Past, present, and perspectives of protein N-terminal methylation

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2021 Aug;63:115-122. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2021.02.017. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


The posttranslational methylation of the α-N-terminal amino group of proteins was first documented over 40 years ago, but the functional significance of this modification has been underexplored relative to lysine and arginine methylation. Increasing reports implicates α-N-terminal methylation as a widespread and critical regulator of mitosis, chromatin interactions, DNA repair, and translation fidelity. Here, we summarize advances in the current understanding of protein α-N-terminal methylation biological functions and mechanisms across eukaryotic organisms. Also, we describe the recent literature on substrate recognition and the discovery of potent and selective inhibitors for protein N-terminal methyltransferases. Finally, we summarize the emergent crosstalk between α-N-terminal methylation and other N-terminal modifications.

Keywords: Bisubstrate inhibitor; Epigenetic modification; N-terminal methylation; Peptidomimetic; Posttranslational modification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / chemistry
  • Arginine / chemistry
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Peptidomimetics / chemistry*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Amines
  • Chromatin
  • Peptidomimetics
  • Proteins
  • DNA
  • Arginine
  • Methyltransferases
  • Lysine