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Nucleic acids research

Universal rules and idiosyncratic features in tRNA identity.


PMID 9801296

Abstract

Correct expression of the genetic code at translation is directly correlated with tRNA identity. This survey describes the molecular signals in tRNAs that trigger specific aminoacylations. For most tRNAs, determinants are located at the two distal extremities: the anticodon loop and the amino acid accepting stem. In a few tRNAs, however, major identity signals are found in the core of the molecule. Identity elements have different strengths, often depend more on k cat effects than on K m effects and exhibit additive, cooperative or anti-cooperative interplay. Most determinants are in direct contact with cognate synthetases, and chemical groups on bases or ribose moieties that make functional interactions have been identified in several systems. Major determinants are conserved in evolution; however, the mechanisms by which they are expressed are species dependent. Recent studies show that alternate identity sets can be recognized by a single synthetase, and emphasize the importance of tRNA architecture and anti-determinants preventing false recognition. Identity rules apply to tRNA-like molecules and to minimalist tRNAs. Knowledge of these rules allows the manipulation of identity elements and engineering of tRNAs with switched, altered or multiple specificities.

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