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Eur J Biochem. 1988 Aug 15;175(3):511-24.

Tertiary structure of Escherichia coli tRNA(3Thr) in solution and interaction of this tRNA with the cognate threonyl-tRNA synthetase.

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  • 1Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Strasbourg, France.


The solution structure of Escherichia coli tRNA(3Thr) (anticodon GGU) and the residues of this tRNA in contact with the alpha 2 dimeric threonyl-tRNA synthetase were studied by chemical and enzymatic footprinting experiments. Alkylation of phosphodiester bonds by ethylnitrosourea and of N-7 positions in guanosines and N-3 positions in cytidines by dimethyl sulphate as well as carbethoxylation of N-7 positions in adenosines by diethyl pyrocarbonate were conducted on different conformers of tRNA(3Thr). The enzymatic structural probes were nuclease S1 and the cobra venom ribonuclease. Results will be compared to those of three other tRNAs, tRNA(Asp), tRNA(Phe) and tRNA(Trp), already mapped with these probes. The reactivity of phosphates towards ethylnitrosourea of the unfolded tRNA was compared to that of the native molecule. The alkylation pattern of tRNA(3Thr) shows some similarities to that of yeast tRNA(Phe) and mammalian tRNA(Trp), especially in the D-arm (positions 19 and 24) and with tRNA(Trp), at position 50, the junction between the variable region and the T-stem. In the T-loop, tRNA(3Thr), similarly to the three other tRNAs, shows protections against alkylation at phosphates 59 and 60. However, tRNA(3Thr) is unique as far as very strong protections are also found for phosphates 55 to 58 in the T-loop. Compared with yeast tRNA(Asp), the main differences in reactivity concern phosphates 19, 24 and 50. Mapping of bases with dimethyl sulphate and diethyl pyrocarbonate reveal conformational similarities with yeast tRNA(Phe). A striking conformational feature of tRNA(3Thr) is found in the 3'-side of its anticodon stem, where G40, surrounded by two G residues, is alkylated under native conditions, in contrast to other G residues in stem regions of tRNAs which are unreactive when sandwiched between two purines. This data is indicative of a perturbed helical conformation in the anticodon stem at the level of the 30-40 base pairs. Footprinting experiments, with chemical and enzymatic probes, on the tRNA complexed with its cognate threonyl-tRNA synthetase indicate significant protections in the anticodon stem and loop region, in the extra-loop, and in the amino acid accepting region. The involvement of the anticodon of tRNA(3Thr) in the recognition process with threonyl-tRNA synthetase was demonstrated by nuclease S1 mapping and by the protection of G34 and G35 against alkylation by dimethyl sulphate. These data are discussed in the light of the tRNA/synthetase recognition problem and of the structural and functional properties of the tRNA-like structure present in the operator region of the thrS mRNA.

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