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Chem Biol. 2007 Dec;14(12):1323-33.

Gain-of-function mutational activation of human tRNA synthetase procytokine.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Chemistry and the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Disease-causing mutations occur in genes for aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. That some mutations are dominant suggests a gain of function. Native tRNA synthetases, such as tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase (TyrRS) and tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase, catalyze aminoacylation and are also procytokines that are activated by natural fragmentation. In principle, however, gain-of-function phenotypes could arise from mutational activation of synthetase procytokines. From crystal structure analysis, we hypothesized that a steric block of a critical Glu-Leu-Arg (ELR) motif in full-length TyrRS suppresses the cytokine activity of a natural fragment. To test this hypothesis, we attempted to uncover ELR in the procytokine by mutating a conserved tyrosine (Y341) that tethers ELR. Site-specific proteolytic cleavage and small-angle X-ray scattering established subtle opening of the structure by the mutation. Strikingly, four different assays demonstrated mutational activation of cytokine functions. The results prove the possibilities for constitutive gain-of-function mutations in tRNA synthetases.

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