Published on Dec. 23, 2015 in PLoS One volume 10(12).
PubMed ID: 26700482
Cfr and RlmN methyltransferases both modify adenine 2503 in 23S rRNA (Escherichia coli numbering). RlmN methylates position C2 of adenine while Cfr methylates position C8, and to a lesser extent C2, conferring antibiotic resistance to peptidyl transferase inhibitors. Cfr and RlmN show high sequence homology and may be evolutionarily linked to a common ancestor. To explore their individual specificity and similarity we performed two sets of experiments. We created a homology model of Cfr and explored the C2/C8 specificity using docking and binding energy calculations on the Cfr homology model and an X-ray structure of RlmN. We used a trinucleotide as target sequence and assessed its positioning at the active site for methylation. The calculations are in accordance with different poses of the trinucleotide in the two enzymes indicating major evolutionary changes to shift the C2/C8 specificities. To explore interchangeability between Cfr and RlmN we constructed various combinations of their genes. The function of the mixed genes was investigated by RNA primer extension analysis to reveal methylation at 23S rRNA position A2503 and by MIC analysis to reveal antibiotic resistance. The catalytic site is expected to be responsible for the C2/C8 specificity and most of the combinations involve interchanging segments at this site. Almost all replacements showed no function in the primer extension assay, apart from a few that had a weak effect. Thus Cfr and RlmN appear to be much less similar than expected from their sequence similarity and common target.