Published on Dec. 14, 2011 in J Am Chem Soc volume 133.
PubMed ID: 21916495
The radical SAM (RS) proteins RlmN and Cfr catalyze methylation of carbons 2 and 8, respectively, of adenosine 2503 in 23S rRNA. Both reactions are similar in scope, entailing the synthesis of a methyl group partially derived from S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) onto electrophilic sp(2)-hybridized carbon atoms via the intermediacy of a protein S-methylcysteinyl (mCys) residue. Both proteins contain five conserved Cys residues, each required for turnover. Three cysteines lie in a canonical RS CxxxCxxC motif and coordinate a [4Fe-4S]-cluster cofactor; the remaining two are at opposite ends of the polypeptide. Here we show that each protein contains only the one "radical SAM" [4Fe-4S] cluster and the two remaining conserved cysteines do not coordinate additional iron-containing species. In addition, we show that, while wild-type RlmN bears the C355 mCys residue in its as-isolated state, RlmN that is either engineered to lack the [4Fe-4S] cluster by substitution of the coordinating cysteines or isolated from Escherichia coli cultured under iron-limiting conditions does not bear a C355 mCys residue. Reconstitution of the [4Fe-4S] cluster on wild-type apo RlmN followed by addition of SAM results in rapid production of S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH) and the mCys residue, while treatment of apo RlmN with SAM affords no observable reaction. These results indicate that in Cfr and RlmN, SAM bound to the unique iron of the [4Fe-4S] cluster displays two reactivities. It serves to methylate C355 of RlmN (C338 of Cfr), or to generate the 5'-deoxyadenosyl 5'-radical, required for substrate-dependent methyl synthase activity.