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Biochimie. 1989 Jun;71(6):729-39.

Missense and nonsense suppressors can correct frameshift mutations.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


Missense and nonsense suppressor tRNAs, selected for their ability to read a new triplet codon, were observed to suppress one or more frameshift mutations in trpA of Escherichia coli. Two of the suppressible frameshift mutants, trpA8 and trpA46AspPR3, were cloned, sequenced, and found to be of the +1 type, resulting from the insertion of four nucleotides and one nucleotide, respectively. Twenty-two suppressor tRNAs were examined, 20 derived from one of the 3 glycine isoacceptor species, one from lysT, and one from trpT. The sequences of all but four of the mutant tRNAs are known, and two of those four were converted to suppressor tRNAs that were subsequently sequenced. Consideration of the coding specificities and anticodon sequences of the suppressor tRNAs does not suggest a unitary mechanism of frameshift suppression. Rather, the results indicate that different suppressors may shift frame according to different mechanisms. Examination of the suppression windows of the suppressible frameshift mutations indicates that some of the suppressors may work at cognate codons, either in the 0 frame or in the +1 frame, and others may act at noncognate codons (in either frame) by some as-yet-unspecified mechanism. Whatever the mechanisms, it is clear that some +1 frameshifting can occur at non-monotonous sequences. A striking example of a frameshifting missense suppressor is a mutant lysine tRNA that differs from wild-type lysine tRNA by only a single base in the amino acid acceptor stem, a C to U70 transition that results in a G.U base pair. It is suggested that when this mutant lysine tRNA reads its cognate codon, AAA, the presence of the G.U base pair sometimes leads either to a conformational change in the tRNA or to an altered interaction with some component of the translation machinery involved in translocation, resulting in a shift of reading frame. In general, the results indicate that translocation is not simply a function of anticodon loop size, that different frameshifting mechanisms may operate with different tRNAs, and that conformational features, some far removed from the anticodon region, are involved in maintaining fidelity in translocation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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