RlmN is a dual-specificity RNA methylase that modifies C2 of adenosine 2503 (A2503) in 23S rRNA and C2 of adenosine 37 (A37) in several Escherichia coli transfer RNAs (tRNAs). A related methylase, Cfr, modifies C8 of A2503 via a similar mechanism, conferring resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics. Here, we report the x-ray structure of a key intermediate in the RlmN reaction, in which a Cys118→Ala variant of the protein is cross-linked to a tRNAGlu substrate through the terminal methylene carbon of a formerly methylcysteinyl residue and C2 of A37. RlmN contacts the entire length of tRNAGlu, accessing A37 by using an induced-fit strategy that completely unfolds the tRNA anticodon stem-loop, which is likely critical for recognition of both tRNA and ribosomal RNA substrates.
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