Sequence specificity of the human mRNA N6-adenosine methylase in vitro

Nucleic Acids Res. 1990 Oct 11;18(19):5735-41. doi: 10.1093/nar/18.19.5735.


N6-adenosine methylation is a frequent modification of mRNAs and their precursors, but little is known about the mechanism of the reaction or the function of the modification. To explore these questions, we developed conditions to examine N6-adenosine methylase activity in HeLa cell nuclear extracts. Transfer of the methyl group from S-[3H methyl]-adenosylmethionine to unlabeled random copolymer RNA substrates of varying ribonucleotide composition revealed a substrate specificity consistent with a previously deduced consensus sequence, Pu[G greater than A]AC[A/C/U]. 32-P labeled RNA substrates of defined sequence were used to examine the minimum sequence requirements for methylation. Each RNA was 20 nucleotides long, and contained either the core consensus sequence GGACU, or some variation of this sequence. RNAs containing GGACU, either in single or multiple copies, were good substrates for methylation, whereas RNAs containing single base substitutions within the GGACU sequence gave dramatically reduced methylation. These results demonstrate that the N6-adenosine methylase has a strict sequence specificity, and that there is no requirement for extended sequences or secondary structures for methylation. Recognition of this sequence does not require an RNA component, as micrococcal nuclease pretreatment of nuclear extracts actually increased methylation efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Consensus Sequence
  • DNA Modification Methylases / genetics*
  • DNA Modification Methylases / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA Modification Methylases
  • Methyltransferases
  • mRNA(adenine-N6)-methyltransferase