Type I DNA methyltransferases contain one specificity subunit (HsdS) and two modification subunits (HsdM). The electron microscopy model of M.EcoKI-M2S1 methyltransferase shows a reasonable closed state of this clamp-like enzyme, but the structure of the open state is still unclear. The 1.95 Å crystal structure of the specificity subunit from Thermoanaerobacter tengcongensis (TTE-HsdS) shows an unreported open form inter-domain orientation of this subunit. Based on the crystal structure of TTE-HsdS and the closed state model of M.EcoKI-M2S1, we constructed a potential open state model of type I methyltransferase. Mutational studies indicated that two α-helices (aa30-59 and aa466-495) of the TTE-HsdM subunit are important inter-subunit interaction sites in the TTE-M2S1 complex. DNA binding assays also highlighted the importance of the C-terminal region of TTE-HsdM for DNA binding by the TTE-M2S1 complex. On the basis of structural analysis, biochemical experiments and previous studies, we propose a dynamic opening and closing mechanism for type I methyltransferase
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