by decreasing the methylation level of the Beclin 1 promoter, which contributed to the downregulation of inflammation factors. Overall, we identified that TET2 was downregulated during the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. The downregulation of TET2 promotes the methylation of the Beclin 1 promoter, leading to endothelial cell autophagy, impaired autophagic flux, and inflammatory factor upregulation. Upregulation of TET2 may be a novel therapeutic strategy for treating atherosclerosis.

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