A neural m6A/Ythdf pathway is required for learning and memory in Drosophila

Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 5;12(1):1458. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21537-1.


Epitranscriptomic modifications can impact behavior. Here, we used Drosophila melanogaster to study N6-methyladenosine (m6A), the most abundant modification of mRNA. Proteomic and functional analyses confirm its nuclear (Ythdc1) and cytoplasmic (Ythdf) YTH domain proteins as major m6A binders. Assays of short term memory in m6A mutants reveal neural-autonomous requirements of m6A writers working via Ythdf, but not Ythdc1. Furthermore, m6A/Ythdf operate specifically via the mushroom body, the center for associative learning. We map m6A from wild-type and Mettl3 mutant heads, allowing robust discrimination of Mettl3-dependent m6A sites that are highly enriched in 5' UTRs. Genomic analyses indicate that Drosophila m6A is preferentially deposited on genes with low translational efficiency and that m6A does not affect RNA stability. Nevertheless, functional tests indicate a role for m6A/Ythdf in translational activation. Altogether, our molecular genetic analyses and tissue-specific m6A maps reveal selective behavioral and regulatory defects for the Drosophila Mettl3/Ythdf pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / genetics
  • Adenosine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteomics
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ythdc1 protein, Drosophila
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Adenosine