Two dynamic, N-terminal regions are required for function in Ribosomal RNA Adenine Dimethylase family members

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The Ribosomal RNA Adenine Dimethylase (RRAD) family of enzymes facilitate ribosome maturation in all organisms by dimethylating two nucleotides of small subunit rRNA. Prominent members of this family are the human DIMT1 and bacterial KsgA enzymes. A sub-group of RRAD enzymes, named erythromycin resistance methyltransferases (Erm) dimethylate a specific nucleotide in large subunit rRNA to confer antibiotic resistance. How these enzymes regulate methylation so that it only occurs on the specific substrate is not fully understood. While performing random mutagenesis on the catalytic domain of ErmE, we discovered that mutants in an N-terminal region of the protein that is disordered in the ErmE crystal structure are associated with a loss of antibiotic resistance. By subjecting site-directed mutants of ErmE and KsgA to phenotypic and in vitro assays we found that the N-terminal region is critical for activity in RRAD enzymes: the N-terminal basic region promotes rRNA binding and the conserved motif likely assists in juxtaposing the adenosine substrate and the SAM cofactor. Our results and emerging structural data suggest this dynamic, N-terminal region of RRAD enzymes becomes ordered upon rRNA binding forming a cap on the active site required for methylation.

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