RamA, a protein required for reductive activation of corrinoid-dependent methylamine methyltransferase reactions in methanogenic archaea

J Biol Chem. 2009 Jan 23;284(4):2285-95. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M807392200. Epub 2008 Nov 28.


Archaeal methane formation from methylamines is initiated by distinct methyltransferases with specificity for monomethylamine, dimethylamine, or trimethylamine. Each methylamine methyltransferase methylates a cognate corrinoid protein, which is subsequently demethylated by a second methyltransferase to form methyl-coenzyme M, the direct methane precursor. Methylation of the corrinoid protein requires reduction of the central cobalt to the highly reducing and nucleophilic Co(I) state. RamA, a 60-kDa monomeric iron-sulfur protein, was isolated from Methanosarcina barkeri and is required for in vitro ATP-dependent reductive activation of methylamine:CoM methyl transfer from all three methylamines. In the absence of the methyltransferases, highly purified RamA was shown to mediate the ATP-dependent reductive activation of Co(II) corrinoid to the Co(I) state for the monomethylamine corrinoid protein, MtmC. The ramA gene is located near a cluster of genes required for monomethylamine methyltransferase activity, including MtbA, the methylamine-specific CoM methylase and the pyl operon required for co-translational insertion of pyrrolysine into the active site of methylamine methyltransferases. RamA possesses a C-terminal ferredoxin-like domain capable of binding two tetranuclear iron-sulfur proteins. Mutliple ramA homologs were identified in genomes of methanogenic Archaea, often encoded near methyltrophic methyltransferase genes. RamA homologs are also encoded in a diverse selection of bacterial genomes, often located near genes for corrinoid-dependent methyltransferases. These results suggest that RamA mediates reductive activation of corrinoid proteins and that it is the first functional archetype of COG3894, a family of redox proteins of unknown function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Archaeal Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Corrinoids / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Ferredoxins / genetics
  • Ferredoxins / metabolism
  • Genome, Archaeal / genetics
  • Methanosarcina barkeri / metabolism*
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Corrinoids
  • Ferredoxins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Methyltransferases