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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2007 Jun;14(6):498-502. Epub 2007 May 13.

Mechanism for expanding the decoding capacity of transfer RNAs by modification of uridines.

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Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.


One of the most prevalent base modifications involved in decoding is uridine 5-oxyacetic acid at the wobble position of tRNA. It has been known for several decades that this modification enables a single tRNA to decode all four codons in a degenerate codon box. We have determined structures of an anticodon stem-loop of tRNA(Val) containing the modified uridine with all four valine codons in the decoding site of the 30S ribosomal subunit. An intramolecular hydrogen bond involving the modification helps to prestructure the anticodon loop. We found unusual base pairs with the three noncomplementary codon bases, including a G.U base pair in standard Watson-Crick geometry, which presumably involves an enol form for the uridine. These structures suggest how a modification in the uridine at the wobble position can expand the decoding capability of a tRNA.

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