Reading, writing and erasing mRNA methylation

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2019 Oct;20(10):608-624. doi: 10.1038/s41580-019-0168-5. Epub 2019 Sep 13.


RNA methylation to form N6-methyladenosine (m6A) in mRNA accounts for the most abundant mRNA internal modification and has emerged as a widespread regulatory mechanism that controls gene expression in diverse physiological processes. Transcriptome-wide m6A mapping has revealed the distribution and pattern of m6A in cellular RNAs, referred to as the epitranscriptome. These maps have revealed the specific mRNAs that are regulated by m6A, providing mechanistic links connecting m6A to cellular differentiation, cancer progression and other processes. The effects of m6A on mRNA are mediated by an expanding list of m6A readers and m6A writer-complex components, as well as potential erasers that currently have unclear relevance to m6A prevalence in the transcriptome. Here we review new and emerging methods to characterize and quantify the epitranscriptome, and we discuss new concepts - in some cases, controversies - regarding our understanding of the mechanisms and functions of m6A readers, writers and erasers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / genetics
  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Adenosine