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Journal Articles Life Year : 2022

Structure and Catalytic Mechanism of Radical SAM Methylases

Tu-Quynh Nguyen
Yvain Nicolet


Methyl transfer is essential in myriad biological pathways found across all domains of life. Unlike conventional methyltransferases that catalyze this reaction through nucleophilic substitution, many members of the radical S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) enzyme superfamily use radical-based chemistry to methylate unreactive carbon centers. These radical SAM methylases reductively cleave SAM to generate a highly reactive 5′-deoxyadenosyl radical, which initiates a broad range of transformations. Recently, crystal structures of several radical SAM methylases have been determined, shedding light on the unprecedented catalytic mechanisms used by these enzymes to overcome the substantial activation energy barrier of weakly nucleophilic substrates. Here, we review some of the discoveries on this topic over the last decade, focusing on enzymes for which three-dimensional structures are available to identify the key players in the mechanisms, highlighting the dual function of SAM as a methyl donor and a 5’-deoxyadenosyl radical or deprotonating base source. We also describe the role of the protein matrix in orchestrating the reaction through different strategies to catalyze such challenging methylations.

Dates and versions

hal-03853118 , version 1 (15-11-2022)



Tu-Quynh Nguyen, Yvain Nicolet. Structure and Catalytic Mechanism of Radical SAM Methylases. Life, In press, 12 (11), pp.1732. ⟨10.3390/life12111732⟩. ⟨hal-03853118⟩
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