Mammalian NSUN2 introduces 5-methylcytidines into mitochondrial tRNAs

Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Sep 19;47(16):8734-8745. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz575.


Post-transcriptional modifications in mitochondrial tRNAs (mt-tRNAs) play critical roles in mitochondrial protein synthesis, which produces respiratory chain complexes. In this study, we took advantage of mass spectrometric analysis to map 5-methylcytidine (m5C) at positions 48-50 in eight mouse and six human mt-tRNAs. We also confirmed the absence of m5C in mt-tRNAs isolated from Nsun2 knockout (KO) mice, as well as from NSUN2 KO human culture cells. In addition, we successfully reconstituted m5C at positions 48-50 of mt-tRNA in vitro with NSUN2 protein in the presence of S-adenosylmethionine. Although NSUN2 is predominantly localized to the nucleus and introduces m5C into cytoplasmic tRNAs and mRNAs, structured illumination microscopy clearly revealed NSUN2 foci inside mitochondria. These observations provide novel insights into the role of NSUN2 in the physiology and pathology of mitochondrial functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / deficiency
  • Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • RNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Methyltransferases
  • NSUN2 protein, human
  • NSUN3 protein, human