Following decades of near-dormancy, the field of RNA modification is experiencing a rebirth. This results from recent technological breakthroughs, allowing not only the fine and quantitative detection of these modifications, but also their « mapping» within RNA molecules. The S.M.A.R.T. project seeks at developping state-of-the-art tools for studies on RNA epignetic, in particular for clinical applications.
The potential of the emerging field of « Epitranscriptome » is enhanced by several factors :
- So far, more than 150 RNA modifications have been identified in multiple RNA species.
- Recent studies revealed the existence of an « invisible code », affecting gene expression and major biological functions in both physiological and pathological context.
- Many RNA modifications are conserved in all living organisms.
- Its potential for the discovery of new biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic monitoring (Cancer, Neurobiology).
A unique facility in France with limitless possibilities in basic and clinical research
The SMART project (2019-2021), led by the University of Montpellier and the CHU, co-directed by Prof. C. Hirtz (UM/CHU) and Dr. Alexandre David (IGF), was financed by the Occitanie region (PRRI) with European funds for regional development (ERDF funding) to the amount of 981 433€.
S.M.A.R.T. has led to the creation of a unique facility in France within the framework of the Plateforme de Protéomique Clinique (IRMB, Montpellier). This PPC-SMART initiative aims at developping methods for the detection and quantification of RNA modifications by mass spectrometry from samples of various origin: human, animal and plant. Several collaborative projets stemmed from the implementation of this technology.
This endeavour has necessitated bringing together partners covering specific areas of expertise such as RNA chemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics and clinical grade mass spectrometry.