Lysine methylation is abundant on histone proteins, representing a dynamic regulator of chromatin state and gene activity, but is also frequent on many non-histone proteins, including eukaryotic elongation factor 1 alpha (eEF1A). However, the functional significance of eEF1A methylation remains obscure and it has remained unclear whether eEF1A methylation is dynamic and subject to active regulation. We here demonstrate, using a wide range of in vitro and in vivo approaches, that the previously uncharacterized human methyltransferase METTL21B specifically targets Lys-165 in eEF1A in an aminoacyl-tRNA- and GTP-dependent manner. Interestingly, METTL21B-mediated eEF1A methylation showed strong variation across different tissues and cell lines, and was induced by altering growth conditions or by treatment with certain ER-stress-inducing drugs, concomitant with an increase in METTL21B gene expression. Moreover, genetic ablation of METTL21B function in mammalian cells caused substantial alterations in mRNA translation, as measured by ribosomal profiling. A non-canonical function for eEF1A in organization of the cellular cytoskeleton has been reported, and interestingly, METTL21B accumulated in centrosomes, in addition to the expected cytosolic localization. In summary, the present study identifies METTL21B as the enzyme responsible for methylation of eEF1A on Lys-165 and shows that this modification is dynamic, inducible and likely of regulatory importance.
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.