m6A mRNA methylation facilitates resolution of naïve pluripotency toward differentiation

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 1002-1006
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261417

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mRNA modification regulates pluripotency

When stem cells progress from an embryonic pluripotent state toward a particular lineage, molecular switches dismantle the transcription factor network that keeps the cell pluripotent. Geula et al. now show that N6-methyladenosine (m6A), a messenger RNA (mRNA) modification present on transcripts of pluripotency factors, drives this transition. Methylation destabilized mRNA transcripts and limited their translation efficiency, which promoted the timely decay of naïve pluripotency. This m6A methylation was also critical for mammalian development.

Science, this issue p. 1002


Naïve and primed pluripotent states retain distinct molecular properties, yet limited knowledge exists on how their state transitions are regulated. Here, we identify Mettl3, an N6-methyladenosine (m6A) transferase, as a regulator for terminating murine naïve pluripotency. Mettl3 knockout preimplantation epiblasts and naïve embryonic stem cells are depleted for m6A in mRNAs, yet are viable. However, they fail to adequately terminate their naïve state and, subsequently, undergo aberrant and restricted lineage priming at the postimplantation stage, which leads to early embryonic lethality. m6A predominantly and directly reduces mRNA stability, including that of key naïve pluripotency-promoting transcripts. This study highlights a critical role for an mRNA epigenetic modification in vivo and identifies regulatory modules that functionally influence naïve and primed pluripotency in an opposing manner.

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