N6-Methyladenosine in RNA and DNA: An Epitranscriptomic and Epigenetic Player Implicated in Determination of Stem Cell Fate

Stem Cells Int. 2018 Oct 10;2018:3256524. doi: 10.1155/2018/3256524. eCollection 2018.


Vast emerging evidences are linking the base modifications and determination of stem cell fate such as proliferation and differentiation. Among the base modification markers extensively studied, 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) and its oxidative derivatives (5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC), 5-formylcytosine (5-fC), and 5-carboxylcytosine (5-caC)) dynamically occur in DNA and RNA and have been acknowledged as important epigenetic markers involved in regulation of cellular biological processes. N6-Methyladenosine modification in DNA (m6dA), mRNA (m6A), tRNA, and other noncoding RNAs has been defined as another important epigenetic and epitranscriptomic marker in eukaryotes in recent years. The mRNA m6A modification has been characterized biochemically, molecularly, and phenotypically, including elucidation of its methyltransferase complexes (m6A writer), demethylases (m6A eraser), and direct interaction proteins (readers), while limited information on the DNA m6dA is available. The levels and the landscapes of m6A in the epitranscriptomes and epigenomes are precisely and dynamically regulated by the fine-tuned coordination of the writers and erasers in accordance with stages of the growth, development, and reproduction as naturally programmed during the lifespan. Additionally, progress has been made in appreciation of the link between aberrant m6A modification in stem cells and diseases, like cancers and neurodegenerative disorders. These achievements are inspiring scientists to further uncover the epigenetic mechanisms for stem cell development and to dissect pathogenesis of the multiple diseases conferred by development aberration of the stem cells. This review article will highlight the research advances in the role of m6A methylation modifications of DNA and RNA in the regulation of stem cell and genesis of the closely related disorders. Additionally, this article will also address the research directions in the future.

Publication types

  • Review