Published on June 1, 2020 in J Biol Chem volume 295, 25.
PubMed ID: 32371392
Mitochondrial DNA gene expression is coordinately regulated both pre- and post-transcriptionally, and its perturbation can lead to human pathologies. Mitochondrial rRNAs (mt-rRNAs) undergo a series of nucleotide modifications after release from polycistronic mitochondrial RNA precursors, which is essential for mitochondrial ribosomal biogenesis. Cytosine -methylation (mC) at position 839 (mC839) of the 12S small subunit mt-rRNA was identified decades ago; however, its biogenesis and function have not been elucidated in detail. Here, using several approaches, including immunofluorescence, RNA immunoprecipitation and methylation assays, and bisulfite mapping, we demonstrate that human methyltransferase-like 15 (METTL15), encoded by a nuclear gene, is responsible for 12S mt-rRNA methylation at mC839 both and We tracked the evolutionary history of RNA mC methyltransferases and identified a difference in substrate preference between METTL15 and its bacterial ortholog rsmH. Additionally, unlike the very modest impact of a loss of mC methylation in bacterial small subunit rRNA on the ribosome, we found that METTL15 depletion results in impaired translation of mitochondrial protein-coding mRNAs and decreases mitochondrial respiration capacity. Our findings reveal that human METTL15 is required for mitochondrial function, delineate the evolution of methyltransferase substrate specificities and modification patterns in rRNA, and highlight a differential impact of mC methylation on prokaryotic ribosomes and eukaryotic mitochondrial ribosomes.