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Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00085

Epitranscriptomics: a New Regulatory Mechanism of Brain Development and Function

 Florian Noack1 and Federico Calegari1*
  • 1Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany

Epigenetic modifications of DNA and chromatin are long known to control stem cell differentiation and organ function but the role of similar modifications at the level or regulatory RNAs is just beginning to emerge. Over 160 RNA modifications have been identified but their abundance, distribution and functional significance are not known. The few available maps of RNA modifications indicated their dynamic regulation during somatic stem cell differentiation, brain development and function in adulthood suggesting a hitherto unsuspected layer of regulation both at the level of RNA metabolism and post-transcriptional control of gene expression. The advent of programmable, RNA-specific CRISPR-Cas editing platforms together with the identification of RNA modifying enzymes now offers the opportunity to investigate the functional role of these elusive epitranscriptome changes. Here, we discuss recent insights in studying the most abundant modifications in functional mRNAs and lncRNAs, N6-methyladenosine and 5-(hydroxy-)methylcytosine, and their role in regulating somatic stem cell differentiation with particular attention to neural stem cells during mammalian corticogenesis. An outlook on novel CRISPR-Cas based systems that allow stem cell reprogramming by epitranscriptome-editing will also be discussed.

Keywords: Epitranscriptomics, RNA-epigenetics, Epitranscriptome-editing, N6-Methyladenosine, 5-Methylcytosine, 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine, Neuronal Stem Cells, Brain Development

Received: 29 Dec 2017; Accepted: 02 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Mareike Albert, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPG), Germany

Reviewed by:

Stefan H. Stricker, Fakultät für Biologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
Gray Camp, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPG), Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Noack and Calegari. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Federico Calegari, Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany, federico.calegari@tu-dresden.de