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An unusual S-adenosylmethionine synthetase gene from dinoflagellate is methylated

Percy Ho1, KF Kong2, YH Chan1, Jimmy SH Tsang2 and Joseph TY Wong1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, China

2 Department of Botany, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong SAR, China

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BMC Molecular Biology 2007, 8:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-8-87

Published: 4 October 2007



S-Adenosylmethionine synthetase (AdoMetS) catalyzes the formation of S-Adenosylmethionine (AdoMet), the major methyl group donor in cells. AdoMet-mediated methylation of DNA is known to have regulatory effects on DNA transcription and chromosome structure. Transcription of environmental-responsive genes was demonstrated to be mediated via DNA methylation in dinoflagellates.


A full-length cDNA encoding AdoMetS was cloned from the dinoflagellate Crypthecodinium cohnii. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that the CcAdoMetS gene, is associated with the clade of higher plant orthrologues, and not to the clade of the animal orthrologues. Surprisingly, three extra stretches of residues (8 to 19 amino acids) were found on CcAdoMetS, when compared to other members of this usually conserved protein family. Modeled on the bacterial AdeMetS, two of the extra loops are located close to the methionine binding site. Despite this, the CcAdoMetS was able to rescue the corresponding mutant of budding yeast. Southern analysis, coupled with methylation-sensitive and insensitive enzyme digestion of C. cohnii genomic DNA, demonstrated that the AdoMetS gene is itself methylated. The increase in digestibility of methylation-sensitive enzymes on AdoMet synthetase gene observed following the addition of DNA methylation inhibitors L-ethionine and 5-azacytidine suggests the presence of cytosine methylation sites within CcAdoMetS gene. During the cell cycle, both the transcript and protein levels of CcAdoMetS peaked at the G1 phase. L-ethionine was able to delay the cell cycle at the entry of S phase. A cell cycle delay at the exit of G2/M phase was induced by 5-azacytidine.


The present study demonstrates a major role of AdoMet-mediated DNA methylation in the regulation of cell proliferation and that the CcAdoMetS gene is itself methylated.