The multifaceted functions of the Fat mass and Obesity-associated protein (FTO) in normal and cancer cells


The last decade has seen mRNA modification emerge as a new layer of gene expression regulation. The Fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO) was the first identified eraser of N6-methyladenosine (m6A) adducts, the most widespread modification in eukaryotic messenger RNA. This discovery, of a reversible and dynamic RNA modification, aided by recent technological advances in RNA mass spectrometry and sequencing has led to the birth of the field of epitranscriptomics. FTO crystallized much of the attention of epitranscriptomics researchers and resulted in the publication of numerous, yet contradictory, studies describing the regulatory role of FTO in gene expression and central biological processes. These incongruities may be explained by a wide spectrum of FTO substrates and RNA sequence preferences: FTO binds multiple RNA species (mRNA, snRNA and tRNA) and can demethylate internal m6A in mRNA and snRNA, N6,2′-O-dimethyladenosine (m6Am) adjacent to the mRNA cap, and N1-methyladenosine (m1A) in tRNA. Here, we review current knowledge related to FTO function in healthy and cancer cells. In particular, we emphasize the divergent role(s) attributed to FTO in different tissues and subcellular and molecular contexts.

RNA Biology
Sébastien Relier
former PhD student in biology

Trained in molecular biology in Paris and Montpellier