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EMBO J. 1987 Aug;6(8):2473-7.

tRNA nucleotidyltransferase is not essential for Escherichia coli viability.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06032.


The role of tRNA nucleotidyltransferase in Escherichia coli has been uncertain because all tRNA genes studied in this organism already encode the -C-C-A sequence. Examination of a cca mutant, originally thought to contain 1-2% enzyme activity, indicated that it actually produces an inactive fragment of 40 kd compared to 47 kd for the wild-type enzyme due to a nonsense mutation in its cca gene. To confirm that the residual activity in extracts of this strain is due to another enzyme, and that tRNA nucleotidyltransferase is non-essential, we have interrupted the cca gene in vitro, and transferred this mutant gene to a variety of strains. In all cases mutant strains are viable, although as much as 15% of the tRNA population contains defective 3' termini, and no tRNA nucleotidyltransferase is detectable. Mutant strains grow slowly, but can be restored to more normal growth by a relA mutation or by a decrease in RNase T activity. In the latter case the amount of defective tRNA decreases dramatically. These findings indicate that tRNA nucleotidyltransferase is not essential for E. coli viability, and therefore, that all essential tRNA genes in this organism encode the -C-C-A sequence.

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