m6A is required for resolving progenitor identity during planarian stem cell differentiation
28 July 2021
Regeneration requires accurate production of missing cell lineages. Cell production is driven by changes to gene expression, which is shaped by multiple layers of regulation. Here, we find that the ubiquitous mRNA base-modification, m6A, is required for proper cell fate choice and cellular maturation in planarian stem cells (neoblasts). We mapped m6A-enriched regions in 7,600 planarian genes, and found that perturbation of the m6A pathway resulted in progressive deterioration of tissues and death. Using single cell RNA sequencing of >20,000 cells following perturbation of the pathway, we discovered that m6A negatively regulates transcription of histone variants, and that inhibition of the pathway resulted in accumulation of undifferentiated cells throughout the animal in an abnormal transcriptional state. Analysis of >1000 planarian gene expression datasets revealed that the inhibition of the chromatin modifying complex NuRD had almost indistinguishable consequences, unraveling an unappreciated link between m6A and chromatin modifications. Our findings reveal that m6A is critical for planarian stem cell homeostasis and gene regulation in regeneration.