RNA modifications are crucial factors for efficient protein synthesis. All classes of RNAs that are involved in translation are modified to different extents. Recently, mRNA modifications and their impact on gene regulation became a focus of interest because they can exert a variety of effects on the fate of mRNAs. mRNA modifications within coding sequences can either directly or indirectly interfere with protein synthesis. In order to investigate the roles of various natural occurring modified nucleotides, we site-specifically introduced them into the coding sequence of reporter mRNAs and subsequently translated them in HEK293T cells. The analysis of the respective protein products revealed a strong position-dependent impact of RNA modifications on translation efficiency and accuracy. Whereas a single 5-methylcytosine (m⁵C) or pseudouridine () did not reduce product yields, N¹-methyladenosine (m¹A) generally impeded the translation of the respective modified mRNA. An inhibitory effect of 2'O-methlyated nucleotides (Nm) and N⁶-methyladenosine (m⁶A) was strongly dependent on their position within the codon. Finally, we could not attribute any miscoding potential to the set of mRNA modifications tested in HEK293T cells.
Keywords: decoding; mRNA modification; ribosome; translation.