RlmN and Cfr catalyze S-adenosylmethionine (SAM)-dependent methylation of adenosine 2503 (A2503) of 23S rRNA of the bacterial ribosome at C2 and C8, respectively. C2 methylation is found throughout bacteria, and is believed to aid in the efficiency of peptidyltransfer. By contrast, C8 methylation is an activity acquired by certain pathogenic bacteria that confers upon them resistance to over seven classes of antibiotics that target the large subunit of the bacterial ribosome. C2 and C8 are electrophilic sp2-hybridized carbons, which renders them unreactive toward the catalytic strategy used by almost all other known SAM-dependent methylases. In fact, we have shown that these reactions take place via radical mechanisms, involving i) initial transfer of a methyl group from SAM to a conserved cysteinyl residue via a standard nucleophilic displacement mechanism;ii) abstraction of a hydrogen atom from the resulting methylcysteinyl residue by a 5'-deoxyadenosyl 5'-radical (5'-dA) derived from radical fragmentation of a second SAM molecule;iii) addition of the methylcysteinyl radical intermediate to C2 or C8 of the nucleotide substrate;and iv) resolution of the resulting protein-nucleic cross-link by disulfide-bond formation. We will characterize this reaction further using a variety of kinetic, spectroscopic, and biochemical techniques, and provide biochemical and/or structural evidence for each of the postulated intermediates in the reaction.
RlmN and Cfr are radical S-adenosylmethionine-dependent proteins that catalyze methylation of 23S rRNA of the bacterial ribosome by similar mechanisms involving radical intermediates. Methylation by Cfr confers resistance to over seven classes of antibiotics. This proposal is aimed at elucidating the mechanistic details of these unusual reactions, with a future goal of strategically inhibiting the Cfr protein as a means of protecting our current arsenal of antibacterial agents.
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