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Nat Biotechnol. 2013 May;31(5):458-64. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2566. Epub 2013 Apr 21.

Identification of direct targets and modified bases of RNA cytosine methyltransferases.

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Department of Oncological Sciences, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.


The extent and biological impact of RNA cytosine methylation are poorly understood, in part owing to limitations of current techniques for determining the targets of RNA methyltransferases. Here we describe 5-azacytidine-mediated RNA immunoprecipitation (Aza-IP), a technique that exploits the covalent bond formed between an RNA methyltransferase and the cytidine analog 5-azacytidine to recover RNA targets by immunoprecipitation. Targets are subsequently identified by high-throughput sequencing. When applied in a human cell line to the RNA methyltransferases DNMT2 and NSUN2, Aza-IP enabled >200-fold enrichment of tRNAs that are known targets of the enzymes. In addition, it revealed many tRNA and noncoding RNA targets not previously associated with NSUN2. Notably, we observed a high frequency of C→G transversions at the cytosine residues targeted by both enzymes, allowing identification of the specific methylated cytosine(s) in target RNAs. Given the mechanistic similarity of RNA cytosine methyltransferases, Aza-IP may be generally applicable for target identification.

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