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The m⁶A Writer: Rise of a Machine for Growing Tasks

Balacco, Dario L., Soller, Matthias
Biochemistry 2018 v.58 no.5 pp. 363-378
DNA, gene expression, gene expression regulation, messenger RNA, methylation, microRNA, moieties, molecular biology, proteins
The central dogma of molecular biology introduced by Crick describes a linear flow of information from DNA to mRNA to protein. Since then it has become evident that RNA undergoes several maturation steps such as capping, splicing, 3′-end processing, and editing. Likewise, nucleotide modifications are common in mRNA and are present in all organisms impacting on the regulation of gene expression. The most abundant modification found in mRNA is N6-methyladenosine (m⁶A). Deposition of m⁶A is a nuclear process and is performed by a megadalton writer complex primarily on mRNAs, but also on microRNAs and lncRNAs. The m⁶A methylosome is composed of the enzymatic core components METTL3 and METTL14, and several auxiliary proteins necessary for its correct positioning and functioning, which are WTAP, VIRMA, FLACC, RBM15, and HAKAI. The m⁶A epimark is decoded by YTH domain-containing reader proteins YTHDC and YTHDF, but METTLs can act as “readers” as well. Eraser proteins, such as FTO and ALKBH5, can remove the methyl group. Here we review recent progress on the role of m⁶A in regulating gene expression in light of Crick’s central dogma of molecular biology. In particular, we address the complexity of the writer complex from an evolutionary perspective to obtain insights into the mechanism of ancient m⁶A methylation and its regulation.