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Nat Struct Biol. 2001 Mar;8(3):203-6.

Structural basis for anticodon recognition by discriminating glutamyl-tRNA synthetase.

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  • 1Cellular Signaling Laboratory, RIKEN Harima Institute at SPring-8, 1-1-1 Kouto, Mikazuki-cho, Sayo, Hyogo 679-5148, Japan.


Glutamyl-tRNA synthetases (GluRSs) are divided into two distinct types, with regard to the presence or absence of glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase (GlnRS) in the genetic translation systems. In the original 19-synthetase systems lacking GlnRS, the 'non-discriminating' GluRS glutamylates both tRNAGlu and tRNAGln. In contrast, in the evolved 20-synthetase systems with GlnRS, the 'discriminating' GluRS aminoacylates only tRNAGlu. Here we report the 2.4 A resolution crystal structure of a 'discriminating' GluRS.tRNAGlu complex from Thermus thermophilus. The GluRS recognizes the tRNAGlu anticodon bases via two alpha-helical domains, maintaining the base stacking. We show that the discrimination between the Glu and Gln anticodons (34YUC36 and 34YUG36, respectively) is achieved by a single arginine residue (Arg 358). The mutation of Arg 358 to Gln resulted in a GluRS that does not discriminate between the Glu and Gln anticodons. This change mimics the reverse course of GluRS evolution from anticodon 'non-dicsriminating' to 'discriminating'.

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