Phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) is a quatrotopic membrane protein that catalyzes the conversion of phosphatidylethanolamine to phosphatidylcholine through three sequential methylation reactions. Analysis of mice lacking a functional PEMT gene revealed a severe reduction in plasma homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is generated by the hydrolysis of S-adenosylhomocysteine, which is also a product of the PEMT reaction. To gain insight into the PEMT transmethylation reaction and the mechanism by which PEMT regulates homocysteine levels, we sought to define residues that are required for binding of the methyl group donor, S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet). Bioinformatic analysis of the predicted amino acid sequence of human PEMT identified two putative AdoMet-binding motifs (98GXG100 and 180EE181). Site-directed mutagenesis experiments demonstrated the requirement for the conserved motifs in PEMT specific activity. Analysis of the AdoMet binding ability of mutant recombinant PEMT derivatives established that residues Gly100 and Glu180 are essential for binding of the AdoMet moiety. A significantly elevated KD with respect to AdoMet is observed following conservative mutagenesis of residues Gly98 (400 pmol) and Glu181 (666.7 pmol), relative to the unmodified enzyme (303.1 pmol), suggesting that these residues also participate in AdoMet binding. A model positions two separate AdoMet-binding motifs of PEMT in close proximity at the external leaflet of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane.
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