Hundreds to millions of adenosine (A)-to-inosine (I) modifications are present in eukaryotic transcriptomes and play an essential role in the creation of proteomic and phenotypic diversity. As adenosine and inosine have different base-pairing properties, the functional consequences of these modifications or 'edits' include altering coding potential, splicing, and miRNA-mediated gene silencing of transcripts. However, rather than serving as a static control of gene expression, A-to-I editing provides a means to dynamically rewire the genetic code during development and in a cell-type specific manner. Interestingly, during normal development, in specific cells, and in both neuropathological diseases and cancers, the extent of RNA editing does not directly correlate with levels of the substrate mRNA or the adenosine deaminase that act on RNA (ADAR) editing enzymes, implying that cellular factors are required for spatiotemporal regulation of A-to-I editing. The factors that affect the specificity and extent of ADAR activity have been thoroughly dissected in vitro. Yet, we still lack a complete understanding of how specific ADAR family members can selectively deaminate certain adenosines while others cannot. Additionally, in the cellular environment, ADAR specificity and editing efficiency is likely to be influenced by cellular factors, which is currently an area of intense investigation. Data from many groups have suggested two main mechanisms for controlling A-to-I editing in the cell: (1) regulating ADAR accessibility to target RNAs and (2) protein-protein interactions that directly alter ADAR enzymatic activity. Recent studies suggest cis- and trans-acting RNA elements, heterodimerization and RNA-binding proteins play important roles in regulating RNA editing levels in vivo. WIREs RNA 2016, 7:113-127. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1319.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.