Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Rong Huang


While protein α-N-terminal methylation has been known for nearly four decades since it was first uncovered on bacteria ribosomal proteins L33, the function of this modification is still not entirely understood. Recent discoveries have demonstrated α-N-terminal methylation is essential to stabilize the interactions between regulator of chromosome condensation 1 (RCC1) and chromatin during mitosis, to localize and enhance the interaction of centromere proteins (CENPs) with chromatin, and to facilitate the recruitment of DNA damage-binding protein 2 (DDB2) to DNA damage foci. Identification of N-terminal methyltransferase 1 (NTMT1) unveiled the eukaryotic methylation writer for protein α-N-termini. In addition, NTMT2 that shares over 50% sequence similarity, has been identified as another mammalian protein α-N-terminal methylation writer. Knockdown of NTMT1 results in mitotic defects and sensitizes chemotherapeutic agents in breast cancer cell lines, while NTMT1 knockout mice showed premature aging. Additionally, NTMT1 has been shown to be overexpressed in a colorectal and melanoma tumor tissues, and in lung and liver cancer cell lines.

Given the vast array of clinical relevance, chemical probes and inhibitors for NTMT1 are vital to elucidate information about the function and downstream process of protein α-N-terminal methylation. Therefore, 47 peptidomimetic compounds have been synthesized that target NTMT1. These peptide-based compounds range from three to six amino acids in length and the top 5 compounds have 3- to 300- fold selectivity for NTMT1 compared to other methyltransferases. An inhibition mechanism study has also been performed to verify the inhibitors are targeting the NTMT1 peptide binding site. Seven compounds have an IC50 of less than 5 µM and our top inhibitor, BM-47, has an IC50 of 0.32 µM ± 0.06 for NTMT1.

To further elucidate information about the NTMTs and their downstream effects, we utilized photoaffinity probes to target these enzymes. Our 6 photoaffinity probes exhibited in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Probe labeling has been shown to be driven by recognition and selectively and competitively label the NTMT writers in a complex cellular mixture. Our results also provided the first indication of substrate preferences among NTMT1/2. Methylated photoaffinity probes were also synthesized to identify novel proteins that recognize a methylated N-terminus and shed light on the function of α-N-terminal methylation.


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