The biological methyl donor S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet) is spontaneously degraded by inversion of its sulfonium center to form the R,S diastereomer. Unlike its precursor, (S,S)-AdoMet, (R,S)-AdoMet has no known cellular function and may have some toxicity. While the rate of (R,S)-AdoMet formation under physiological conditions is significant, it has not been detected at substantial levels in vivo in a wide range of organisms. These observations imply that there are mechanisms that either dispose of (R,S)-AdoMet or convert it back to (S,S)-AdoMet. Previously, we identified two homocysteine methyltransferases (Mht1 and Sam4) in yeast capable of recognizing and metabolizing (R,S)-AdoMet. We found similar activities in worms, plants and flies. However, it was not established whether these activities could prevent R,S accumulation. In this work, we show that both the Mht1 and Sam4 enzymes are capable of preventing R,S accumulation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown to stationary phase; deletion of both genes results in significant (R,S)-AdoMet accumulation. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such an accumulation of (R,S)-AdoMet has been reported in any organism. We show that yeast cells can take up (R,S)-AdoMet from the medium using the same transporter (Sam3) used to import (S,S)-AdoMet. Our results suggest that yeast cells have evolved efficient mechanisms for not only dealing with the spontaneous intracellular generation of the (R,S)-AdoMet degradation product but for utilizing environmental sources as a nutrient.
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