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Arginine methyltransferases as regulators of RNA-binding protein activities in pathogenic Kinetoplastids

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JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
DateAccepted/In press - 28 May 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2021
DatePublished (current) - 2021
Pages (from-to)692668
Early online date11/06/21
Original languageEnglish


A large number of eukaryotic proteins are processed by single or combinatorial post-translational covalent modifications that may alter their activity, interactions and fate. The set of modifications of each protein may be considered a "regulatory code". Among the PTMs, arginine methylation, catalyzed by protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), can affect how a protein interacts with other macromolecules such as nucleic acids or other proteins. In fact, many RNA-binding (RBPs) proteins are targets of PRMTs. The methylation status of RBPs may affect the expression of their bound RNAs and impact a diverse range of physiological and pathological cellular processes. Unlike most eukaryotes, Kinetoplastids have overwhelmingly intronless genes that are arranged within polycistronic units from which mature mRNAs are generated by trans-splicing. Gene expression in these organisms is thus highly dependent on post-transcriptional control, and therefore on the action of RBPs. These genetic features make trypanosomatids excellent models for the study of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. The roles of PRMTs in controlling the activity of RBPs in pathogenic kinetoplastids have now been studied for close to 2 decades with important advances achieved in recent years. These include the finding that about 10% of the Trypanosoma brucei proteome carries arginine methylation and that arginine methylation controls Leishmania:host interaction. Herein, we review how trypanosomatid PRMTs regulate the activity of RBPs, including by modulating interactions with RNA and/or protein complex formation, and discuss how this impacts cellular and biological processes. We further highlight unique structural features of trypanosomatid PRMTs and how it contributes to their singular functionality.

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© 2021 Campagnaro, Nay, Plevin, Cruz and Walrad.

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