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1.  Crystal structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB, the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(6):1925-1934.
The structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB (BsTrmB), the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase, was determined at a resolution of 2.1 Å. This is the first structure of a member of the TrmB family to be determined by X-ray crystallography. It reveals a unique variant of the Rossmann-fold methyltransferase (RFM) structure, with the N-terminal helix folded on the opposite site of the catalytic domain. The architecture of the active site and a computational docking model of BsTrmB in complex with the methyl group donor S-adenosyl-l-methionine and the tRNA substrate provide an explanation for results from mutagenesis studies of an orthologous enzyme from Escherichia coli (EcTrmB). However, unlike EcTrmB, BsTrmB is shown here to be dimeric both in the crystal and in solution. The dimer interface has a hydrophobic core and buries a potassium ion and five water molecules. The evolutionary analysis of the putative interface residues in the TrmB family suggests that homodimerization may be a specific feature of TrmBs from Bacilli, which may represent an early stage of evolution to an obligatory dimer.
PMCID: PMC1447647  PMID: 16600901
2.  Complete Cap 4 Formation Is Not Required for Viability in Trypanosoma brucei†  
Eukaryotic Cell  2006;5(6):905-915.
In kinetoplastids spliced leader (SL) RNA is trans-spliced onto the 5′ ends of all nuclear mRNAs, providing a universal exon with a unique cap. Mature SL contains an m7G cap, ribose 2′-O methylations on the first four nucleotides, and base methylations on nucleotides 1 and 4 (AACU). This structure is referred to as cap 4. Mutagenized SL RNAs that exhibit reduced cap 4 are trans-spliced, but these mRNAs do not associate with polysomes, suggesting a direct role in translation for cap 4, the primary SL sequence, or both. To separate SL RNA sequence alterations from cap 4 maturation, we have examined two ribose 2′-O-methyltransferases in Trypanosoma brucei. Both enzymes fall into the Rossmann fold class of methyltransferases and model into a conserved structure based on vaccinia virus homolog VP39. Knockdown of the methyltransferases individually or in combination did not affect growth rates and suggests a temporal placement in the cap 4 formation cascade: TbMT417 modifies A2 and is not required for subsequent steps; TbMT511 methylates C3, without which U4 methylations are reduced. Incomplete cap 4 maturation was reflected in substrate SL and mRNA populations. Recombinant methyltransferases bind to a methyl donor and show preference for m7G-capped RNAs in vitro. Both enzymes reside in the nucleoplasm. Based on the cap phenotype of substrate SL stranded in the cytosol, A2, C3, and U4 methylations are added after nuclear reimport of Sm protein-complexed substrate SL RNA. As mature cap 4 is dispensable for translation, cap 1 modifications and/or SL sequences are implicated in ribosomal interaction.
PMCID: PMC1489268  PMID: 16757738
3.  The yfhQ gene of Escherichia coli encodes a tRNA:Cm32/Um32 methyltransferase 
Naturally occurring tRNAs contain numerous modified nucleosides. They are formed by enzymatic modification of the primary transcripts during the complex RNA maturation process. In model organisms Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae most enzymes involved in this process have been identified. Interestingly, it was found that tRNA methylation, one of the most common modifications, can be introduced by S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet)-dependent methyltransferases (MTases) that belong to two structurally and phylogenetically unrelated protein superfamilies: RFM and SPOUT.
As a part of a large-scale project aiming at characterization of a complete set of RNA modification enzymes of model organisms, we have studied the Escherichia coli proteins YibK, LasT, YfhQ, and YbeA for their ability to introduce the last unassigned methylations of ribose at positions 32 and 34 of the tRNA anticodon loop. We found that YfhQ catalyzes the AdoMet-dependent formation of Cm32 or Um32 in tRNASer1 and tRNAGln2 and that an E. coli strain with a disrupted yfhQ gene lacks the tRNA:Cm32/Um32 methyltransferase activity. Thus, we propose to rename YfhQ as TrMet(Xm32) according to the recently proposed, uniform nomenclature for all RNA modification enzymes, or TrmJ, according to the traditional nomenclature for bacterial tRNA MTases.
Our results reveal that methylation at position 32 is carried out by completely unrelated TrMet(Xm32) enzymes in eukaryota and prokaryota (RFM superfamily member Trm7 and SPOUT superfamily member TrmJ, respectively), mirroring the scenario observed in the case of the m1G37 modification (introduced by the RFM member Trm5 in eukaryota and archaea, and by the SPOUT member TrmD in bacteria).
PMCID: PMC1569432  PMID: 16848900
4.  THUMP from archaeal tRNA:m22G10 methyltransferase, a genuine autonomously folding domain 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(9):2483-2494.
The tRNA:m22G10 methyltransferase of Pyrococus abyssi (PAB1283, a member of COG1041) catalyzes the N2,N2-dimethylation of guanosine at position 10 in tRNA. Boundaries of its THUMP (THioUridine synthases, RNA Methyltransferases and Pseudo-uridine synthases)—containing N-terminal domain [1–152] and C-terminal catalytic domain [157–329] were assessed by trypsin limited proteolysis. An inter-domain flexible region of at least six residues was revealed. The N-terminal domain was then produced as a standalone protein (THUMPα) and further characterized. This autonomously folded unit exhibits very low affinity for tRNA. Using protein fold-recognition (FR) methods, we identified the similarity between THUMPα and a putative RNA-recognition module observed in the crystal structure of another THUMP-containing protein (ThiI thiolase of Bacillus anthracis). A comparative model of THUMPα structure was generated, which fulfills experimentally defined restraints, i.e. chemical modification of surface exposed residues assessed by mass spectrometry, and identification of an intramolecular disulfide bridge. A model of the whole PAB1283 enzyme docked onto its tRNAAsp substrate suggests that the THUMP module specifically takes support on the co-axially stacked helices of T-arm and acceptor stem of tRNA and, together with the catalytic domain, screw-clamp structured tRNA. We propose that this mode of interactions may be common to other THUMP-containing enzymes that specifically modify nucleotides in the 3D-core of tRNA.
PMCID: PMC1459410  PMID: 16687654
5.  Phylogenomic analysis of the GIY-YIG nuclease superfamily 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:98.
The GIY-YIG domain was initially identified in homing endonucleases and later in other selfish mobile genetic elements (including restriction enzymes and non-LTR retrotransposons) and in enzymes involved in DNA repair and recombination. However, to date no systematic search for novel members of the GIY-YIG superfamily or comparative analysis of these enzymes has been reported.
We carried out database searches to identify all members of known GIY-YIG nuclease families. Multiple sequence alignments together with predicted secondary structures of identified families were represented as Hidden Markov Models (HMM) and compared by the HHsearch method to the uncharacterized protein families gathered in the COG, KOG, and PFAM databases. This analysis allowed for extending the GIY-YIG superfamily to include members of COG3680 and a number of proteins not classified in COGs and to predict that these proteins may function as nucleases, potentially involved in DNA recombination and/or repair. Finally, all old and new members of the GIY-YIG superfamily were compared and analyzed to infer the phylogenetic tree.
An evolutionary classification of the GIY-YIG superfamily is presented for the very first time, along with the structural annotation of all (sub)families. It provides a comprehensive picture of sequence-structure-function relationships in this superfamily of nucleases, which will help to design experiments to study the mechanism of action of known members (especially the uncharacterized ones) and will facilitate the prediction of function for the newly discovered ones.
PMCID: PMC1564403  PMID: 16646971
6.  Structural model for the multisubunit Type IC restriction–modification DNA methyltransferase M.EcoR124I in complex with DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(7):1992-2005.
Recent publication of crystal structures for the putative DNA-binding subunits (HsdS) of the functionally uncharacterized Type I restriction–modification (R-M) enzymes MjaXIP and MgeORF438 have provided a convenient structural template for analysis of the more extensively characterized members of this interesting family of multisubunit molecular motors. Here, we present a structural model of the Type IC M.EcoR124I DNA methyltransferase (MTase), comprising the HsdS subunit, two HsdM subunits, the cofactor AdoMet and the substrate DNA molecule. The structure was obtained by docking models of individual subunits generated by fold-recognition and comparative modelling, followed by optimization of inter-subunit contacts by energy minimization. The model of M.EcoR124I has allowed identification of a number of functionally important residues that appear to be involved in DNA-binding. In addition, we have mapped onto the model the location of several new mutations of the hsdS gene of M.EcoR124I that were produced by misincorporation mutagenesis within the central conserved region of hsdS, we have mapped all previously identified DNA-binding mutants of TRD2 and produced a detailed analysis of the location of surface-modifiable lysines. The model structure, together with location of the mutant residues, provides a better background on which to study protein–protein and protein–DNA interactions in Type I R-M systems.
PMCID: PMC1435980  PMID: 16614449
7.  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

Results 1-7 (7)