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Methods Enzymol. 2015;560:355-76. doi: 10.1016/bs.mie.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Apr 25.

Radical SAM-Mediated Methylation of Ribosomal RNA.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA; Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. Electronic address:


While RNA methylation occurs in all kingdoms of life, the type and the distribution of different methylated species varies substantially among archaea, bacteria, and eukaryotes. The most prevalent type of RNA methylation is methylation of nucleobases. However, despite recent advances in our knowledge of these marks, the biological roles of such modifications are still incompletely understood (Machnicka et al., 2013; Motorin & Helm, 2011; Sergeeva et al., 2014; Sergiev et al., 2011). A number of mechanisms have evolved to enable RNA methylation, which are tuned to the electronic demands of the substrate. Herein, we provide an overview of methods for expression, purification, and activity analysis of a specific type of RNA methylating enzymes, radical SAM methylsynthases. These enzymes modify the amidine carbon atoms of an adenosine, A2503, in bacterial 23S rRNA. The activities of these enzymes have only been recently reconstituted (Yan et al., 2010), which can be attributed to the complex anaerobic catalysis that they perform. As the substrate A2503 is located at the nascent peptide exit tunnel of the bacterial ribosome, methylations catalyzed by these enzymes have profound impact on the biology of the host strain. RlmN, an endogenous protein found in all bacteria, methylates the C2 amidine carbon and contributes to the translational fidelity (Benitez-Paez et al., 2012; Ramu et al., 2011; Vazquez-Laslop, Ramu, Klepacki, Kannan, & Mankin, 2010). Cfr, found in pathogenic species, methylates the C8 amidine carbon, a modification that confers resistance to various classes of antibiotics (Giessing et al., 2009; Long et al., 2006; Smith & Mankin, 2008). Interestingly, C2 methylated adenosine was recently detected in a subset of tRNAs, raising the question of the physiological role of this modification (Benitez-Paez et al., 2012). With an increase in available whole genome sequences, the development of methods to identify target substrates of RNA methylating enzymes (Khoddami & Cairns, 2013; Meyer et al., 2012; Tim, Katharina, & Matthias, 2010), as well as advances in the characterization of their activities, we anticipate the coming years will unravel novel aspects of mechanisms of the RNA methylation and deepen insight into the function of the resulting modification.


2-Methyladenosine; 8-Methyladenosine; Cfr; Radical SAM methylation; Ribosomal RNA; RlmN

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