Context-Dependent Anticodon Recognition by Class I Lysyl-tRNA Synthetases

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Lysyl-tRNA synthesis is catalyzed by two unrelated families of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. In most bacteria and all eukarya, the known lysyl-tRNA synthetases (LysRSs) are subclass IIb-type aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, whereas many archaea and a scattering of bacteria contain an unrelated class I-type LysRS. Examination of the recognition of partially modified tRNALys anticodon variants by a bacterial (from Borrelia burgdorferi) and an archaeal (from Methanococcus maripaludis) class I lysyl-tRNA synthetase revealed differences in the pattern of anticodon recognition between the two enzymes. U35 and U36 were both important for recognition by the B. burgdorferi enzyme, whereas only U36 played a role in recognition by M. maripaludis LysRS. Examination of the phylogenetic distribution of class I LysRSs suggested a correlation between recognition of U35 and U36 and the presence of asparaginyl-tRNA synthetase (AsnRS), which also recognizes U35 and U36 in the anticodon of tRNAAsn. However, the class II LysRS of Helicobacter pylori, an organism that lacks AsnRS, also recognizes both U35 and U36, indicating that the presence of AsnRS has solely influenced the phylogenetic distribution of class I LysRSs. These data suggest that competition between unrelated aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases for overlapping anticodon sequences is a determinant of the phylogenetic distribution of extant synthetase families. Such patterns of competition also provide a basis for the two separate horizontal gene transfer events hypothesized in the evolution of the class I lysyl-tRNA synthetases.


This article was originally published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, volume 97, in 2000.


The National Academy of Sciences