S-Adenosylmethionine and methylation

Peter K. Chiang, Richard K. Gordon, Jacov Tal, G. C. Zeng, B. P. Doctor, K. Pardhasaradhi, Peter P. McCann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

773 Scopus citations


S-Adenosylmethionine (AdoMet or SAM) plays a pivotal role as a methyl donor in a myriad of biological and biochemical events. Although it has been claimed that AdoMet itself has therapeutic benefits, it remains to be established whether it can be taken up intact by cells. S- Adenosylhomocysteine (AdoHcy), formed after donation of the methyl group of AdoMet to a methyl acceptor, is then hydrolyzed to adenosine and homocysteine by AdoHcy hydrolase. This enzyme has long been a target for inhibition as its blockade can affect methylation of phospholipids, proteins, DNA, RNA, and other small molecules. Protein carboxymethylation may be involved in repair functions of aging proteins, and heat shock proteins are methylated in response to stress. Bacterial chemotaxis involves carboxymethylation and demethylation in receptor-transducer proteins, although a similar role in mammalian cells is unclear. The precise role of phospholipid methylation remains open. DNA methylation is related to mammalian gene activities, somatic inheritance, and cellular differentiation. Activation of some genes has been ascribed to the demethylation of critical mCpG loci, and silencing of some genes may be related to the methylation of specific CpG loci. Viral DNA genomes exist in cells as extrachromosomal units and are generally not methylated, although once integrated into host chromosomes, different patterns of methylation are correlated with altered paradigms of transcriptional activity. Some viral latency may be related to DNA methylation. Cellular factors have been found to interact with methylated DNA sequences. Methylation of mammalian ribosomal RNAs occurs soon after the synthesis of its 47S precursor RNA in the nucleolus before cleavage to smaller fragments. Inhibition of the methylation of rRNA affects its processing to mature 18S and 28S rRNAs. The methylation of 5'-terminal cap plays an important role in mRNA export from the nucleus, efficient translation, and protection of the integrity of mRNAs. Another important function of AdoMet is that it serves as the sole donor of an aminopropyl group that is conjugated with putrescine to form, first, the polyamine spermidine, and then spermine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-480
Number of pages10
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • AdoHcy hydrolase
  • AdoMet synthesis
  • protein methylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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