METTL3-mediated N6-methyladenosine Modification Is Critical for Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition and Metastasis of Gastric Cancer

Mol Cancer. 2019 Oct 13;18(1):142. doi: 10.1186/s12943-019-1065-4.


Background: As one of the most frequent chemical modifications in eukaryotic mRNAs, N6-methyladenosine (m6A) modification exerts important effects on mRNA stability, splicing, and translation. Recently, the regulatory role of m6A in tumorigenesis has been increasingly recognized. However, dysregulation of m6A and its functions in tumor epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and metastasis remain obscure.

Methods: qRT-PCR and immunohistochemistry were used to evaluate the expression of methyltransferase-like 3 (METTL3) in gastric cancer (GC). The effects of METTL3 on GC metastasis were investigated through in vitro and in vivo assays. The mechanism of METTL3 action was explored through transcriptome-sequencing, m6A-sequencing, m6A methylated RNA immunoprecipitation quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (MeRIP qRT-PCR), confocal immunofluorescent assay, luciferase reporter assay, co-immunoprecipitation, RNA immunoprecipitation and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay.

Results: Here, we show that METTL3, a major RNA N6-adenosine methyltransferase, was upregulated in GC. Clinically, elevated METTL3 level was predictive of poor prognosis. Functionally, we found that METTL3 was required for the EMT process in vitro and for metastasis in vivo. Mechanistically, we unveiled the METTL3-mediated m6A modification profile in GC cells for the first time and identified zinc finger MYM-type containing 1 (ZMYM1) as a bona fide m6A target of METTL3. The m6A modification of ZMYM1 mRNA by METTL3 enhanced its stability relying on the "reader" protein HuR (also known as ELAVL1) dependent pathway. In addition, ZMYM1 bound to and mediated the repression of E-cadherin promoter by recruiting the CtBP/LSD1/CoREST complex, thus facilitating the EMT program and metastasis.

Conclusions: Collectively, our findings indicate the critical role of m6A modification in GC and uncover METTL3/ZMYM1/E-cadherin signaling as a potential therapeutic target in anti-metastatic strategy against GC.

Keywords: EMT; METTL3; Metastasis; ZMYM1; m6A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • ELAV-Like Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stomach Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / mortality
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology
  • Transcriptome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • ELAV-Like Protein 1
  • ELAVL1 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • N(6)-methyladenosine
  • Methyltransferases
  • METTL3 protein, human
  • Adenosine