Programmable m6A modification of cellular RNAs with a Cas13-directed methyltransferase

Nat Biotechnol. 2020 Dec;38(12):1431-1440. doi: 10.1038/s41587-020-0572-6. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


N6-Methyladenosine (m6A) is the most widespread internal messenger RNA modification in humans. Despite recent progress in understanding the biological roles of m6A, the inability to install m6A site specifically in individual transcripts has hampered efforts to elucidate causal relationships between the presence of a specific m6A and phenotypic outcomes. In the present study, we demonstrate that nucleus-localized dCas13 fusions with a truncated METTL3 methyltransferase domain and cytoplasm-localized fusions with a modified METTL3:METTL14 methyltransferase complex can direct site-specific m6A incorporation in distinct cellular compartments, with the former fusion protein having particularly low off-target activity. Independent cellular assays across multiple sites confirm that this targeted RNA methylation (TRM) system mediates efficient m6A installation in endogenous RNA transcripts with high specificity. Finally, we show that TRM can induce m6A-mediated changes to transcript abundance and alternative splicing. These findings establish TRM as a tool for targeted epitranscriptome engineering that can reveal the effect of individual m6A modifications and dissect their functional roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Gene Editing
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Engineering
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • CRISPR-Associated Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Methyltransferases
  • Adenosine