Uveitis is a serious intraocular inflammatory disease that can lead to visual impairment even blindness worldwide. Notch signaling can regulate the differentiation of naïve CD4 T cells, influencing the development of uveitis. DNA methylation is closely related to the autoimmune diseases. In this study, we measured the Notch1 DNA methylation level, determined the Notch1 and related DNA methylases mRNA expression, and evaluated the ratio of Th17/Treg in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from uveitis patients and normal control subjects; moreover, we also tested the levels of relevant inflammatory cytokines in serum from the participants. Results indicated that compared with those in normal control individuals, the expression of Ten-eleven translocation 2 (TET2) and Notch1 mRNA is elevated in uveitis patients, whereas the methylation level in Notch1 DNA promotor region (-842 ~ -646 bp) is downregulated, and it is unrelated to anatomical location. Moreover, the Th17/Treg ratio is upregulated in PBMCs from uveitis patients, accompanied by the elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-2, IL-6, IL-17 and IFN-γ) in serum from uveitis patients. These findings suggest that the overexpression of TET2 DNA demethylase maybe lead to hypomethylation of Notch1, activate the Notch1 signaling, induce naïve CD4 T cells to differentiate Th17 subset, and thus disturb the balance of Th17/Treg ratio in uveitis patients. Overall, hypomethylation of Notch1 DNA is closely associated with the occurrence of uveitis. Our study preliminarily reveals the underlying mechanism for the occurrence of uveitis related to the hypomethylation of Notch1 DNA, providing a novel therapeutic strategy against uveitis in clinical practice.
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