After transcription, some RNA molecules are altered to contain bases not encoded in the genome. Most often this involves the editing or modification of one base to another, but in some organisms can involve the insertion or deletion of a base. Such editing events alter the coding properties of mRNA.
RNA editing can be generally defined as the co- or post transcriptional modification of the primary sequence of RNA from that encoded in the genome through nucleotide deletion, insertion, or base modification mechanisms.
There are two pathways of RNA editing: the substitution/conversion pathway and the insertion/deletion pathway. The insertion/deletion editing occurs in protozoans like Trypanosoma, Leishmania; in slime molds like Physarum spp., and in some viral categories like paramyxoviruses, Ebola virus etc. To date, the substitution/conversion pathway has been observed in human along with other mammals, Drosophila, and some plants. The RNA editing processes are known to create diversity in proteins involved in various pathways like lipid transport, metabolism etc. and may act as potential targets for therapeutic intervention (Smith et al., 1997).
The reaction mechanisms of cytidine and adenosine deaminases is represented below. In both these reactions, NH3 is presumed to be released: