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1.  Molecular phylogenetics and comparative modeling of HEN1, a methyltransferase involved in plant microRNA biogenesis 
Recently, HEN1 protein from Arabidopsis thaliana was discovered as an essential enzyme in plant microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis. HEN1 transfers a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to the 2'-OH or 3'-OH group of the last nucleotide of miRNA/miRNA* duplexes produced by the nuclease Dicer. Previously it was found that HEN1 possesses a Rossmann-fold methyltransferase (RFM) domain and a long N-terminal extension including a putative double-stranded RNA-binding motif (DSRM). However, little is known about the details of the structure and the mechanism of action of this enzyme, and about its phylogenetic origin.
Extensive database searches were carried out to identify orthologs and close paralogs of HEN1. Based on the multiple sequence alignment a phylogenetic tree of the HEN1 family was constructed. The fold-recognition approach was used to identify related methyltransferases with experimentally solved structures and to guide the homology modeling of the HEN1 catalytic domain. Additionally, we identified a La-like predicted RNA binding domain located C-terminally to the DSRM domain and a domain with a peptide prolyl cis/trans isomerase (PPIase) fold, but without the conserved PPIase active site, located N-terminally to the catalytic domain.
The bioinformatics analysis revealed that the catalytic domain of HEN1 is not closely related to any known RNA:2'-OH methyltransferases (e.g. to the RrmJ/fibrillarin superfamily), but rather to small-molecule methyltransferases. The structural model was used as a platform to identify the putative active site and substrate-binding residues of HEN and to propose its mechanism of action.
PMCID: PMC1397878  PMID: 16433904
2.  Sequence permutations in the molecular evolution of DNA methyltransferases 
DNA methyltransferases (MTases), unlike MTases acting on other substrates, exhibit sequence permutation. Based on the sequential order of the cofactor-binding subdomain, the catalytic subdomain, and the target recognition domain (TRD), several classes of permutants have been proposed. The majority of known DNA MTases fall into the α, β, and γ classes. There is only one member of the ζ class known and no members of the δ and ε classes have been identified to date. Two mechanisms of permutation have been proposed: one involving gene duplication and in-frame fusion, and the other involving inter- and intragenic shuffling of gene segments.
Two novel cases of sequence permutation in DNA MTases implicated in restriction-modification systems have been identified, which suggest that members of the δ and ζ classes (M.MwoI and M.TvoORF1413P, respectively) evolved from β-class MTases. This is the first identification of the δ-class MTase and the second known ζ-class MTase (the first ζ-class member among DNA:m4C and m6A-MTases).
Fragmentation of a DNA MTase gene may result from attack of nucleases, for instance when the RM system invades a new cell. Its reassembly into a functional form, the order of motifs notwithstanding, may be strongly selected for, if the cognate ENase gene remains active and poses a threat to the host's chromosome. The "cut-and-paste" mechanism is proposed for β-δ permutation, which is non-circular and involves relocation of one segment of a gene. The circular β-ζ permutation may be explained both by gene duplication or shuffling of gene fragments. These two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and probably both played a role in the evolution of permuted DNA MTases.
PMCID: PMC102321  PMID: 11914127

Results 1-2 (2)