AUG 06, 2016 7:06 AM PDT

Method for Measuring Methylation Levels of RNA Developed

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
A new sequencing technique that seeks to reveal important details about RNA has been developed by investigators at UCLA. Published in Nature Methods, it can measure for each gene, what percentage of RNA has a chemical modification called methylation. This could be a very beneficial tool for stem cell research, as methylation levels influence the differentiation or specification of stem cells into more specialized cells.
m6A modification of transcripts allows stem cells to effectively
RNA is the intermediary between the genome and the resulting proteins that make up an organism. While the genome contains the information, the RNA orchestrates the activities of the cell to carry out the processes. After DNA is transcribed into RNA, it undergoes processing that has an impact on the resulting proteins.

How methylation influences RNA activity is not well understood. There are several types of methylation, this study focuses on the kind that is known as m6A or N6-methyladenosine.  A range of functions results from this processing, for example, the length of time the RNA remains in the cell before degradation, or the amount of protein it will make. The m6A modification is, importantly, the most abundant methylation type on RNAs that produce protein. 
GO enrichment analyses of top 1,000 genes with highest methylation levels (purple) and bottom 1,000 genes with least methylation (orange) / Credit: Nature Methods Molinie et al
The sequencing method newly described by the authors is called m6A-LAIC-seq. "Previously, we were only able to determine the location of m6A on the RNA, but not the amount," explained Yi Xing, a Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.
Pluripotent stem cells hold such great promise for therapeutics because they are able to turn into any specific type of cell in the body, such as liver, blood, brain or skin cells through a process called differentiation. In addition, they’re able to make copies of themselves. Check out the video above to know more about the basics of stem cells.

Knowing what percentage of RNA has the m6A modification provides information that may help detect disease, said Xing, because diseased and healthy cells could have varying m6A levels. Researchers can also use information about RNA m6A levels to help answer questions about stem cell differentiation, something of particular interest to scientists investigating regenerative medicine. Another possibility for the application of this work is helping researchers maintain stem cells in culture. They have a tendency to spontaneously differentiate, hindering research due to the loss of control of cell fate. A team led by Xing and Cosmas Giallourakis has shown previously that blocking m6A stops pluripotent stem cells from differentiating, keeping them in a suspended state while remaining healthy.

"We are very excited about the promising data and the new tool that is now available to study m6A in a wide range of cell types including pluripotent stem cells," Xing said. "We anticipate that our research will improve the understanding and use of pluripotent stem cells in regenerative medicine."
In the video above, Xing gives a talk on his work at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, UCLA.

Sources: Phys.org via UCLA, Nature Methods, Cell Stem Cell
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 10, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Protein That Helps Mitochondria Get the Antioxidants They Need
NOV 10, 2021
A Protein That Helps Mitochondria Get the Antioxidants They Need
Energy can come at a cost. In the body, as energy is produced in our cells, those essential chemical reactions also gene ...
NOV 15, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
An Atlas of Regulatory Elements in the Genome of Different Cell Types
NOV 15, 2021
An Atlas of Regulatory Elements in the Genome of Different Cell Types
Although the human genome has been sequenced and we think most protein-coding genes have been identified, there are stil ...
NOV 18, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Stressed by Antibiotics May Become 'Disrupted' & Survive to Thrive
NOV 18, 2021
Bacteria Stressed by Antibiotics May Become 'Disrupted' & Survive to Thrive
Antibiotics work against bacterial infections, and for years, experts have been warning clinicians and the public to pre ...
NOV 25, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Analyzing Cells With Virtual Reality
NOV 25, 2021
Analyzing Cells With Virtual Reality
Research tools that are used to analyze gene expression have gotten cheaper, faster, and incredibly complex. An entire h ...
NOV 26, 2021
Coronavirus
Heavily Mutated COVID-19 B.1.1.529 Variant Emerges, WHO Names It Omicron
NOV 26, 2021
Heavily Mutated COVID-19 B.1.1.529 Variant Emerges, WHO Names It Omicron
On Thursday, November 2021, South African health officials announced that they had identified a new variant of the pande ...
DEC 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Disordered Protein Interactions are Crucial Transcription Regulators
DEC 01, 2021
Disordered Protein Interactions are Crucial Transcription Regulators
Even if the genome of an organism is free of any damaging mutations, the activity of genes has to be controlled very car ...
Loading Comments...