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About the Workshop

In the central dogma of molecular biology, RNA was thought only to pass genetic information from DNA to protein. Most recent findings strongly indicate that RNA modifications, like mRNA methylation, play dynamic regulatory roles that are analogous to the reversible epigenetic modifications of DNA and histone proteins. Understanding the function and mechanisms of the dynamic RNA modifications, which are termed ‘RNA epigenetics’, represents a new challenge at the frontier between different disciplines, such as biochemistry, epigenetics and cutting-edge technology.

Reversible RNA modifications add a new dimension to the developing picture of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. This new dimension awaits integration with transcriptional regulation, i.e. DNA modifications, to decipher the multi-layered information that controls a plethora of biological functions. Thus, in the era of advanced technologies, the exciting next step is to move from mapping nucleotide modifications to understanding how they contribute to biological processes.

This EMBO Workshop involves sessions dedicated to recent advances in the epigenomic and epitranscriptomic regulation of stem cell pluripotency and differentiation, organismal development, and how their alteration brings about human diseases. Particular emphasis on approaches enabling targeted manipulation of epigenetic marks, which are revolutionising the field, will be addressed.

Topics to be covered include:

1. Dynamic DNA and RNA modifications: Writers, erasers, and readers. This session will be dedicated to the discovery and functional elucidation of the enzymes dynamically modifying and demodifying DNA and RNA molecules. Also, progress made on identification and characterization of proteins mediating the effects of these modifications into biological function will be discussed.

2. Decoding the function of DNA and RNA modifications: Insights from epigenome editing and other approaches. The second session will provide new insights on the emerging approaches useful for an enhanced and more accurate interpretation of DNA and RNA dynamics. For instance, the targeted deposition or removal of chromatin modifications promises to be a powerful tool in basic research, to study gene function and chromatin biology, and also in molecular medicine.

3. DNA and RNA Epigenetics in Stem Cell and Development. This session will discuss the latest advances on the epi-control of the mechanisms underlying the cell fate decision and early developmental processes, with a special focus on the embryonic and adult stem cells. Moreover, DNA and RNA methylation will be discussed in the context of reprogramming events in the developing mouse germ line and zygote.

4. Epigenomes and Epitranscriptomes: A gateway to understanding diseases. In this session, the discussion will be focused on how understanding the regulation of DNA and RNA modifications paves the way towards identifying causes and cures for human diseases, with particular emphasis on cancer, muscle diseases and autoimmune disorders.