N6-methyladenosine (m6A) affects multiple aspects of mRNA metabolism and regulates developmental transitions by promoting mRNA decay. Little is known about the role of m6A in the adult mammalian nervous system. Here we report that sciatic nerve lesion elevates levels of m6A-tagged transcripts encoding many regeneration-associated genes and protein translation machinery components in the adult mouse dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Single-base resolution m6A-CLIP mapping further reveals a dynamic m6A landscape in the adult DRG upon injury. Loss of either m6A methyltransferase complex component Mettl14 or m6A-binding protein Ythdf1 globally attenuates injury-induced protein translation in adult DRGs and reduces functional axon regeneration in the peripheral nervous system in vivo. Furthermore, Pten deletion-induced axon regeneration of retinal ganglion neurons in the adult central nervous system is attenuated upon Mettl14 knockdown. Our study reveals a critical epitranscriptomic mechanism in promoting injury-induced protein synthesis and axon regeneration in the adult mammalian nervous system.
Mature neurons in the adult peripheral nervous system can effectively switch from a dormant state with little axonal growth to robust axon regeneration upon injury. The mechanisms by which injury unlocks mature neurons' intrinsic axonal growth competence are not well understood. Here, we show that peripheral sciatic nerve lesion in adult mice leads to elevated levels of Tet3 and 5-hydroxylmethylcytosine in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Functionally, Tet3 is required for robust axon regeneration of DRG neurons and behavioral recovery. Mechanistically, peripheral nerve injury induces DNA demethylation and upregulation of multiple regeneration-associated genes in a Tet3- and thymine DNA glycosylase-dependent fashion in DRG neurons. In addition, Pten deletion-induced axon regeneration of retinal ganglion neurons in the adult CNS is attenuated upon Tet1 knockdown. Together, our study suggests an epigenetic barrier that can be removed by active DNA demethylation to permit axon regeneration in the adult mammalian nervous system.