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EMBO J. 2008 Dec 17;27(24):3267-78. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.246. Epub 2008 Nov 27.

Common thiolation mechanism in the biosynthesis of tRNA thiouridine and sulphur-containing cofactors.

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Biomedicinal Information Research Center (BIRC), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tokyo, Japan.


2-Thioribothymidine (s(2)T), a modified uridine, is found at position 54 in transfer RNAs (tRNAs) from several thermophiles; s(2)T stabilizes the L-shaped structure of tRNA and is essential for growth at higher temperatures. Here, we identified an ATPase (tRNA-two-thiouridine C, TtuC) required for the 2-thiolation of s(2)T in Thermus thermophilus and examined in vitro s(2)T formation by TtuC and previously identified s(2)T-biosynthetic proteins (TtuA, TtuB, and cysteine desulphurases). The C-terminal glycine of TtuB is first activated as an acyl-adenylate by TtuC and then thiocarboxylated by cysteine desulphurases. The sulphur atom of thiocarboxylated TtuB is transferred to tRNA by TtuA. In a ttuC mutant of T. thermophilus, not only s(2)T, but also molybdenum cofactor and thiamin were not synthesized, suggesting that TtuC is shared among these biosynthetic pathways. Furthermore, we found that a TtuB-TtuC thioester was formed in vitro, which was similar to the ubiquitin-E1 thioester, a key intermediate in the ubiquitin system. The results are discussed in relation to the mechanism and evolution of the eukaryotic ubiquitin system.

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