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1.  Roles of Trm9- and ALKBH8-like proteins in the formation of modified wobble uridines in Arabidopsis tRNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7688-7701.
Uridine at the wobble position of tRNA is usually modified, and modification is required for accurate and efficient protein translation. In eukaryotes, wobble uridines are modified into 5-methoxycarbonylmethyluridine (mcm5U), 5-carbamoylmethyluridine (ncm5U) or derivatives thereof. Here, we demonstrate, both by in vitro and in vivo studies, that the Arabidopsis thaliana methyltransferase AT1G31600, denoted by us AtTRM9, is responsible for the final step in mcm5U formation, thus representing a functional homologue of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Trm9 protein. We also show that the enzymatic activity of AtTRM9 depends on either one of two closely related proteins, AtTRM112a and AtTRM112b. Moreover, we demonstrate that AT1G36310, denoted AtALKBH8, is required for hydroxylation of mcm5U to (S)-mchm5U in tRNAGlyUCC, and has a function similar to the mammalian dioxygenase ALKBH8. Interestingly, atalkbh8 mutant plants displayed strongly increased levels of mcm5U, and also of mcm5Um, its 2′-O-ribose methylated derivative. This suggests that accumulated mcm5U is prone to further ribose methylation by a non-specialized mechanism, and may challenge the notion that the existence of mcm5U- and mcm5Um-containing forms of the selenocysteine-specific tRNASec in mammals reflects an important regulatory process. The present study reveals a role in for several hitherto uncharacterized Arabidopsis proteins in the formation of modified wobble uridines.
PMCID: PMC3177185  PMID: 21653555
2.  Mammalian ALKBH8 Possesses tRNA Methyltransferase Activity Required for the Biogenesis of Multiple Wobble Uridine Modifications Implicated in Translational Decoding▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(7):1814-1827.
Uridines in the wobble position of tRNA are almost invariably modified. Modifications can increase the efficiency of codon reading, but they also prevent mistranslation by limiting wobbling. In mammals, several tRNAs have 5-methoxycarbonylmethyluridine (mcm5U) or derivatives thereof in the wobble position. Through analysis of tRNA from Alkbh8−/− mice, we show here that ALKBH8 is a tRNA methyltransferase required for the final step in the biogenesis of mcm5U. We also demonstrate that the interaction of ALKBH8 with a small accessory protein, TRM112, is required to form a functional tRNA methyltransferase. Furthermore, prior ALKBH8-mediated methylation is a prerequisite for the thiolation and 2′-O-ribose methylation that form 5-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2-thiouridine (mcm5s2U) and 5-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2′-O-methyluridine (mcm5Um), respectively. Despite the complete loss of all of these uridine modifications, Alkbh8−/− mice appear normal. However, the selenocysteine-specific tRNA (tRNASec) is aberrantly modified in the Alkbh8−/− mice, and for the selenoprotein Gpx1, we indeed observed reduced recoding of the UGA stop codon to selenocysteine.
PMCID: PMC2838068  PMID: 20123966
3.  Viral AlkB proteins repair RNA damage by oxidative demethylation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(17):5451-5461.
Bacterial and mammalian AlkB proteins are iron(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases that reverse methylation damage, such as 1-methyladenine and 3-methylcytosine, in RNA and DNA. An AlkB-domain is encoded by the genome of numerous single-stranded, plant-infecting RNA viruses, the majority of which belong to the Flexiviridae family. Our phylogenetic analysis of AlkB sequences suggests that a single plant virus might have acquired AlkB relatively recently, followed by horizontal dissemination among other viruses via recombination. Here, we describe the first functional characterization of AlkB proteins from three plant viruses. The viral AlkB proteins efficiently reactivated methylated bacteriophage genomes when expressed in Escherichia coli, and also displayed robust, iron(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent demethylase activity in vitro. Viral AlkB proteins preferred RNA over DNA substrates, and thus represent the first AlkBs with such substrate specificity. Our results suggest a role for viral AlkBs in maintaining the integrity of the viral RNA genome through repair of deleterious methylation damage, and support the notion that AlkB-mediated RNA repair is biologically relevant.
PMCID: PMC2553587  PMID: 18718927

Results 1-3 (3)