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1.  Crystal structure of a 4-thiouridine synthetase–RNA complex reveals specificity of tRNA U8 modification 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(10):6673-6685.
In prokaryotes and archaea transfer ribonucleic acid (tRNA) stability as well as cellular UV protection relies on the post-transcriptional modification of uracil at position 8 (U8) of tRNAs by the 4-thiouridine synthetase ThiI. Here, we report three crystal structures of ThiI from Thermotoga maritima in complex with a truncated tRNA. The RNA is mainly bound by the N-terminal ferredoxin-like domain (NFLD) and the THUMP domain of one subunit within the ThiI homo-dimer thereby positioning the U8 close to the catalytic center in the pyrophosphatase domain of the other subunit. The recognition of the 3’-CCA end by the THUMP domain yields a molecular ruler defining the specificity for U8 thiolation. This first structure of a THUMP/NFLD-RNA complex might serve as paradigm for the RNA recognition by THUMP domains of other proteins. The ternary ThiI–RNA–ATP complex shows no significant structural changes due to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) binding, but two different states of active site loops are observed independent of the nucleotide loading state. Thereby conformational changes of the active site are coupled with conformational changes of the bound RNA. The ThiI–RNA complex structures indicate that full-length tRNA has to adopt a non-canonical conformation upon binding to ThiI.
PMCID: PMC4041423  PMID: 24705700
2.  Crystal structures of the tRNA:m2G6 methyltransferase Trm14/TrmN from two domains of life 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(11):5149-5161.
Methyltransferases (MTases) form a major class of tRNA-modifying enzymes needed for the proper functioning of tRNA. Recently, RNA MTases from the TrmN/Trm14 family that are present in Archaea, Bacteria and Eukaryota have been shown to specifically modify tRNAPhe at guanosine 6 in the tRNA acceptor stem. Here, we report the first X-ray crystal structures of the tRNA m2G6 (N2-methylguanosine) MTase TTCTrmN from Thermus thermophilus and its ortholog PfTrm14 from Pyrococcus furiosus. Structures of PfTrm14 were solved in complex with the methyl donor S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM or AdoMet), as well as the reaction product S-adenosyl-homocysteine (SAH or AdoHcy) and the inhibitor sinefungin. TTCTrmN and PfTrm14 consist of an N-terminal THUMP domain fused to a catalytic Rossmann-fold MTase (RFM) domain. These results represent the first crystallographic structure analysis of proteins containing both THUMP and RFM domain, and hence provide further insight in the contribution of the THUMP domain in tRNA recognition and catalysis. Electrostatics and conservation calculations suggest a main tRNA binding surface in a groove between the THUMP domain and the MTase domain. This is further supported by a docking model of TrmN in complex with tRNAPhe of T. thermophilus and via site-directed mutagenesis.
PMCID: PMC3367198  PMID: 22362751
3.  The crystal structure of Pyrococcus abyssi tRNA (uracil-54, C5)-methyltransferase provides insights into its tRNA specificity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(15):4929-4940.
The 5-methyluridine is invariably found at position 54 in the TΨC loop of tRNAs of most organisms. In Pyrococcus abyssi, its formation is catalyzed by the S-adenosyl-l-methionine-dependent tRNA (uracil-54, C5)-methyltransferase (PabTrmU54), an enzyme that emerged through an ancient horizontal transfer of an RNA (uracil, C5)-methyltransferase-like gene from bacteria to archaea. The crystal structure of PabTrmU54 in complex with S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine at 1.9 Å resolution shows the protein organized into three domains like Escherichia coli RumA, which catalyzes the same reaction at position 1939 of 23S rRNA. A positively charged groove at the interface between the three domains probably locates part of the tRNA-binding site of PabTrmU54. We show that a mini-tRNA lacking both the D and anticodon stem-loops is recognized by PabTrmU54. These results were used to model yeast tRNAAsp in the PabTrmU54 structure to get further insights into the different RNA specificities of RumA and PabTrmU54. Interestingly, the presence of two flexible loops in the central domain, unique to PabTrmU54, may explain the different substrate selectivities of both enzymes. We also predict that a large TΨC loop conformational change has to occur for the flipping of the target uridine into the PabTrmU54 active site during catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2528175  PMID: 18653523
4.  Insights into the hyperthermostability and unusual region-specificity of archaeal Pyrococcus abyssi tRNA m1A57/58 methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(18):6206-6218.
The S-adenosyl-l-methionine dependent methylation of adenine 58 in the T-loop of tRNAs is essential for cell growth in yeast or for adaptation to high temperatures in thermophilic organisms. In contrast to bacterial and eukaryotic tRNA m1A58 methyltransferases that are site-specific, the homologous archaeal enzyme from Pyrococcus abyssi catalyzes the formation of m1A also at the adjacent position 57, m1A57 being a precursor of 1-methylinosine. We report here the crystal structure of P. abyssi tRNA m1A57/58 methyltransferase (PabTrmI), in complex with S-adenosyl-l-methionine or S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine in three different space groups. The fold of the monomer and the tetrameric architecture are similar to those of the bacterial enzymes. However, the inter-monomer contacts exhibit unique features. In particular, four disulfide bonds contribute to the hyperthermostability of the archaeal enzyme since their mutation lowers the melting temperature by 16.5°C. His78 in conserved motif X, which is present only in TrmIs from the Thermococcocales order, lies near the active site and displays two alternative conformations. Mutagenesis indicates His78 is important for catalytic efficiency of PabTrmI. When A59 is absent in tRNAAsp, only A57 is modified. Identification of the methylated positions in tRNAAsp by mass spectrometry confirms that PabTrmI methylates the first adenine of an AA sequence.
PMCID: PMC2952851  PMID: 20483913
5.  Formation of m2G6 in Methanocaldococcus jannaschii tRNA catalyzed by the novel methyltransferase Trm14 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7641-7655.
The modified nucleosides N2-methylguanosine and N22-dimethylguanosine in transfer RNA occur at five positions in the D and anticodon arms, and at positions G6 and G7 in the acceptor stem. Trm1 and Trm11 enzymes are known to be responsible for several of the D/anticodon arm modifications, but methylases catalyzing post-transcriptional m2G synthesis in the acceptor stem are uncharacterized. Here, we report that the MJ0438 gene from Methanocaldococcus jannaschii encodes a novel S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferase, now identified as Trm14, which generates m2G at position 6 in tRNACys. The 381 amino acid Trm14 protein possesses a canonical RNA recognition THUMP domain at the amino terminus, followed by a γ-class Rossmann fold amino-methyltransferase catalytic domain featuring the signature NPPY active site motif. Trm14 is associated with cluster of orthologous groups (COG) 0116, and most closely resembles the m2G10 tRNA methylase Trm11. Phylogenetic analysis reveals a canonical archaeal/bacterial evolutionary separation with 20–30% sequence identities between the two branches, but it is likely that the detailed functions of COG 0116 enzymes differ between the archaeal and bacterial domains. In the archaeal branch, the protein is found exclusively in thermophiles. More distantly related Trm14 homologs were also identified in eukaryotes known to possess the m2G6 tRNA modification.
PMCID: PMC3177210  PMID: 21693558
6.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray studies of the TAN1 ortholog from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus 
MTH909 is the Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus ortholog of Saccharomyces cerevisiae TAN1, which is required for N4-acetylcytidine formation in tRNA. The protein consists of an N-terminal near ferredoxin-like domain and a C-terminal THUMP domain. Unlike most other proteins containing the THUMP domain, TAN1 lacks any catalytic domains and has been proposed to form a complex with a catalytic protein capable of making base modifications. MTH909 has been cloned, over-expressed and purified. The molecule exists as a monomer in solution. X-ray data from a native crystal, belonging to the space group P6122 (P6522) with the unit cell dimensions of a = 69.9 Å and c = 408.5 Å, have been collected to 2.85 Å resolution.
MTH909, the Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus ortholog of Saccharomyces cerevisiae TAN1, has been over-expressed, purified and crystallized. X-ray data from a crystal belonging to the space group P6122 (P6522) have been collected to 2.85 Å resolution.
PMCID: PMC2581707  PMID: 18997348
THUMP domain; TAN1; RNA-binding
7.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray studies of the TAN1 orthologue from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus  
MTH909, the M. thermautotrophicus orthologue of S. cerevisiae TAN1, has been overexpressed, purified and crystallized. X-ray data were collected to 2.85 Å resolution from a crystal belonging to space group P6122 (or P6522).
MTH909 is the Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus orthologue of Saccharomyces cerevisiae TAN1, which is required for N 4-acetylcytidine formation in tRNA. The protein consists of an N-terminal near-ferredoxin-like domain and a C-terminal THUMP domain. Unlike most other proteins containing the THUMP domain, TAN1 lacks any catalytic domains and has been proposed to form a complex with a catalytic protein that is capable of making base modifications. MTH909 has been cloned, overexpressed and purified. The molecule exists as a monomer in solution. X-ray data were collected to 2.85 Å resolution from a native crystal belonging to space group P6122 (or P6522), with unit-cell parameters a = 69.9, c = 408.5 Å.
PMCID: PMC2581707  PMID: 18997348
THUMP domains; TAN1; RNA binding
8.  A Cytidine Deaminase Edits C to U in Transfer RNAs in Archaea 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;324(5927):657-659.
All canonical transfer RNAs (tRNAs) have a uridine at position 8, involved in maintaining tRNA tertiary structure. However, the hyperthermophilic archaeon Methanopyrus kandleri harbors 30 (out of 34) tRNA genes with cytidine at position 8. Here, we demonstrate C-to-U editing at this location in the tRNA’s tertiary core, and present the crystal structure of a tRNA-specific cytidine deaminase, CDAT8, which has the cytidine deaminase domain linked to a tRNA-binding THUMP domain. CDAT8 is specific for C deamination at position 8, requires only the acceptor stem hairpin for activity, and belongs to a unique family within the “cytidine deaminase–like” superfamily. The presence of this C-to-U editing enzyme guarantees the proper folding and functionality of all M. kandleri tRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2857566  PMID: 19407206
9.  Single amino acid changes in AspRS reveal alternative routes for expanding its tRNA repertoire in vivo 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(13):4081-4089.
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are enzymes that are highly specific for their tRNA substrates. Here, we describe the expansion of a class IIb aaRS–tRNA specificity by a genetic selection that involves the use of a modified tRNA displaying an amber anticodon and the argEamber and lacZamber reporters. The study was performed on Escherichia coli aspartyl-tRNA synthetase (AspRS) and amber tRNAAsp. Nine AspRS mutants able to charge the amber tRNAAsp and to suppress the reporter genes were selected from a randomly mutated library. All the mutants exhibited a new amber tRNAAsp specificity in addition to the initial native tRNAAsp. Six mutations were found in the anticodon-binding site located in the N-terminal OB-fold. The strongest suppressor was a mutation of residue Glu-93 that contacts specifically the anticodon nucleotide 34 in the crystal structure. The other mutations in the OB-fold were found at close distance from the anticodon in the so-called loop L45 and strand S1. They concern residues that do not contact tRNAAsp in the native complex. In addition, this study shows that suppressors can carry mutations located far from the anticodon-binding site. One such mutation was found in the synthetase hinge-module where it increases the tRNAAsp-charging rate, and two other mutations were found in the prokaryotic-specific insertion domain and the catalytic core. These mutants seem to act by indirect effects on the tRNA acceptor stem binding and on the conformation of the active site of the enzyme. Altogether, these data suggest the existence of various ways for modifying the mechanism of tRNA discrimination.
PMCID: PMC506823  PMID: 15289581
10.  Crystal structure of RlmM, the 2′O-ribose methyltransferase for C2498 of Escherichia coli 23S rRNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(20):10507-10520.
RlmM (YgdE) catalyzes the S-adenosyl methionine (AdoMet)-dependent 2′O methylation of C2498 in 23S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) of Escherichia coli. Previous experiments have shown that RlmM is active on 23S rRNA from an RlmM knockout strain but not on mature 50S subunits from the same strain. Here, we demonstrate RlmM methyltransferase (MTase) activity on in vitro transcribed 23S rRNA and its domain V. We have solved crystal structures of E. coli RlmM at 1.9 Å resolution and of an RlmM–AdoMet complex at 2.6 Å resolution. RlmM consists of an N-terminal THUMP domain and a C-terminal catalytic Rossmann-like fold MTase domain in a novel arrangement. The catalytic domain of RlmM is closely related to YiiB, TlyA and fibrillarins, with the second K of the catalytic tetrad KDKE shifted by two residues at the C-terminal end of a beta strand compared with most 2′O MTases. The AdoMet-binding site is open and shallow, suggesting that RNA substrate binding may be required to form a conformation needed for catalysis. A continuous surface of conserved positive charge indicates that RlmM uses one side of the two domains and the inter-domain linker to recognize its RNA substrate.
PMCID: PMC3488215  PMID: 22923526
11.  The Rhodanese Domain of ThiI Is Both Necessary and Sufficient for Synthesis of the Thiazole Moiety of Thiamine in Salmonella enterica ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(18):4582-4587.
In Salmonella enterica, ThiI is a bifunctional enzyme required for the synthesis of both the 4-thiouridine modification in tRNA and the thiazole moiety of thiamine. In 4-thiouridine biosynthesis, ThiI adenylates the tRNA uridine and transfers sulfur from a persulfide formed on the protein. The role of ThiI in thiazole synthesis is not yet well understood. Mutational analysis described here found that ThiI residues required for 4-thiouridine synthesis were not involved in thiazole biosynthesis. The data further showed that the C-terminal rhodanese domain of ThiI was sufficient for thiazole synthesis in vivo. Together, these data support the conclusion that sulfur mobilization in thiazole synthesis is mechanistically distinct from that in 4-thiouridine synthesis and suggest that functional annotation of ThiI in genome sequences should be readdressed. Nutritional studies described here identified an additional cysteine-dependent mechanism for sulfur mobilization to thiazole that did not require ThiI, IscS, SufS, or glutathione. The latter mechanism may provide insights into the chemistry used for sulfur mobilization to thiazole in organisms that do not utilize ThiI.
PMCID: PMC3165671  PMID: 21724998
12.  In Human Pseudouridine Synthase 1 (hPus1), a C-terminal Helical Insert Blocks tRNA From Binding in the Same Orientation as in the Pus1 Bacterial Homologue TruA, Consistent with their Different Target Selectivities 
Journal of molecular biology  2013;425(20):3875-3887.
Human pseudouridine (Ψ) synthase Pus1 (hPus1) modifies specific uridine residues in several non-coding RNAs; tRNA, U2 spliceosomal RNA and steroid receptor activator RNA. We report three structures of the catalytic core domain of hPus1 from two crystal forms, at 1.8 Å resolution. The structures are the first of a mammalian Ψ synthase from the set of five Ψ synthase families common to all kingdoms of life. hPus1 adopts a fold similar to bacterial Ψ synthases, with a central antiparallel ß-sheet flanked by helices and loops. A flexible hinge at the base of the sheet allows the enzyme to open and close around an electropositive active site cleft. In one crystal form a molecule of MES mimics the target uridine of an RNA substrate. A positively charged electrostatic surface extends from the active site towards the N-terminus of the catalytic domain suggesting an extensive binding site specific for target RNAs. Two alpha helices C-terminal to the core domain, but unique to hPus1, extend along the back and top of the central ß-sheet and form the walls of the RNA binding surface. Docking of tRNA to hPus1 in a productive orientation requires only minor conformational changes to enzyme and tRNA. The docked tRNA is bound by the electropositive surface of the protein employing a completely different binding mode than that seen for the tRNA complex of the E. coli homolog TruA.
PMCID: PMC3900414  PMID: 23707380
RNA modifying enzyme; isomerase; pseudouridine; X-ray crystallography; tRNA
13.  Characterization and Structure of the Aquifex aeolicus Protein DUF752 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(52):43950-43960.
Background: Escherichia coli encodes a bifunctional oxidase/methyltransferase catalyzing the final steps of methylaminomethyluridine (mnm5U) formation in tRNA wobble positions.
Results: Aquifex aeolicus encodes only a monofunctional aminomethyluridine-dependent methyltransferase, lacking the oxidase domain.
Conclusion: An alternative pathway exists for mnm5U biogenesis.
Significance: Information about how an organism modifies the wobble base of its tRNA is important for understanding the emergence of the genetic code.
Post-transcriptional modifications of the wobble uridine (U34) of tRNAs play a critical role in reading NNA/G codons belonging to split codon boxes. In a subset of Escherichia coli tRNA, this wobble uridine is modified to 5-methylaminomethyluridine (mnm5U34) through sequential enzymatic reactions. Uridine 34 is first converted to 5-carboxymethylaminomethyluridine (cmnm5U34) by the MnmE-MnmG enzyme complex. The cmnm5U34 is further modified to mnm5U by the bifunctional MnmC protein. In the first reaction, the FAD-dependent oxidase domain (MnmC1) converts cmnm5U into 5-aminomethyluridine (nm5U34), and this reaction is immediately followed by the methylation of the free amino group into mnm5U34 by the S-adenosylmethionine-dependent domain (MnmC2). Aquifex aeolicus lacks a bifunctional MnmC protein fusion and instead encodes the Rossmann-fold protein DUF752, which is homologous to the methyltransferase MnmC2 domain of Escherichia coli MnmC (26% identity). Here, we determined the crystal structure of the A. aeolicus DUF752 protein at 2.5 Å resolution, which revealed that it catalyzes the S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methylation of nm5U in vitro, to form mnm5U34 in tRNA. We also showed that naturally occurring tRNA from A. aeolicus contains the 5-mnm group attached to the C5 atom of U34. Taken together, these results support the recent proposal of an alternative MnmC1-independent shortcut pathway for producing mnm5U34 in tRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3527978  PMID: 23091054
Crystal Structure; RNA Methyltransferase; RNA Modification; S-Adenosylmethionine (AdoMet); Transfer RNA (tRNA); Genetic Code; tRNA Anticodon; Wobble Uridine
14.  The tRNA recognition mechanism of the minimalist SPOUT methyltransferase, TrmL 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(16):7828-7842.
Unlike other transfer RNAs (tRNA)-modifying enzymes from the SPOUT methyltransferase superfamily, the tRNA (Um34/Cm34) methyltransferase TrmL lacks the usual extension domain for tRNA binding and consists only of a SPOUT domain. Both the catalytic and tRNA recognition mechanisms of this enzyme remain elusive. By using tRNAs purified from an Escherichia coli strain with the TrmL gene deleted, we found that TrmL can independently catalyze the methyl transfer from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to and isoacceptors without the involvement of other tRNA-binding proteins. We have solved the crystal structures of TrmL in apo form and in complex with S-adenosyl-homocysteine and identified the cofactor binding site and a possible active site. Methyltransferase activity and tRNA-binding affinity of TrmL mutants were measured to identify residues important for tRNA binding of TrmL. Our results suggest that TrmL functions as a homodimer by using the conserved C-terminal half of the SPOUT domain for catalysis, whereas residues from the less-conserved N-terminal half of the other subunit participate in tRNA recognition.
PMCID: PMC3763551  PMID: 23804755
15.  Structural basis for hypermodification of the wobble uridine in tRNA by bifunctional enzyme MnmC 
Methylaminomethyl modification of uridine or 2-thiouridine (mnm5U34 or mnm5s2U34) at the wobble position of tRNAs specific for glutamate, lysine and arginine are observed in Escherichia coli and allow for specific recognition of codons ending in A or G. In the biosynthetic pathway responsible for this post-transcriptional modification, the bifunctional enzyme MnmC catalyzes the conversion of its hypermodified substrate carboxymethylaminomethyl uridine (cmnm5U34) to mnm5U34. MnmC catalyzes the flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)-dependent oxidative cleavage of carboxymethyl group from cmnm5U34 via an imine intermediate to generate aminomethyl uridine (nm5U34), which is subsequently methylated by S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) to yield methylaminomethyl uridine (mnm5U34).
The X-ray crystal structures of SAM/FAD-bound bifunctional MnmC from Escherichia coli and Yersinia pestis, and FAD-bound bifunctional MnmC from Yersinia pestis were determined and the catalytic functions verified in an in vitro assay.
The crystal structures of MnmC from two Gram negative bacteria reveal the overall architecture of the enzyme and the relative disposition of the two independent catalytic domains: a Rossmann-fold domain containing the SAM binding site and an FAD containing domain structurally homologous to glycine oxidase from Bacillus subtilis. The structures of MnmC also reveal the detailed atomic interactions at the interdomain interface and provide spatial restraints relevant to the overall catalytic mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3648344  PMID: 23617613
tRNA modification; X-ray crystallography; SAM-dependent methyl transferase; Oxidoreductase
16.  Identification of a novel gene encoding a flavin-dependent tRNA:m5U methyltransferase in bacteria—evolutionary implications 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(13):3955-3964.
Formation of 5-methyluridine (ribothymidine) at position 54 of the T-psi loop of tRNA is catalyzed by site-specific tRNA methyltransferases (tRNA:m5U-54 MTase). In all Eukarya and many Gram-negative Bacteria, the methyl donor for this reaction is S-adenosyl-l-methionine (S-AdoMet), while in several Gram-positive Bacteria, the source of carbon is N5, N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate (CH2H4folate). We have identified the gene for Bacillus subtilis tRNA:m5U-54 MTase. The encoded recombinant protein contains tightly bound flavin and is active in Escherichia coli mutant lacking m5U-54 in tRNAs and in vitro using T7 tRNA transcript as substrate. This gene is currently annotated gid in Genome Data Banks and it is here renamed trmFO. TrmFO (Gid) orthologs have also been identified in many other bacterial genomes and comparison of their amino acid sequences reveals that they are phylogenetically distinct from either ThyA or ThyX class of thymidylate synthases, which catalyze folate-dependent formation of deoxyribothymine monophosphate, the universal DNA precursor.
PMCID: PMC1178002  PMID: 16027442
17.  A subcomplex of human mitochondrial RNase P is a bifunctional methyltransferase—extensive moonlighting in mitochondrial tRNA biogenesis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(22):11583-11593.
Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) reach their mature functional form through several steps of processing and modification. Some nucleotide modifications affect the proper folding of tRNAs, and they are crucial in case of the non-canonically structured animal mitochondrial tRNAs, as exemplified by the apparently ubiquitous methylation of purines at position 9. Here, we show that a subcomplex of human mitochondrial RNase P, the endonuclease removing tRNA 5′ extensions, is the methyltransferase responsible for m1G9 and m1A9 formation. The ability of the mitochondrial tRNA:m1R9 methyltransferase to modify both purines is uncommon among nucleic acid modification enzymes. In contrast to all the related methyltransferases, the human mitochondrial enzyme, moreover, requires a short-chain dehydrogenase as a partner protein. Human mitochondrial RNase P, thus, constitutes a multifunctional complex, whose subunits moonlight in cascade: a fatty and amino acid degradation enzyme in tRNA methylation and the methyltransferase, in turn, in tRNA 5′ end processing.
PMCID: PMC3526285  PMID: 23042678
18.  Crystal structure of the Aspartyl-tRNA synthetase from Entamoeba histolytica 
The crystal structure of the aspartyl-tRNA synthetase from the eukaryotic parasite Entamoeba histolytica has been determined at 2.8 Å resolution. Relative to homologous sequences, the E. histolytica protein contains a 43-residue insertion between the N-terminal anticodon binding domain and the C-terminal catalytic domain. The present structure reveals that this insertion extends an arm of the hinge region that has previously been shown to mediate interaction of aspartyl-tRNA synthetase with the cognate tRNA D-stem. Modeling indicates that this Entamoeba-specific insertion is likely to increase the interaction surface with the cognate tRNAAsp. In doing so it may substitute functionally for an RNA-binding motif located in N-terminal extensions found in AspRS sequences from lower eukaryotes but absent in Entamoeba. The E. histolytica AspRS structure shows a well-ordered N-terminus that contributes to the AspRS dimer interface.
PMCID: PMC2791181  PMID: 19874856
tRNA ligase
19.  A minimalist glutamyl-tRNA synthetase dedicated to aminoacylation of the tRNAAsp QUC anticodon 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(9):2768-2775.
Escherichia coli encodes YadB, a protein displaying 34% identity with the catalytic core of glutamyl-tRNA synthetase but lacking the anticodon-binding domain. We show that YadB is a tRNA modifying enzyme that evidently glutamylates the queuosine residue, a modified nucleoside at the wobble position of the tRNAAsp QUC anticodon. This conclusion is supported by a variety of biochemical data and by the inability of the enzyme to glutamylate tRNAAsp isolated from an E.coli tRNA-guanosine transglycosylase minus strain deprived of the capacity to exchange guanosine 34 with queuosine. Structural mimicry between the tRNAAsp anticodon stem and the tRNAGlu amino acid acceptor stem in prokaryotes encoding YadB proteins indicates that the function of these tRNA modifying enzymes, which we rename glutamyl-Q tRNAAsp synthetases, is conserved among prokaryotes.
PMCID: PMC419609  PMID: 15150343
20.  Comparative Study of Two Box H/ACA Ribonucleoprotein Pseudouridine-Synthases: Relation between Conformational Dynamics of the Guide RNA, Enzyme Assembly and Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70313.
Multiple RNA-guided pseudouridine synthases, H/ACA ribonucleoprotein particles (RNPs) which contain a guide RNA and four proteins, catalyze site-specific post-transcriptional isomerization of uridines into pseudouridines in substrate RNAs. In archaeal particles, the guide small RNA (sRNA) is anchored by the pseudouridine synthase aCBF5 and the ribosomal protein L7Ae. Protein aNOP10 interacts with both aCBF5 and L7Ae. The fourth protein, aGAR1, interacts with aCBF5 and enhances catalytic efficiency. Here, we compared the features of two H/ACA sRNAs, Pab21 and Pab91, from Pyrococcus abyssi. We found that aCBF5 binds much more weakly to Pab91 than to Pab21. Surprisingly, the Pab91 sRNP exhibits a higher catalytic efficiency than the Pab21 sRNP. We thus investigated the molecular basis of the differential efficiencies observed for the assembly and catalytic activity of the two enzymes. For this, we compared profiles of the extent of lead-induced cleavages in these sRNAs during a stepwise reconstitution of the sRNPs, and analyzed the impact of the absence of the aNOP10–L7Ae interaction. Such probing experiments indicated that the sRNAs undergo a series of conformational changes upon RNP assembly. These changes were also evaluated directly by circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy, a tool highly adapted to analyzing RNA conformational dynamics. In addition, our results reveal that the conformation of helix P1 formed at the base of the H/ACA sRNAs is optimized in Pab21 for efficient aCBF5 binding and RNP assembly. Moreover, P1 swapping improved the assembly of the Pab91 sRNP. Nonetheless, efficient aCBF5 binding probably also relies on the pseudouridylation pocket which is not optimized for high activity in the case of Pab21.
PMCID: PMC3726423  PMID: 23922977
21.  Tertiary network in mammalian mitochondrial tRNAAsp revealed by solution probing and phylogeny 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(20):6881-6895.
Primary and secondary structures of mammalian mitochondrial (mt) tRNAs are divergent from canonical tRNA structures due to highly skewed nucleotide content and large size variability of D- and T-loops. The nonconservation of nucleotides involved in the expected network of tertiary interactions calls into question the rules governing a functional L-shaped three-dimensional (3D) structure. Here, we report the solution structure of human mt-tRNAAsp in its native post-transcriptionally modified form and as an in vitro transcript. Probing performed with nuclease S1, ribonuclease V1, dimethylsulfate, diethylpyrocarbonate and lead, revealed several secondary structures for the in vitro transcribed mt-tRNAAsp including predominantly the cloverleaf. On the contrary, the native tRNAAsp folds into a single cloverleaf structure, highlighting the contribution of the four newly identified post-transcriptional modifications to correct folding. Reactivities of nucleotides and phosphodiester bonds in the native tRNA favor existence of a full set of six classical tertiary interactions between the D-domain and the variable region, forming the core of the 3D structure. Reactivities of D- and T-loop nucleotides support an absence of interactions between these domains. According to multiple sequence alignments and search for conservation of Leontis–Westhof interactions, the tertiary network core building rules apply to all tRNAAsp from mammalian mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2777451  PMID: 19767615
22.  Functional Analysis of Bacillus subtilis Genes Involved in the Biosynthesis of 4-Thiouridine in tRNA 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(18):4933-4940.
ThiI has been identified as an essential enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of thiamine and the tRNA thionucleoside modification, 4-thiouridine. In Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica, ThiI acts as a sulfurtransferase, receiving the sulfur donated from the cysteine desulfurase IscS and transferring it to the target molecule or additional sulfur carrier proteins. However, in Bacillus subtilis and most species from the Firmicutes phylum, ThiI lacks the rhodanese domain that contains the site responsible for the sulfurtransferase activity. The lack of the gene encoding for a canonical IscS cysteine desulfurase and the presence of a short sequence of ThiI in these bacteria pointed to mechanistic differences involving sulfur trafficking reactions in both biosynthetic pathways. Here, we have carried out functional analysis of B. subtilis thiI and the adjacent gene, nifZ, encoding for a cysteine desulfurase. Gene inactivation experiments in B. subtilis indicate the requirement of ThiI and NifZ for the biosynthesis of 4-thiouridine, but not thiamine. In vitro synthesis of 4-thiouridine by ThiI and NifZ, along with labeling experiments, suggests the occurrence of an alternate transient site for sulfur transfer, thus obviating the need for a rhodanese domain. In vivo complementation studies in E. coli IscS- or ThiI-deficient strains provide further support for specific interactions between NifZ and ThiI. These results are compatible with the proposal that B. subtilis NifZ and ThiI utilize mechanistically distinct and mutually specific sulfur transfer reactions.
PMCID: PMC3430334  PMID: 22773787
23.  Sequence-specific recognition of colicin E5, a tRNA-targeting ribonuclease 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(21):6065-6073.
Colicin E5 is a novel Escherichia coli ribonuclease that specifically cleaves the anticodons of tRNATyr, tRNAHis, tRNAAsn and tRNAAsp. Since this activity is confined to its 115 amino acid long C-terminal domain (CRD), the recognition mechanism of E5-CRD is of great interest. The four tRNA substrates share the unique sequence UQU within their anticodon loops, and are cleaved between Q (modified base of G) and 3′ U. Synthetic minihelix RNAs corresponding to the substrate tRNAs were completely susceptible to E5-CRD and were cleaved in the same manner as the authentic tRNAs. The specificity determinant for E5-CRD was YGUN at −1 to +3 of the ‘anticodon’. The YGU is absolutely required and the extent of susceptibility of minihelices depends on N (third letter of the anticodon) in the order A > C > G > U accounting for the order of susceptibility tRNATyr > tRNAAsp > tRNAHis, tRNAAsn. Contrastingly, we showed that GpUp is the minimal substrate strictly retaining specificity to E5-CRD. The effect of contiguous nucleotides is inconsistent between the loop and linear RNAs, suggesting that nucleotide extension on each side of GpUp introduces a structural constraint, which is reduced by a specific loop structure formation that includes a 5′ pyrimidine and 3′ A.
PMCID: PMC1635277  PMID: 16963495
24.  The nucleotide sequence of spinach chloroplast methionine elongator tRNA. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1981;9(1):183-188.
The nucleotide sequence of spinach chloroplast methionine elongator tRNA (sp. chl. tRNAm Met) has been determined. This tRNA is considerably more homologous to E. coli tRNAm Met (67% homology) than to the three known eukaryotic tRNAm Met (50-55% homology). Sp. chl. tRNAm Met, like the eight other chloroplast tRNAs sequenced, contains a methylated GG sequence in the dihydrouridine loop and lacks unusual structural features which have been found in several mitochondrial tRNAs.
PMCID: PMC326677  PMID: 7010309
25.  Identification of human tRNA:m5C methyltransferase catalysing intron-dependent m5C formation in the first position of the anticodon of the pre-tRNA(CAA)Leu 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(20):6034-6043.
We identified a human orthologue of tRNA:m5C methyltransferase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which has been previously shown to catalyse the specific modification of C34 in the intron-containing yeast pre-tRNA(CAA)Leu. Using transcripts of intron-less and intron-containing human tRNA(CAA)Leu genes as substrates, we have shown that m5C34 is introduced only in the intron-containing tRNA precursors when the substrates were incubated in the HeLa extract. m5C34 formation depends on the nucleotide sequence surrounding the wobble cytidine and on the structure of the prolongated anticodon stem. Expression of the human Trm4 (hTrm4) cDNA in yeast partially complements the lack of the endogenous Trm4p enzyme. The yeast extract prepared from the strain deprived of the endogenous TRM4 gene and transformed with hTrm4 cDNA exhibits the same activity and substrate specificity toward human pre-tRNALeu transcripts as the HeLa extract. The hTrm4 MTase has a much narrower specificity against the yeast substrates than its yeast orthologue: human enzyme is not able to form m5C at positions 48 and 49 of human and yeast tRNA precursors. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing intron-dependent methylation of human pre-tRNA(CAA)Leu and identification of human gene encoding tRNA methylase responsible for this reaction.
PMCID: PMC1635329  PMID: 17071714

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