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PLoS One. 2018 Jan 2;13(1):e0189688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189688. eCollection 2018.

Elp3 and RlmN: A tale of two mitochondrial tail-anchored radical SAM enzymes in Toxoplasma gondii.

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Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America.
Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, United States of America.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America.


Radical S-adenosylmethionine (rSAM) enzymes use a 5'-deoxyadensyl 5'-radical to methylate a wide array of diverse substrates including proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. One such enzyme, Elongator protein-3 (TgElp3), is an essential protein in Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that can cause life-threatening opportunistic disease. Unlike Elp3 homologues which are present in all domains of life, TgElp3 localizes to the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) via a tail-anchored trafficking mechanism in Toxoplasma. Intriguingly, we identified a second tail-anchored rSAM domain containing protein (TgRlmN) that also localizes to the OMM. The transmembrane domain (TMD) on Toxoplasma Elp3 and RlmN homologues is required for OMM localization and has not been seen beyond the chromalveolates. Both TgElp3 and TgRlmN contain the canonical rSAM amino acid sequence motif (CxxxCxxC) necessary to form the 4Fe-4S cluster required for tRNA modifications. In E. coli, RlmN is responsible for the 2-methlyadenosine (m2A) synthesis at purine 37 in tRNA while in S. cerevisiae, Elp3 is necessary for the formation of 5-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2-thiouridine (mcm5s2U) at the wobble tRNA position. To investigate why these two rSAM enzymes localize to the mitochondrion in Toxoplasma, and whether or not TgRlmN and TgElp3 possess tRNA methyltransferase activity, a series of mutational and biochemical studies were performed. Overexpression of either TgElp3 or TgRlmN resulted in a significant parasite replication defect, but overexpression was tolerated if either the TMD or rSAM domain was mutated. Furthermore, we show the first evidence that Toxoplasma tRNAGlu contains the mcm5s2U modification, which is the putative downstream product generated by TgElp3 activity.

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