Published on Nov. 1, 2011 in Nucleic Acids Res volume 39.
PubMed ID: 21824914
Methyltransferases that use S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet) as a cofactor to catalyse 5-methyl uridine (m(5)U) formation in tRNAs and rRNAs are widespread in Bacteria and Eukaryota, and are also found in certain Archaea. These enzymes belong to the COG2265 cluster, and the Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli possesses three paralogues. These comprise the methyltransferases TrmA that targets U54 in tRNAs, RlmC that modifies U747 in 23S rRNA and RlmD that is specific for U1939 in 23S rRNA. The tRNAs and rRNAs of the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis have the same three m(5)U modifications. However, as previously shown, the m(5)U54 modification in B. subtilis tRNAs is catalysed in a fundamentally different manner by the folate-dependent enzyme TrmFO, which is unrelated to the E. coli TrmA. Here, we show that methylation of U747 and U1939 in B. subtilis rRNA is catalysed by a single enzyme, YefA that is a COG2265 member. A recombinant version of YefA functions in an E. coli m(5)U-null mutant adding the same two rRNA methylations. The findings suggest that during evolution, COG2265 enzymes have undergone a series of changes in target specificity and that YefA is closer to an archetypical m(5)U methyltransferase. To reflect its dual specificity, YefA is renamed RlmCD.