Particularly sensitive to chemical modifications, messenger RNAs (mRNAs) are molecules responsible for transmitting the information encoded in our genome, allowing for the synthesis of proteins, which are necessary for the functioning of our cells. Two teams from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), have focused on a specific type of chemical modification — called methylation — of mRNA molecules in the small worm Caenorhabditis elegans. They found that methylation on a particular sequence of an mRNA leads to its degradation and that this control mechanism depends on the worm’s diet. These findings are to be read in the journal Cell.
Several steps take place before a DNA-encoded gene produces the corresponding protein. One of the two strands of DNA is first transcribed into RNA, which then undergoes several processes, including splicing, before being translated into a protein. This process removes unnecessary non-coding sequences (introns) from the gene, leaving only the protein-coding sequences (exons). This mature form of RNA is called messenger RNA (mRNA).