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Croat Chem Acta. 2013;86(1):73-82.

Lack of discrimination against non-proteinogenic amino acid norvaline by elongation factor Tu from Escherichia coli.

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Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Horvatovac 102a, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia.


The GTP-bound form of elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) brings aminoacylated tRNAs (aa-tRNA) to the A-site of the ribosome. EF-Tu binds all cognate elongator aa-tRNAs with highly similar affinities, and its weaker or tighter binding of misacylated tRNAs may discourage their participation in translation. Norvaline (Nva) is a non-proteinogenic amino acid that is activated and transferred to tRNALeu by leucyl-tRNA synthetase (LeuRS). No notable accumulation of Nva-tRNALeu has been observed in vitro, because of the efficient post-transfer hydrolytic editing activity of LeuRS. However, incorporation of norvaline into proteins in place of leucine does occur under certain conditions in vivo. Here we show that EF-Tu binds Nva-tRNALeu and Leu-tRNALeu with similar affinities, and that Nva-tRNALeu and Leu-tRNALeu dissociate from EF-Tu at comparable rates. The inability of EF-Tu to discriminate against norvaline may have driven evolution of highly efficient LeuRS editing as the main quality control mechanism against misincorporation of norvaline into proteins.


EF-Tu; aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; leucyl-tRNA synthetase; mistranslation; non-proteinogenic amino acids; norvaline

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