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J Bacteriol. 2012 Dec;194(24):6917-26. doi: 10.1128/JB.01535-12. Epub 2012 Oct 19.

Identification and characterization of a highly conserved crenarchaeal protein lysine methyltransferase with broad substrate specificity.

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State Key Laboratory of Microbial Resources, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China.


Protein lysine methylation occurs extensively in the Crenarchaeota, a major kingdom in the Archaea. However, the enzymes responsible for this type of posttranslational modification have not been found. Here we report the identification and characterization of the first crenarchaeal protein lysine methyltransferase, designated aKMT, from the hyperthermophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus islandicus. The enzyme was capable of transferring methyl groups to selected lysine residues in a substrate protein using S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM) as the methyl donor. aKMT, a non-SET domain protein, is highly conserved among crenarchaea, and distantly related homologs also exist in Bacteria and Eukarya. aKMT was active over a wide range of temperatures, from ~25 to 90 °C, with an optimal temperature at ~60 to 70 °C. Amino acid residues Y9 and T12 at the N terminus appear to be the key residues in the putative active site of aKMT, as indicated by sequence conservation and site-directed mutagenesis. Although aKMT was identified based on its methylating activity on Cren7, the crenarchaeal chromatin protein, it exhibited broad substrate specificity and was capable of methylating a number of recombinant Sulfolobus proteins overproduced in Escherichia coli. The finding of aKMT will help elucidate mechanisms underlining extensive protein lysine methylation and the functional significance of posttranslational protein methylation in crenarchaea.

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