Arginine (arg) methylation is a widespread posttranslational modification of proteins that impacts numerous cellular processes such as chromatin remodeling, RNA processing, DNA repair, and cell signaling. Known arg methylproteins arise mostly from yeast and mammals, and are almost exclusively nuclear and cytoplasmic. Trypanosoma brucei is an early branching eukaryote whose genome encodes five putative protein arg methyltransferases, and thus likely contains a plethora of arg methylproteins. Additionally, trypanosomes and related organisms possess a unique mitochondrion that undergoes dramatic developmental regulation and uses novel RNA editing and mitochondrial DNA replication mechanisms. Here, we performed a global mass spectrometric analysis of the T. brucei mitochondrion to identify new arg methylproteins in this medically relevant parasite. Enabling factors of this work are use of a combination digestion with two orthogonal enzymes, an efficient offline two dimensional chromatography separation, and high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis with two complementary activations. This approach led to the comprehensive, sensitive and confident identification and localization of methylarg at a proteome level. We identified 167 arg methylproteins with wide-ranging functions including metabolism, transport, chaperoning, RNA processing, translation, and DNA replication. Our data suggest that arg methylproteins in trypanosome mitochondria possess both trypanosome-specific and evolutionarily conserved modifications, depending on the protein targeted. This study is the first comprehensive analysis of mitochondrial arg methylation in any organism, and represents a significant advance in our knowledge of the range of arg methylproteins and their sites of modification. Moreover, these studies establish T. brucei as a model organism for the study of posttranslational modifications.
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