Mathematical analysis of the regulation of competing methyltransferases

Reed, Michael C.; Gamble, Mary V.; Hall, Megan; Nijhout, H. Frederick

Methyltransferase (MT) reactions, in which methyl groups are attached to substrates, are fundamental to many aspects of cell biology and human physiology. The universal methyl donor for these reactions is S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and this presents the cell with an important regulatory problem. If the flux along one pathway is changed then the SAM concentration will change affecting all the other MT pathways, so it is difficult for the cell to regulate the pathways independently.

We created a mathematical model, based on the known biochemistry of the folate and methionine cycles, to study the regulatory mechanisms that enable the cell to overcome this difficulty. Some of the primary mechanisms are long-range allosteric interactions by which substrates in one part of the biochemical network affect the activity of enzymes at distant locations in the network (not distant in the cell). Because of these long-range allosteric interactions, the dynamic behavior of the network is very complicated, and so mathematical modeling is a useful tool for investigating the effects of the regulatory mechanisms and understanding the complicated underlying biochemistry and cell biology.

We study the allosteric binding of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5mTHF) to glycine-N-methyltransferase (GNMT) and explain why data in the literature implies that when one molecule binds, GNMT retains half its activity. Using the model, we quantify the effects of different regulatory mechanisms and show how cell processes would be different if the regulatory mechanisms were eliminated. In addition, we use the model to interpret and understand data from studies in the literature. Finally, we explain why a full understanding of how competing MTs are regulated is important for designing intervention strategies to improve human health.

We give strong computational evidence that once bound GNMT retains half its activity. The long-range allosteric interactions enable the cell to regulate the MT reactions somewhat independently. The low K m values of many MTs also play a role because the reactions then run near saturation and changes in SAM have little effect. Finally, the inhibition of the MTs by the product S-adenosylhomocysteine also stabilizes reaction rates against changes in SAM.


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Mathematical analysis of the regulation of competing methyltransferases

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Academic Units
Environmental Health Sciences
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October 14, 2015