MnmE is an evolutionarily conserved, three domain GTPase involved in tRNA modification. In contrast to Ras proteins, MnmE exhibits a high intrinsic GTPase activity and requires GTP hydrolysis to be functionally active. Its G domain conserves the GTPase activity of the full protein, and thus, it should contain the catalytic residues responsible for this activity. In this work, mutational analysis of all conserved arginine residues of the MnmE G-domain indicates that MnmE, unlike other GTPases, does not use an arginine finger to drive catalysis. In addition, we show that residues in the G2 motif (249GTTRD253), which resides in the switch I region, are not important for GTP binding but play some role in stabilizing the transition state, specially Gly249 and Thr251. On the other hand, G2 mutations leading to a minor loss of the GTPase activity result in a non-functional MnmE protein. This indicates that GTP hydrolysis is a required but non-sufficient condition so that MnmE can mediate modification of tRNA. The conformational change of the switch I region associated with GTP hydrolysis seems to be crucial for the function of MnmE, and the invariant threonine (Thr251) of the G2 motif would be essential for such a change, because it cannot be substituted by serine. MnmE defects result in impaired growth, a condition that is exacerbated when defects in other genes involved in the decoding process are simultaneously present. This behavior is reminiscent to that found in yeast and stresses the importance of tRNA modification for gene expression.
2005. Vol. 280, no 35, 30660-30670 p.