The emerging "epitranscriptomics" field is providing insights into the biological and pathological roles of different RNA modifications. The RNA methyltransferase METTL1 catalyzes N7-methylguanosine (m7G) modification of tRNAs. Here we find METTL1 is frequently amplified and overexpressed in cancers and is associated with poor patient survival. METTL1 depletion causes decreased abundance of m7G-modified tRNAs and altered cell cycle and inhibits oncogenicity. Conversely, METTL1 overexpression induces oncogenic cell transformation and cancer. Mechanistically, we find increased abundance of m7G-modified tRNAs, in particular Arg-TCT-4-1, and increased translation of mRNAs, including cell cycle regulators that are enriched in the corresponding AGA codon. Accordingly, Arg-TCT expression is elevated in many tumor types and is associated with patient survival, and strikingly, overexpression of this individual tRNA induces oncogenic transformation. Thus, METTL1-mediated tRNA modification drives oncogenic transformation through a remodeling of the mRNA "translatome" to increase expression of growth-promoting proteins and represents a promising anti-cancer target.
Keywords: Arg-TCT; METTL1; N(7)-methylguanosine; cancer; m(7)G; oncogene; tRNA; translation.
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