S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) is a universal biological cofactor that is found in all branches of life where it plays a critical role in the transfer of methyl groups to various biomolecules, including DNA, proteins and small-molecule secondary metabolites. The methylation process thus has important implications in various disease processes and applications in industrial chemical processing. This methyl transfer is catalysed by SAM-dependent methyltransferases (MTases), which are by far the largest groups of SAM-dependent enzymes. A significant amount is now known regarding the structural biology and enzymology of these enzymes, and, consequently, there is now significant scope for the development of new MTases and SAM analogues for applications from biomolecular imaging to biocatalytic industrial processes. This review will focus on current efforts in the manipulation of class I and V SAM-dependent MTases and the use of synthetic SAM analogues, which together offer the best prospects for rational redesign towards biotechnological applications. Firstly, metabolic engineering of organisms incorporating small-molecule MTases is discussed; this can be applied in a variety of areas from the industrial bioprocessing of flavourants and antibiotics to frontier research in biofuel production and bioremediation. Secondly, the application of MTases in combination with SAM analogues is reviewed; this allows the tagging of proteins and oligonucleotides with moieties other than the methyl group. Such tagging allows the isolation of the tagged biomolecule and aids its visualisation by a range of analytical methods. The review then summarises the potential advantages of MTase-mediated chemistry and offers some future perspectives on downstream applications. © 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.