Published on July 1, 2003 in Mol Microbiol volume 49.
PubMed ID: 12828631
Avilamycin is an orthosomycin antibiotic that has shown considerable potential for clinical use, although it is presently used as a growth promoter in animal feed. Avilamycin inhibits bacterial protein synthesis by binding to the 50S ribosomal subunit. The ribosomes of the producer strain, Streptomyces viridochromogenes Tu57, are protected from the drug by the action of three resistance factors located in the avilamycin biosynthetic gene cluster. Two of the resistance factors, aviRa and aviRb, encode rRNA methyltransferases that specifically target 23S rRNA. Recombinant AviRa and AviRb proteins retain their activity after purification, and both specifically methylate in vitro transcripts of 23S rRNA domain V. Reverse transcriptase primer extension indicated that AviRa is an N-methyltransferase that targets G2535 within helix 91 of the rRNA, whereas AviRb modified the 2'-O-ribose position of nucleotide U2479 within helix 89. MALDI mass spectrometry confirmed the exact positions of each of these modifications, and additionally established that a single methyl group is added at each nucleotide. Neither of these two nucleotides have previously been described as a target for enzymatic methylation. Molecular models of the 50S subunit crystal structure show that the N-1 of the G2535 base and the 2'-hydroxyl of U2479 are separated by approximately 10 A, a distance that can be spanned by avilamycin. In addition to defining new resistance mechanisms, these data refine our understanding of the probable ribosome contacts made by orthosomycins and of how these antibiotics inhibit protein synthesis.