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RNA. 2008 Oct;14(10):2234-44. doi: 10.1261/rna.1198108. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

YbeA is the m3Psi methyltransferase RlmH that targets nucleotide 1915 in 23S rRNA.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark.


Pseudouridines in the stable RNAs of Bacteria are seldom subjected to further modification. There are 11 pseudouridine (Psi) sites in Escherichia coli rRNA, and further modification is found only at Psi1915 in 23S rRNA, where the N-3 position of the base becomes methylated. Here, we report the identity of the E. coli methyltransferase that specifically catalyzes methyl group addition to form m(3)Psi1915. Analyses of E. coli rRNAs using MALDI mass spectrometry showed that inactivation of the ybeA gene leads to loss of methylation at nucleotide Psi1915. Methylation is restored by complementing the knockout strain with a plasmid-encoded copy of ybeA. Homologs of the ybeA gene, and thus presumably the ensuing methylation at nucleotide m(3)Psi1915, are present in most bacterial lineages but are essentially absent in the Archaea and Eukaryota. Loss of ybeA function in E. coli causes a slight slowing of the growth rate. Phylogenetically, ybeA and its homologs are grouped with other putative S-adenosylmethionine-dependent, SPOUT methyltransferase genes in the Cluster of Orthologous Genes COG1576; ybeA is the first member to be functionally characterized. The YbeA methyltransferase is active as a homodimer and docks comfortably into the ribosomal A site without encroaching into the P site. YbeA makes extensive interface contacts with both the 30S and 50S subunits to align its active site cofactor adjacent to nucleotide Psi1915. Methylation by YbeA (redesignated RlmH for rRNA large subunit methyltransferase H) possibly functions as a stamp of approval signifying that the 50S subunit has engaged in translational initiation.

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