Ribosomal RNA methylation in Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli: effect of the "MLS" (erythromycin resistance) methylase

Plasmid. 1985 Sep;14(2):152-61. doi: 10.1016/0147-619x(85)90075-7.


Classical acquired resistance to erythromycin in Staphylococcus aureus ("MLS," or macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin, resistance) was shown by Weisblum and colleagues to be a direct consequence of the conversion of one or more adenosine residues of 23S rRNA, within the subsequence(s) GA3G, to N6-dimethyladenosine (m62A). The methylation reaction is effected by a class of methylase, whose genes are typically plasmid- or transposon-associated, and whose synthesis is inducible by erythromycin. Using a recently obtained clinical MLS isolate of S. aureus, we have further defined the methylation locus as YGG X m62A X AAGAC; and have shown that this subsequence occurs once in the 23S RNA and that it is essentially completely methylated in all copies of 23S RNA that accumulate in induced cultures. Similar findings were obtained with laboratory S. aureus strains containing two well-characterized evolutionary variants (ermB, ermC) of MLS methylase genes. Analyses of a strain of E. coli containing the ermC gene indicated that the specificity of the methylase gene was unchanged, but that its expression was muted. Even after prolonged periods of induction, the strain manifested only partial resistance to erythromycin, and only about one-third of the copies of the MLS subsequence were methylated in such "induced" cultures. Since the E. coli 23S RNA sequence is known in its entirety, localization of the MLS subsequence is in this case unambiguous; as inferred by homology arguments applied earlier to the S. aureus data, the subsequence is in a highly conserved region of 23S RNA considered to contribute to the peptidyl transferase center of the ribosome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Erythromycin / pharmacology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Methylation
  • Plasmids
  • RNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal / metabolism*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*
  • tRNA Methyltransferases / genetics*


  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Erythromycin
  • tRNA Methyltransferases