National Center for
3HL2: The crystal structure of the human SepSecS-tRNASec complex
Science (2009) 325 p.321-325
Selenocysteine is the only genetically encoded amino acid in humans whose biosynthesis occurs on its cognate transfer RNA (tRNA). O-Phosphoseryl-tRNA:selenocysteinyl-tRNA synthase (SepSecS) catalyzes the final step of selenocysteine formation by a poorly understood tRNA-dependent mechanism. The crystal structure of human tRNA(Sec) in complex with SepSecS, phosphoserine, and thiophosphate, together with in vivo and in vitro enzyme assays, supports a pyridoxal phosphate-dependent mechanism of Sec-tRNA(Sec) formation. Two tRNA(Sec) molecules, with a fold distinct from other canonical tRNAs, bind to each SepSecS tetramer through their 13-base pair acceptor-TPsiC arm (where Psi indicates pseudouridine). The tRNA binding is likely to induce a conformational change in the enzyme's active site that allows a phosphoserine covalently attached to tRNA(Sec), but not free phosphoserine, to be oriented properly for the reaction to occur.