Mechanistic Diversity of Radical SAM-Dependent Methylation [Metabolism]

December 4th, 2014 by Bauerle, M., Schwalm, E., Booker, S.

Radical S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) enzymes use the oxidizing power of a 5'-deoxyadenosyl 5'-radical to initiate an amazing array of transformations, usually through the abstraction of a target substrate hydrogen atom. A common reaction of radical SAM (RS) enzymes is the methylation of unactivated carbon or phosphorous atoms found in numerous primary and secondary metabolites, as well as in proteins, sugars, lipids, and RNA. However, neither the chemical mechanisms by which these unactivated atoms obtain methyl groups nor the actual methyl donors are conserved. In fact, RS methylases have been grouped into three classes based on protein architecture, cofactor requirement, and predicted mechanism of catalysis. Class A methylases use two cysteine residues to methylate sp2-hybridized carbon centers. Class B methylases require a cobalamin cofactor to methylate both sp2- and sp3-hybridized carbon centers as well as phosphinate phosphorous atoms. Class C methylases share significant sequence homology with the RS enzyme, HemN, and may bind two SAM molecules simultaneously to methylate sp2-hybridized carbon centers. Lastly, we describe a new class of recently discovered RS methylases. These Class D methylases, unlike Class A, B, and C enzymes, which use SAM as the source of the donated methyl carbon, are proposed to methylate sp2-hybridized carbon centers using methylenetetrahydrofolate as the source of the appended methyl carbon.