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Mol Cell. 2001 May;7(5):1111-7.

SMN, the product of the spinal muscular atrophy gene, binds preferentially to dimethylarginine-containing protein targets.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The survival of motor neurons protein (SMN), the product of the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) gene, functions as an assembly factor for snRNPs and likely other RNPs. SMN binds the arginine- and glycine-rich (RG) domains of the snRNP proteins SmD1 and SmD3. Specific arginines in these domains are modified to dimethylarginines, a common modification of unknown function. We show that SMN binds preferentially to the dimethylarginine-modified RG domains of SmD1 and SmD3. The binding of other SMN-interacting proteins is also strongly enhanced by methylation. Thus, methylation of arginines is a novel mechanism to promote specific protein-protein interactions and appears to be key to generating high-affinity SMN substrates. It is reasonable to expect that protein hypomethylation may contribute to the severity of SMA.

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