Architectures, mechanisms and molecular evolution of natural product methyltransferases
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The addition of a methyl moiety to a small chemical is a common transformation in the biosynthesis of natural products across all three domains of life. These methylation reactions are most often catalysed by S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM)-dependent methyltransferases (MTs). MTs are categorized based on the electron-rich, methyl accepting atom, usually O, N, C, or S. SAM-dependent natural product MTs (NPMTs) are responsible for the modification of a wide array of structurally distinct substrates, including signalling and host defense compounds, pigments, prosthetic groups, cofactors, cell membrane and cell wall components, and xenobiotics. Most notably, methylation modulates the bioavailability, bioactivity, and reactivity of acceptor molecules, and thus exerts a central role on the functional output of many metabolic pathways. Our current understanding of the structural enzymology of NPMTs groups these phylogenetically diverse enzymes into two MT-superfamily fold classes (class I and class III). Structural biology has also shed light on the catalytic mechanisms and molecular bases for substrate specificity for over fifty NPMTs. These biophysical-based approaches have contributed to our understanding of NPMT evolution, demonstrating how a widespread protein fold evolved to accommodate chemically diverse methyl acceptors and to catalyse disparate mechanisms suited to the physiochemical properties of the target substrates. This evolutionary diversity suggests that NPMTs may serve as starting points for generating new biocatalysts.
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