Calmodulin is trimethylated by a specific methyltransferase on Lys115, a residue located in a six amino acid loop (LGEKLT) between EF hands III and IV. To investigate the structural requirements for methylation, domain exchange mutants as well as single point mutations of conserved methylation loop residues (E114A, Glu114 → Ala; L116T, Leu116 → Thr) were generated. E114A and L116T activated cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (PDE) and NAD+ kinase (NADK) similar to wild-type calmodulin, but lost their ability to be methylated. Domain exchange mutants in which EF hand III or IV was replaced by EF hand I or II respectively (CaM1214 and CaM1232 respectively) showed a modest effect on PDE and NADK activation (50 to 100% of wild-type), but calmodulin methylation was abolished. A third domain exchange mutant, CaMEKL, has the methylation loop sequence placed at a symmetrical position between EF hands I and II in the N-terminal lobe [residues QNP(41-43) replaced by EKL]. CaMEKL activated PDE normally, but did not activate NADK. However, CaMEKL retained the ability to bind to NADK and inhibited activation by wild-type calmodulin. Site-directed mutagenesis of single residues showed that Gln41 and Pro43 substitutions had the strongest effect on NADK activation. Additionally, CaMEKL was not methylated, suggesting that the introduction of the methylation loop between EF hands I and II is not adequate for methyltransferase recognition. Overall the data indicate that residues in the methylation loop are essential but not sufficient for methyltransferase recognition, and that additional residues unique to EF hands III and IV are required. Secondly, the QNP sequence in the loop between EF hands I and II is necessary for NADK activation.

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