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Identification of 8-methyladenosine as the modification catalyzed by the radical SAM methyltransferase Cfr that confers antibiotic resistance in bacteria

By Anders Michael Bernth Giessing, Søren Skov Jensen, Anette Rasmussen, Lykke Haastrup Hansen, Andrzej Gondela, Katherine Long, Birte Vester and Finn Kirpekar


The Cfr methyltransferase confers combined resistance to five different classes of antibiotics that bind to the peptidyl transferase center of bacterial ribosomes. The Cfr-mediated modification has previously been shown to occur on nucleotide A2503 of 23S rRNA and has a mass corresponding to an additional methyl group, but its specific identity and position remained to be elucidated. A novel tandem mass spectrometry approach has been developed to further characterize the Cfr-catalyzed modification. Comparison of nucleoside fragmentation patterns of A2503 from Escherichia coli cfr+ and cfr− strains with those of a chemically synthesized nucleoside standard shows that Cfr catalyzes formation of 8-methyladenosine. In addition, analysis of RNA derived from E. coli strains lacking the m2A2503 methyltransferase reveals that Cfr also has the ability to catalyze methylation at position 2 to form 2,8-dimethyladenosine. The mutation of single conserved cysteine residues in the radical SAM motif CxxxCxxC of Cfr abolishes its activity, lending support to the notion that the Cfr modification reaction occurs via a radical-based mechanism. Antibiotic susceptibility data confirm that the antibiotic resistance conferred by Cfr is provided by methylation at the 8 position and is independent of methylation at the 2 position of A2503. This investigation is, to our knowledge, the first instance where the 8-methyladenosine modification has been described in natural RNA molecules

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Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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