Essays on Science and SocietyGenomics and Proteomics

Roadmap to the epitranscriptome

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Science  05 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6214, pp. 1192
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1807

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Summary

The “RNA world” is not at all hypothetical but rather the biological world we live in (1). For RNA to function within a modern cellular milieu of proteins and DNA, numerous chemical modifications coevolved that help sculpt its interactions (2). To date, well over a hundred nucleotide modifications have been identified in diverse types of RNA molecules (3). Every position of pyrimidine and purine rings can be posttranscriptionally modified, with methylation predominating. Although the importance of some modifications—especially those on structured, stable, and catalytically active RNAs (like ribosomal and transfer RNA)—is appreciated, their mode of action is still largely unknown.