Elp3 and RlmN: A tale of two mitochondrial tail-anchored radical SAM enzymes in Toxoplasma gondii

Leah R. Padgett, Jenna M. Lentini, Michael J. Holmes, Krista L. Stilger, Dragony Fu, William J. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Radical S-adenosylmethionine (rSAM) enzymes use a 5’-deoxyadensyl 5’-radical to methyl-ate a wide array of diverse substrates including proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. One such enzyme, Elongator protein-3 (TgElp3), is an essential protein in Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that can cause life-threatening opportunistic disease. Unlike Elp3 homologues which are present in all domains of life, TgElp3 localizes to the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) via a tail-anchored trafficking mechanism in Toxoplasma. Intriguingly, we identified a second tail-anchored rSAM domain containing protein (TgRlmN) that also localizes to the OMM. The transmembrane domain (TMD) on Toxoplasma Elp3 and RlmN homologues is required for OMM localization and has not been seen beyond the chromalveolates. Both TgElp3 and TgRlmN contain the canonical rSAM amino acid sequence motif (CxxxCxxC) necessary to form the 4Fe-4S cluster required for tRNA modifications. In E. coli, RlmN is responsible for the 2-methlyadenosine (m2A) synthesis at purine 37 in tRNA while in S. cerevisiae, Elp3 is necessary for the formation of 5-methoxycarbonylmethyl-2-thiouridine (mcm5s2U) at the wobble tRNA position. To investigate why these two rSAM enzymes localize to the mitochondrion in Toxoplasma, and whether or not TgRlmN and TgElp3 possess tRNA methyltransferase activity, a series of mutational and biochemical studies were performed. Overexpression of either TgElp3 or TgRlmN resulted in a significant parasite replication defect, but overexpression was tolerated if either the TMD or rSAM domain was mutated. Furthermore, we show the first evidence that Toxoplasma tRNAGlu contains the mcm5s2U modification, which is the putative downstream product generated by TgElp3 activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0189688
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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