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Inefficient Delivery but Fast Peptide Bond Formation of Unnatural l‑Aminoacyl-tRNAs in Translation

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journal contribution
posted on 31.10.2012, 00:00 by Ka-Weng Ieong, Michael Y. Pavlov, Marek Kwiatkowski, Anthony C. Forster, Måns Ehrenberg
Translations with unnatural amino acids (AAs) are generally inefficient, and kinetic studies of their incorporations from transfer ribonucleic acids (tRNAs) are few. Here, the incorporations of small and large, non-N-alkylated, unnatural l-AAs into dipeptides were compared with those of natural AAs using quench-flow techniques. Surprisingly, all incorporations occurred in two phases: fast then slow, and the incorporations of unnatural AA-tRNAs proceeded with rates of fast and slow phases similar to those for natural Phe-tRNAPhe. The slow phases were much more pronounced with unnatural AA-tRNAs, correlating with their known inefficient incorporations. Importantly, even for unnatural AA-tRNAs the fast phases could be made dominant by using high EF-Tu concentrations and/or lower reaction temperature, which may be generally useful for improving incorporations. Also, our observed effects of EF-Tu concentration on the fraction of the fast phase of incorporation enabled direct assay of the affinities of the AA-tRNAs for EF-Tu during translation. Our unmodified tRNAPhe derivative adaptor charged with a large unnatural AA, biotinyl-lysine, had a very low affinity for EF-Tu:GTP, while the small unnatural AAs on the same tRNA body had essentially the same affinities to EF-Tu:GTP as natural AAs on this tRNA, but still 2-fold less than natural Phe-tRNAPhe. We conclude that the inefficiencies of unnatural AA-tRNA incorporations were caused by inefficient delivery to the ribosome by EF-Tu, not slow peptide bond formation on the ribosome.

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