Purified recombinant E. coli RsmE specifically methylates U1498 into m3U in vitro. This modified base is located in the loop of a conserved hairpin between helix 44 and 45, near the 3′-end of 16S rRNA. Recombinant RsmE is most active in the presence of 10-15 mM Mg2+ and 100 mM NH4Cl. While small ribosome subunits obtained from an RsmE deletion strain can be methylated by purified RsmE, neither 70S ribosomes nor 50S subunits can. This enzyme has an alpha/beta (trefoil) knot and forms dimers in solution.