Research over the past decade has provided strong support for the importance of various epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA and histone modifications in regulating activity-dependent gene expression in the mammalian central nervous system. More recently, the emerging field of epitranscriptomics revealed an equally important role of post-transcriptional RNA modifications in shaping the transcriptomic landscape of the brain. This review will focus on the methylation of the adenosine base at the N6 position, termed N6 methyladenosine (m6A), which is the most abundant internal modification that decorates eukaryotic messenger RNAs. Given its prevalence and dynamic regulation in the adult brain, the m6A-epitranscriptome provides an additional layer of regulation on RNA that can be controlled in a context- and stimulus-dependent manner. Conceptually, m6A serves as a molecular switch that regulates various aspects of RNA function, including splicing, stability, localization, or translational control. The versatility of m6A function is typically determined through interaction or disengagement with specific classes of m6A-interacting proteins. Here we review recent advances in the field and provide insights into the roles of m6A in regulating brain function, from development to synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. We also discuss how aberrant m6A signaling may contribute to neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Keywords: RNA binding proteins; RNA methylation; epitranscriptomic; m6A; post-transcriptional regulation.
© 2018 International Society for Neurochemistry.