Nature combines existing biochemical building blocks, at times with subtlety of purpose. RNA modifications are a prime example of this, where standard RNA nucleosides are decorated with chemical groups and building blocks that we recall from our basic biochemistry lectures. The result: a wealth of chemical diversity whose full biological relevance has remained elusive despite being public knowledge for some time. Here, we highlight several modifications that, because of their chemical intricacy, rely on seemingly unrelated pathways to provide cofactors for their synthesis. Besides their immediate role in affecting RNA function, modifications may act as sensors and transducers of information that connect a cell's metabolic state to its translational output, carefully orchestrating a delicate balance between metabolic rate and protein synthesis at a system's level.
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