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FEBS Lett. 2010 Jan 21;584(2):350-8. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2009.11.050.

Diversity and similarity in the tRNA world: overall view and case study on malaria-related tRNAs.

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Architecture et Réactivité de l'ARN, Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IBMC, 15 rue René Descartes, F-67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France.


Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are ancient macromolecules that have evolved under various environmental pressures as adaptors in translation in all forms of life but also towards alternative structures and functions. The present knowledge on both "canonical" and "deviating" signature motifs retrieved from vertical and horizontal sequence comparisons is briefly reviewed. Novel characteristics, proper to tRNAs from a given translation system, are revealed by a case study on the nuclear and organellar tRNA sets from malaria-related organisms. Unprecedented distinctive features for Plasmodium falciparum apicoplastic tRNAs appear, which provide novel routes to be explored towards anti-malarial drugs. The ongoing high-throughput sequencing programs are expected to allow for further horizontal comparisons and to reveal other signatures of either full or restricted sets of tRNAs.

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