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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 8;276(23):20286-91. Epub 2001 May 7.

Divergent adaptation of tRNA recognition by Methanococcus jannaschii prolyl-tRNA synthetase.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Analysis of prolyl-tRNA synthetase (ProRS) across all three taxonomic domains (Eubacteria, Eucarya, and Archaea) reveals that the sequences are divided into two distinct groups. Recent studies show that Escherichia coli ProRS, a member of the "prokaryotic-like" group, recognizes specific tRNA bases at both the acceptor and anticodon ends, whereas human ProRS, a member of the "eukaryotic-like" group, recognizes nucleotide bases primarily in the anticodon. The archaeal Methanococcus jannaschii ProRS is a member of the eukaryotic-like group, although its tRNA(Pro) possesses prokaryotic features in the acceptor stem. We show here that, in some respects, recognition of tRNA(Pro) by M. jannaschii ProRS parallels that of human, with a strong emphasis on the anticodon and only weak recognition of the acceptor stem. However, our data also indicate differences in the details of the anticodon recognition between these two eukaryotic-like synthetases. Although the human enzyme places a stronger emphasis on G35, the M. jannaschii enzyme places a stronger emphasis on G36, a feature that is shared by E. coli ProRS. These results, interpreted in the context of an extensive sequence alignment, provide evidence of divergent adaptation by M. jannaschii ProRS; recognition of the tRNA acceptor end is eukaryotic-like, whereas the details of the anticodon recognition are prokaryotic-like. This divergence may be a reflection of the unusual dual function of this enzyme, which catalyzes specific aminoacylation with proline as well as with cysteine.

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