Transcriptome-wide distribution and function of RNA hydroxymethylcytosine

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Science  15 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6270, pp. 282-285
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac5253

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Chemical modification of RNA for function

Chemical modifications play an important role in modifying and regulating the function of DNA and RNA. Delatte et al. show that, in the fruit fly, many messenger RNAs (mRNAs) contain the modified base 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC). The chemical mark is added by the same enzyme that adds 5hmC to DNA. Because many mRNAs involved in neuronal development contain 5hmC, blocking the enzyme causes brain defects and is lethal. In vivo, RNA hydroxymethylation promotes mRNA translation.

Science, this issue p. 282


Hydroxymethylcytosine, well described in DNA, occurs also in RNA. Here, we show that hydroxymethylcytosine preferentially marks polyadenylated RNAs and is deposited by Tet in Drosophila. We map the transcriptome-wide hydroxymethylation landscape, revealing hydroxymethylcytosine in the transcripts of many genes, notably in coding sequences, and identify consensus sites for hydroxymethylation. We found that RNA hydroxymethylation can favor mRNA translation. Tet and hydroxymethylated RNA are found to be most abundant in the Drosophila brain, and Tet-deficient fruitflies suffer impaired brain development, accompanied by decreased RNA hydroxymethylation. This study highlights the distribution, localization, and function of cytosine hydroxymethylation and identifies central roles for this modification in Drosophila.

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