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Methods. 2008 Feb;44(2):146-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2007.11.012.

tRNA-dependent asparagine formation in prokaryotes: characterization, isolation and structural and functional analysis of a ribonucleoprotein particle generating Asn-tRNA(Asn).

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UPR 9002 Architecture et Réactivité de l'ARN, Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire du CNRS, 15 Rue René Descartes and Université Louis Pasteur, F-67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France.


In some living organisms the 20 aa-tRNA species participating in protein synthesis are not charged by a complete set of 20 aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. In prokaryotes, the deficiency of asparaginyl- and/or glutaminyl-tRNA synthetases is compensated by another aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase of relaxed specificity that mischarges the orphan tRNA and by an enzyme that converts the amino acid into that homologous to the tRNA. In Thermus thermophilus Asn-tRNA(Asn) is formed indirectly via a two-step pathway whereby tRNA(Asn) is mischarged with Asp that will subsequently be amidated into Asn by an amidotransferase. The non-discriminating aspartyl-tRNA synthetase, the trimeric GatCAB tRNA-dependent amidotransferase and the tRNA(Asn) promoting this pathway assemble into a ribonucleoprotein particle termed transamidosome. This article deals with the methods and techniques employed to clone the genes encoding the enzymes and the tRNA involved in this pathway, to express them in Escherichia coli, to isolate them on a large scale, and to transcribe and produce mg quantities of pure tRNA(Asn)in vitro. The approaches designed especially for this system include (i) clustering of the ORFs encoding the subunits of the heterotrimeric GatCAB that are sprinkled in the genome into an artificial operon, and (ii) the self-cleavage of the tRNA(Asn) transcript starting with U in 5' position through fusion with a hammerhead ribozyme. Further, the crystallization of the free enzymes is described and the characterization of their assembly with tRNA(Asn) into a ribonucleoprotein particle, as well as the investigation of the catalytic mechanism of Asn-tRNA(Asn) formation by the complex are reported.

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