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Keywords:

  • methyltransferases;
  • coenzyme M;
  • Zn-dependent;
  • corrinoid;
  • dynamic equilibrium zinc model

The zinc-containing corrinoid:coenzyme M methyltransferase MtaA is part of the methanol–coenzyme M–methyltransferase complex of Methanosarcina mazei. The whole complex consists of three subunits: MtaA, MtaB and MtaC. The MtaB–MtaC complex catalyses the cleavage of methanol (bound to MtaB) and the transfer of the methyl group onto the cobalt of cob(I)alamin (bound to MtaC). The MtaA–MtaC complex catalyses methyl transfer from methyl-cob(III)alamin (bound to MtaC) to coenzyme M (bound to MtaA). The crystal structure of the MtaB–MtaC complex from M. barkeri has previously been determined. Here, the crystal structures of MtaA from M. mazei in a substrate-free but Zn2+-bound state and in complex with Zn2+ and coenzyme M (HS-CoM) are reported at resolutions of 1.8 and 2.1 Å, respectively. A search for homologous proteins revealed that MtaA exhibits 23% sequence identity to human uroporphyrinogen III decarboxylase, which has also the highest structural similarity (r.m.s.d. of 2.03 Å for 306 aligned amino acids). The main structural feature of MtaA is a TIM-barrel-like fold, which is also found in all other zinc enzymes that catalyse thiol-group alkylation. The active site of MtaA is situated at the narrow bottom of a funnel such that the thiolate group of HS-CoM points towards the Zn2+ ion. The Zn2+ ion in the active site of MtaA is coordinated tetrahedrally via His240, Cys242 and Cys319. In the substrate-free form the fourth ligand is Glu263. Binding of HS-CoM leads to exchange of the O-ligand of Glu263 for the S-ligand of HS-CoM with inversion of the zinc geometry. The interface between MtaA and MtaC for transfer of the methyl group from MtaC-bound methylcobalamin is most likely to be formed by the core complex of MtaB–MtaC and the N-terminal segment (a long loop containing three α-helices and a β-hairpin) of MtaA, which is not part of the TIM-barrel core structure of MtaA.