The divergent eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis has an m7G cap methyltransferase capable of a single N2 methylation

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Eukaryotic RNAs typically contain 5′ cap structures that have been primarily studied in yeast and metazoa. The only known RNA cap structure in unicellular protists is the unusual Cap4 on Trypanosoma brucei mRNAs. We have found that T. vaginalis mRNAs are protected by a 5′ cap structure, however, contrary to that typical for eukaryotes, T. vaginalis spliceosomal snRNAs lack a cap and may contain 5′ monophophates. The distinctive 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap structure usually found on snRNAs and snoRNAs is produced by hypermethylation of an m7G cap catalyzed by the enzyme trimethylguanosine synthase (Tgs). Here, we biochemically characterize the single T. vaginalis Tgs (TvTgs) encoded in its genome and demonstrate that TvTgs exhibits substrate specificity and amino acid requirements typical of an RNA cap-specific, m7G-dependent N2 methyltransferase. However, recombinant TvTgs is capable of catalysing only a single round of N2 methylation forming a 2,7-dimethylguanosine cap (DMG) as observed previously for Giardia lamblia. In contrast, recombinant Entamoeba histolytica and Trypanosoma brucei Tgs are capable of catalysing the formation of a TMG cap. These data suggest the presence of RNAs with a distinctive 5′ DMG cap in Trichomonas and Giardia lineages that are absent in other protist lineages.

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