NG-Methylation of arginine residues in many nucleic-acid-binding proteins are formed post-translationally, catalysed by S-adenosylmethionine:protein-arginine N-methyltransferase in their glycine-rich and arginine-rich motifs. The amino acid sequences of the stimulator of HIV-1 TAR (Tat-responsive element) RNA-binding protein (SRB) and fibronectin also show the presence of the internal -Gly-Arg-Gly- (-GRG-) sequence, which is potentially methylatable by the methyltransferase. To investigate the sequence requirement for methylation of these proteins, several synthetic oligopeptides with different chain lengths and sequences similar to the -GRG- regions of SRB and fibronectin were synthesized. Whereas the heptapeptide AGGRGKG (residues 16-22 in SRB) served as the methyl acceptor for the methyltransferase with a Km of 50 μM, the 19-mer peptide (residues 10-28 in SRB) was methylated with a Km of 8.3 μM, indicating that a greater peptide chain length yields a better methyl acceptor. Product analysis of the methylated [methyl-14C]SRB-peptide by HPLC indicated the formation of NG-monomethylarginine and NG,NG-dimethyl(asymmetric)arginine. Synthetic peptides containing the cell attachment sequence [Arg-Gly-Asp (‘RGD’)] in fibronectin, GRGDSPK, GGRGDSPK and GGGRGDSPK, were also studied; whereas GRGDSPK was a poor methyl acceptor, the longer peptides were better methyl acceptors. To provide an understanding of the effect of methylation on fibronectin peptide, arginine-unmethylated and methylated GGRGDSPK were compared for their effect on the mitogenesis induced by β-hexosaminidase A and an agonistic antibody (mAb15) in bovine tracheal smooth-muscle cells; whereas the former inhibited 35-67% of mitogenesis at a concentration of 5-10 μM, the latter did not block mitogenesis. This lack of inhibition by the insertion of a methyl group on the arginyl residue of the cell attachment sequence might be due to the hindrance of the binding of fibronectin peptide to integrins.

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