Protein arginine methyltransferases: evolution and assessment of their pharmacological and therapeutic potential

Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Jan;113(1):50-87. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2006.06.007. Epub 2006 Sep 26.


Protein arginine N-methylation is a post-translational modification whose influence on cell function is becoming widely appreciated. Protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMT) catalyze the methylation of terminal nitrogen atoms of guanidinium side chains within arginine residues of proteins. Recently, several new members of the PRMT family have been cloned and their catalytic function determined. In this report, we present a review and phylogenetic analysis of the PRMT found so far in genomes. PRMT are found in nearly all groups of eukaryotes. Many human PRMT originated early in eukaryote evolution. Homologs of PRMT1 and PRMT5 are found in nearly every eukaryote studied. The gene structure of PRMT vary: most introns appear to be inserted randomly into the open reading frame. The change in catalytic specificity of some PRMT occurred with changes in the arginine binding pocket within the active site. Because of the high degree of conservation of sequence among the family throughout evolution, creation of specific PRMT inhibitors in pathogenic organisms may be difficult, but could be very effective if developed. Furthermore, because of the intricate involvement of several PRMT in cellular physiology, their inhibition may be fraught with unwanted side effects. Nevertheless, development of pharmaceutical agents to control PRMT functions could lead to significant new targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Methylation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / chemistry
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Arginine
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases