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Comparative Study
, 11 (8), 1485-98

S-methylmethionine Plays a Major Role in Phloem Sulfur Transport and Is Synthesized by a Novel Type of Methyltransferase

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Comparative Study

S-methylmethionine Plays a Major Role in Phloem Sulfur Transport and Is Synthesized by a Novel Type of Methyltransferase

F Bourgis et al. Plant Cell.

Abstract

All flowering plants produce S-methylmethionine (SMM) from Met and have a separate mechanism to convert SMM back to Met. The functions of SMM and the reasons for its interconversion with Met are not known. In this study, by using the aphid stylet collection method together with mass spectral and radiolabeling analyses, we established that l-SMM is a major constituent of the phloem sap moving to wheat ears. The SMM level in the phloem ( approximately 2% of free amino acids) was 1.5-fold that of glutathione, indicating that SMM could contribute approximately half the sulfur needed for grain protein synthesis. Similarly, l-SMM was a prominently labeled product in phloem exudates obtained by EDTA treatment of detached leaves from plants of the Poaceae, Fabaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, and Cucurbitaceae that were given l-(35)S-Met. cDNA clones for the enzyme that catalyzes SMM synthesis (S-adenosylMet:Met S-methyltransferase; EC 2.1.1.12) were isolated from Wollastonia biflora, maize, and Arabidopsis. The deduced amino acid sequences revealed the expected methyltransferase domain ( approximately 300 residues at the N terminus), plus an 800-residue C-terminal region sharing significant similarity with aminotransferases and other pyridoxal 5'-phosphate-dependent enzymes. These results indicate that SMM has a previously unrecognized but often major role in sulfur transport in flowering plants and that evolution of SMM synthesis in this group involved a gene fusion event. The resulting bipartite enzyme is unlike any other known methyltransferase.

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