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J Biol Chem. 1992 Apr 15;267(11):7221-3.

The anticodon and discriminator base are major determinants of cysteine tRNA identity in vivo.

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  • 1Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461.


Mutants of the Escherichia coli initiator tRNA (tRNA(fMet)) have been used to examine the role of the anticodon and discriminator base in in vivo aminoacylation of tRNAs by cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase. Substitution of the methionine anticodon CAU with the cysteine anticodon GCA was found to allow initiation of protein synthesis by the mutant tRNA from a complementary initiation codon in a reporter protein. Sequencing of the protein revealed that cysteine comprised about half of the amino acid at the N terminus. An additional mutation, converting the discriminator base of tRNA(GCAfMet) from A73 to the base present in tRNA(Cys) (U73), resulted in a 6-fold increase in the amount of protein produced and insertion of greater than or equal to 90% cysteine in response to the complementary initiation codon. Substitution of C73 or G73 at the discriminator position led to insertion of little or no cysteine, indicating the importance of U73 for recognition of the tRNA by cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase. Single base changes in the anticodon of tRNA(GCAfMet) containing U73 from GCA to UCA, GUA, GCC, and GCG (changes underlined) eliminated or dramatically reduced cysteine insertion by the mutant initiator tRNA indicating that all three cysteine anticodon bases are essential for specific aminoacylation of the tRNA with cysteine in vivo.

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