Published on June 1, 2014 in Nucleic Acids Res volume 42.
PubMed ID: 24711368
Dnmt2 enzymes are conserved in eukaryotes, where they methylate C38 of tRNA-Asp with high activity. Here, the activity of one of the very few prokaryotic Dnmt2 homologs from Geobacter species (GsDnmt2) was investigated. GsDnmt2 was observed to methylate tRNA-Asp from flies and mice. Unexpectedly, it had only a weak activity toward its matching Geobacter tRNA-Asp, but methylated Geobacter tRNA-Glu with good activity. In agreement with this result, we show that tRNA-Glu is methylated in Geobacter while the methylation is absent in tRNA-Asp. The activities of Dnmt2 enzymes from Homo sapiens, Drosophila melanogaster, Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Dictyostelium discoideum for methylation of the Geobacter tRNA-Asp and tRNA-Glu were determined showing that all these Dnmt2s preferentially methylate tRNA-Asp. Hence, the GsDnmt2 enzyme has a swapped transfer ribonucleic acid (tRNA) specificity. By comparing the different tRNAs, a characteristic sequence pattern was identified in the variable loop of all preferred tRNA substrates. An exchange of two nucleotides in the variable loop of murine tRNA-Asp converted it to the corresponding variable loop of tRNA-Glu and led to a strong reduction of GsDnmt2 activity. Interestingly, the same loss of activity was observed with human DNMT2, indicating that the variable loop functions as a specificity determinant in tRNA recognition of Dnmt2 enzymes.