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Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases provide the first step in protein synthesis quality control by discriminating cognate from noncognate amino acid and tRNA substrates. While substrate specificity is enhanced in many instances by cis- and trans-editing pathways, it has been revealed that in organisms such as Streptococcus pneumoniae some aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases display significant tRNA mischarging activity. To investigate the extent of tRNA mischarging in this pathogen, the aminoacylation profiles of class I isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase (IleRS) and class II lysyl-tRNA synthetase (LysRS) were determined. Pneumococcal IleRS mischarged tRNAIle with both Val, as demonstrated in other bacteria, and Leu in a tRNA sequence-dependent manner. IleRS substrate specificity was achieved in an editing-independent manner, indicating that tRNA mischarging would only be significant under growth conditions where Ile is depleted. Pneumococcal LysRS was found to misaminoacylate tRNALys with Ala and to a lesser extent Thr and Ser, with mischarging efficiency modulated by the presence of an unusual U4:G69 wobble pair in the acceptor stems of both pneumococcal tRNALys isoacceptors. Addition of the trans-editing factor MurM, which also functions in peptidoglycan synthesis, reduced Ala-tRNALys production by LysRS, providing evidence for cross talk between the protein synthesis and cell wall biogenesis pathways. Mischarging of tRNALys by AlaRS was also observed, and this would provide additional potential MurM substrates. More broadly, the extensive mischarging activities now described for a number of Streptococcus pneumoniae aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases suggest that adaptive misaminoacylation may contribute significantly to the viability of this pathogen during amino acid starvation.


This article was originally published in mBio, volume 5, in 2014.


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