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Adaptation of an Orthogonal Archaeal Leucyl-tRNA and Synthetase Pair for Four-base, Amber, and Opal Suppression

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journal contribution
posted on 25.07.2003, 00:00 by J. Christopher Anderson, Peter G. Schultz
Recently, it has been shown that an amber suppressor tRNA/aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase pair derived from the tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase of Methanococcus jannaschii can be used to genetically encode unnatural amino acids in response to the amber nonsense codon, TAG. However, we have been unable to modify this pair to decode either the opal nonsense codon, TGA, or the four-base codon, AGGA, limiting us to a 21 amino acid code. To overcome this limitation, we have adapted a leucyl-tRNA synthetase from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum and leucyl tRNA derived from Halobacterium sp. NRC-1 as an orthogonal tRNA-synthetase pair in Escherichia coli to decode amber (TAG), opal (TGA), and four-base (AGGA) codons. To improve the efficiency and selectivity of the suppressor tRNA, extensive mutagenesis was performed on the anticodon loop and acceptor stem. The two most significant criteria required for an efficient amber orthogonal suppressor tRNA are a CU(X)XXXAA anticodon loop and the lack of noncanonical or mismatched base pairs in the stem regions. These changes afford only weak suppression of TGA and AGGA. However, this information together with an analysis of sequence similarity of multiple native archaeal tRNA sequences led to efficient, orthogonal suppressors of opal codons and the four-base codon, AGGA. Ultimately, it should be possible to use these additional orthogonal pairs to genetically incorporate multiple unnatural amino acids into proteins.