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Importance of the conserved nucleotides around the tRNA-like structure of Escherichia coli transfer-messenger RNA for protein tagging.

Abstract : A bacterial RNA functioning as both tRNA and mRNA, transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA) rescues stalled ribosomes and clears the cell of incomplete polypeptides. For function, Escherichia coli tmRNA requires an elaborate interplay between a tRNA-like structure and an internal mRNA domain that are connected by a 295 nt long compact secondary structure. The tRNA-like structure is surrounded by 16 unpaired nt, including 10 residues that are >95% conserved among the known 140 tmRNA sequences. All these residues were mutated to define their putative role(s) in trans-translation. Both the extent of aminoacylation and the alanine incorporation into the tag sequence, reflecting the two functions of tmRNA, were measured in vitro for all variants. As anticipated from the low sequence conservation, mutating positions 8-12 and position 15 affects neither aminoacylation nor protein tagging. Mutating a set of two conserved positions 13 and 14 abolishes both functions. Probing the solution conformation indicates that this defective mutant adopts an alternate conformation of its acceptor stem that is no more aminoacylatable, and thus inactive in protein tagging. Selected point mutations at the conserved nucleotide stretches 16-20 and 333-335 seriously impair protein tagging with only minor changes in their solution conformations and aminoacylation. Point mutations at conserved positions 19 and 334 abolish trans-translation and 70S ribosome binding, although retaining nearly normal aminoacylation capacities. Two proteins that are known to interact with tmRNA were purified, and their interactions with the defective RNA variants were examined in vitro. Based on phylogenetic and functional data, an additional structural motif consisting of a quartet composed of non-Watson-Crick base pairs 5'-YGAC-3':5'-GGAC-3' involving some of the conserved nucleotides next to the tRNA-like portion is proposed. Overall, the highly conserved nucleotides around the tRNA-like portion are maintained for both structural and functional requirements during evolution.
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Kyoko Hanawa-Suetsugu, Valérie Bordeau, Hyouta Himeno, Akira Muto, Brice Felden. Importance of the conserved nucleotides around the tRNA-like structure of Escherichia coli transfer-messenger RNA for protein tagging.. Nucleic Acids Research, Oxford University Press, 2001, 29 (22), pp.4663-73. ⟨10.1093/nar/29.22.4663⟩. ⟨inserm-00718196⟩

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