Expanded tRNA methyltransferase family member TRMT9B regulates synaptic growth and function

EMBO Rep. 2023 Oct 9;24(10):e56808. doi: 10.15252/embr.202356808. Epub 2023 Aug 29.


Nervous system function rests on the formation of functional synapses between neurons. We have identified TRMT9B as a new regulator of synapse formation and function in Drosophila. TRMT9B has been studied for its role as a tumor suppressor and is one of two metazoan homologs of yeast tRNA methyltransferase 9 (Trm9), which methylates tRNA wobble uridines. Whereas Trm9 homolog ALKBH8 is ubiquitously expressed, TRMT9B is enriched in the nervous system. However, in the absence of animal models, TRMT9B's role in the nervous system has remained unstudied. Here, we generate null alleles of TRMT9B and find it acts postsynaptically to regulate synaptogenesis and promote neurotransmission. Through liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, we find that ALKBH8 catalyzes canonical tRNA wobble uridine methylation, raising the question of whether TRMT9B is a methyltransferase. Structural modeling studies suggest TRMT9B retains methyltransferase function and, in vivo, disruption of key methyltransferase residues blocks TRMT9B's ability to rescue synaptic overgrowth, but not neurotransmitter release. These findings reveal distinct roles for TRMT9B in the nervous system and highlight the significance of tRNA methyltransferase family diversification in metazoans.

Keywords: Drosophila; TRMT9B; neurotransmitter release; synapse; tRNA methyltransferase.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Methylation
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae* / genetics
  • Uridine / chemistry
  • Uridine / genetics
  • Uridine / metabolism
  • tRNA Methyltransferases* / genetics
  • tRNA Methyltransferases* / metabolism


  • tRNA Methyltransferases
  • Uridine
  • RNA, Transfer