Division of labour: tRNA methylation by the NSun2 tRNA methyltransferases Trm4a and Trm4b in fission yeast

RNA Biol. 2019 Mar;16(3):249-256. doi: 10.1080/15476286.2019.1568819. Epub 2019 Feb 1.


Enzymes of the cytosine-5 RNA methyltransferase Trm4/NSun2 family methylate tRNAs at C48 and C49 in multiple tRNAs, as well as C34 and C40 in selected tRNAs. In contrast to most other organisms, fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe carries two Trm4/NSun2 homologs, Trm4a (SPAC17D4.04) and Trm4b (SPAC23C4.17). Here, we have employed tRNA methylome analysis to determine the dependence of cytosine-5 methylation (m5C) tRNA methylation in vivo on the two enzymes. Remarkably, Trm4a is responsible for all C48 methylation, which lies in the tRNA variable loop, as well as for C34 in tRNALeuCAA and tRNAProCGG, which are at the anticodon wobble position. Conversely, Trm4b methylates C49 and C50, which both lie in the TΨC-stem. Thus, S. pombe show an unusual separation of activities of the NSun2/Trm4 enzymes that are united in a single enzyme in other eukaryotes like humans, mice and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Furthermore, in vitro activity assays showed that Trm4a displays intron-dependent methylation of C34, whereas Trm4b activity is independent of the intron. The absence of Trm4a, but not Trm4b, causes a mild resistance of S. pombe to calcium chloride.

Keywords: NSun2; RNA methylation; Trm4; cytosine methylation; m5C; tRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Fungal / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Methylation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Schizosaccharomyces / drug effects
  • Schizosaccharomyces / physiology*
  • Transcriptome
  • tRNA Methyltransferases / metabolism*


  • Cytosine
  • RNA, Transfer
  • tRNA Methyltransferases

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [SPP1784].