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EMBO J. 2001 Sep 3;20(17):4863-73.

Improvement of reading frame maintenance is a common function for several tRNA modifications.

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Department of Microbiology, Umeå University, S-90 187 Umeå, Sweden.


Transfer RNAs from all organisms contain many modified nucleosides. Their vastly different chemical structures, their presence in different tRNAs, their occurrence in different locations in tRNA and their influence on different reactions in which tRNA participates suggest that each modified nucleoside may have its own specific function. However, since the frequency of frameshifting in several different mutants [mnmA, mnmE, tgt, truA (hisT), trmD, miaA, miaB and miaE] defective in tRNA modification was higher compared with the corresponding wild-type controls, these modifications have a common function: they all improve reading frame maintenance. Frameshifting occurs by peptidyl-tRNA slippage, which is influenced by the hypomodified tRNA in two ways: (i) a hypomodified tRNA in the ternary complex may decrease the rate by which the complex is recruited to the A-site and thereby increasing peptidyl-tRNA slippage; or (ii) a hypomodified peptidyl-tRNA may be more prone to slip than its fully modified counterpart. We propose that the improvement of reading frame maintenance has been and is the major selective factor for the emergence of new modified nucleosides.

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