Eukaryote-Conserved Methylarginine Is Absent in Diplomonads and Functionally Compensated in Giardia

Samantha J Emery-Corbin, Joshua J Hamey, Brendan R E Ansell, Balu Balan, Swapnil Tichkule, Andreas J Stroehlein, Crystal Cooper, Bernie V McInerney, Soroor Hediyeh-Zadeh, Daniel Vuong, Andrew Crombie, Ernest Lacey, Melissa J Davis, Marc R Wilkins, Melanie Bahlo, Staffan G Svärd, Robin B Gasser, Aaron R Jex

Molecular biology and evolution 37 (12), 3525-3549

Publication Date: July 23, 2020


Methylation is a common posttranslational modification of arginine and lysine in eukaryotic proteins. Methylproteomes are best characterized for higher eukaryotes, where they are functionally expanded and evolved complex regulation. However, this is not the case for protist species evolved from the earliest eukaryotic lineages. Here, we integrated bioinformatic, proteomic, and drug-screening data sets to comprehensively explore the methylproteome of Giardia duodenalis—a deeply branching parasitic protist. We demonstrate that Giardia and related diplomonads lack arginine-methyltransferases and have remodeled conserved RGG/RG motifs targeted by these enzymes. We also provide experimental evidence for methylarginine absence in proteomes of Giardia but readily detect methyllysine. We bioinformatically infer 11 lysine-methyltransferases in Giardia, including highly diverged Su(var)3-9, Enhancer-of-zeste and Trithorax proteins with reduced domain architectures, and novel annotations demonstrating conserved methyllysine regulation of eukaryotic elongation factor 1 alpha. Using mass spectrometry, we identify more than 200 methyllysine sites in Giardia, including in species-specific gene families involved in cytoskeletal regulation, enriched in coiled-coil features. Finally, we use known methylation inhibitors to show that methylation plays key roles in replication and cyst formation in this parasite. This study highlights reduced methylation enzymes, sites, and functions early in eukaryote evolution, including absent methylarginine networks in the Diplomonadida. These results challenge the view that arginine methylation is eukaryote conserved and demonstrate that functional compensation of methylarginine was possible preceding expansion and diversification of these key networks in higher eukaryotes.

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