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J Mol Evol. 1995 May;40(5):487-98.

Phylogenetic analysis of the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.

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Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0634, USA.


Numerous aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase sequences have been aligned by computer and phylogenetic trees constructed from them for the two classes of these enzymes. Branching orders based on a consensus of these trees have been proposed for the two groups. Although the order of appearance can be rationalized to fit many different scenarios having to do with the genetic code, the invention of a system for translating nucleic acid sequences into polypeptide chains must have predated the existence of these proteins. In the past, a variety of schemes has been proposed for matching amino acids and tRNAs. Most of these have invoked direct recognition of one by the other, whether or not the anticodon was involved. Often ignored is the possibility of a nonprotein (presumably RNA) matchmaker for bringing the two into conjunction. If such had been the case, then the contemporary aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases could have entered the system gradually, each specific type replacing its matchmaking RNA counterpart in turn. A simple displacement scheme of this sort accommodates the existence of two different families of these enzymes, the second being introduced well before the first had undergone sufficient genetic duplications to specify the full gamut of amino acids. Such a scheme is also consistent with similar amino acids often, but not always, being the substrates of enzymes with the most similar amino acid sequences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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