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J Cell Biol. 2002 Dec 23;159(6):957-69. Epub 2002 Dec 16.

Symmetrical dimethylarginine methylation is required for the localization of SMN in Cajal bodies and pre-mRNA splicing.

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Terry Fox Molecular Oncology Group, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3T 1E2.


The nuclear structures that contain symmetrical dimethylated arginine (sDMA)-modified proteins and the role of this posttranslational modification is unknown. Here we report that the Cajal body is a major epitope in HeLa cells for an sDMA-specific antibody and that coilin is an sDMA-containing protein as analyzed by using the sDMA-specific antibody and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight mass spectrometry. The methylation inhibitor 5'-deoxy-5'-methylthioadenosine reduces the levels of coilin methylation and causes the appearance of SMN-positive gems. In cells devoid of Cajal bodies, such as primary fibroblasts, sDMA-containing proteins concentrated in speckles. Cells from a patient with spinal muscular atrophy, containing low levels of the methyl-binding protein SMN, localized sDMA-containing proteins in the nucleoplasm as a discrete granular pattern. Splicing reactions are efficiently inhibited by using the sDMA-specific antibody or by using hypomethylated nuclear extracts, showing that active spliceosomes contain sDMA polypeptides and suggesting that arginine methylation is important for efficient pre-mRNA splicing. Our findings support a model in which arginine methylation is important for the localization of coilin and SMN in Cajal bodies.

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