The emerging role of mRNA methylation in normal and pathological behavior

Genes Brain Behav. 2018 Mar;17(3):e12428. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12428. Epub 2017 Nov 17.


Covalent RNA modifications were recently rediscovered as abundant RNA chemical tags. Similarly to DNA epigenetic modifications, they have been proposed as essential regulators of gene expression. Here we focus on 3 of the most abundant adenosine methylations: N6-methyladenosine (m6 A), N6,2'-O-dimethyladenosine (m6 Am) and N1-methyladenosine (m1 A). We review the potential role of these modifications on mature mRNA in regulating gene expression within the adult brain, nervous system function and normal and pathological behavior. Dynamic mRNA modifications, summarized as the epitranscriptome, regulate transcript maturation, translation and decay, and thus crucially determine gene expression beyond primary transcription regulation. However, the extent of this regulation in the healthy and maladapted adult brain is poorly understood. Analyzing this novel layer of gene expression control in addition to epigenetics and posttranslational regulation of proteins will be highly relevant for understanding the molecular underpinnings of behavior and psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: RNA modification; behavior; m1A; m6A; m6Am; post-transcriptional regulation; psychiatric disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adenosine / genetics*
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Epigenomics / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / physiology
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Adenosine