Genetic analyses support the contribution of mRNA N6-methyladenosine (m6A) modification to human disease heritability

Nat Genet. 2020 Sep;52(9):939-949. doi: 10.1038/s41588-020-0644-z. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


N6-methyladenosine (m6A) plays important roles in regulating messenger RNA processing. Despite rapid progress in this field, little is known about the genetic determinants of m6A modification and their role in common diseases. In this study, we mapped the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) of m6A peaks in 60 Yoruba (YRI) lymphoblastoid cell lines. We found that m6A QTLs are largely independent of expression and splicing QTLs and are enriched with binding sites of RNA-binding proteins, RNA structure-changing variants and transcriptional features. Joint analysis of the QTLs of m6A and related molecular traits suggests that the downstream effects of m6A are heterogeneous and context dependent. We identified proteins that mediate m6A effects on translation. Through integration with data from genome-wide association studies, we show that m6A QTLs contribute to the heritability of various immune and blood-related traits at levels comparable to splicing QTLs and roughly half of expression QTLs. By leveraging m6A QTLs in a transcriptome-wide association study framework, we identified putative risk genes of these traits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / genetics
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • RNA Splicing / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Adenosine