Positive natural selection of N6-methyladenosine on the RNAs of processed pseudogenes

Liqiang Tan, Weisheng Cheng, Fang Liu, Dan Ohtan Wang, Linwei Wu, Nan Cao, Jinkai Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Canonical nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) is an important splicing-dependent process for mRNA surveillance in mammals. However, processed pseudogenes are not able to trigger NMD due to their lack of introns. It is largely unknown whether they have evolved other surveillance mechanisms. Results: Here, we find that the RNAs of pseudogenes, especially processed pseudogenes, have dramatically higher m6A levels than their cognate protein-coding genes, associated with de novo m6A peaks and motifs in human cells. Furthermore, pseudogenes have rapidly accumulated m6A motifs during evolution. The m6A sites of pseudogenes are evolutionarily younger than neutral sites and their m6A levels are increasing, supporting the idea that m6A on the RNAs of pseudogenes is under positive selection. We then find that the m6A RNA modification of processed, rather than unprocessed, pseudogenes promotes cytosolic RNA degradation and attenuates interference with the RNAs of their cognate protein-coding genes. We experimentally validate the m6A RNA modification of two processed pseudogenes, DSTNP2 and NAP1L4P1, which promotes the RNA degradation of both pseudogenes and their cognate protein-coding genes DSTN and NAP1L4. In addition, the m6A of DSTNP2 regulation of DSTN is partially dependent on the miRNA miR-362-5p. Conclusions: Our discovery reveals a novel evolutionary role of m6A RNA modification in cleaning up the unnecessary processed pseudogene transcripts to attenuate their interference with the regulatory network of protein-coding genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number180
JournalGenome biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • ceRNA
  • N6-methyladenosine
  • Natural selection
  • Pseudogene
  • RNA stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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