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Role for a Conserved Structural Motif in Assembly of a Class I Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetase Active Site

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journal contribution
posted on 08.02.2011, 00:00 by Veronica C. Casina, Andrew A. Lobashevsky, William E. McKinney, Cassidy L. Brown, Rebecca W. Alexander
The catalytic domains of class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases are built around a conserved Rossmann nucleotide binding fold, with additional polypeptide domains responsible for tRNA binding or hydrolytic editing of misacylated substrates. Structural comparisons identified a conserved motif bridging the catalytic and anticodon binding domains of class Ia and Ib enzymes. This stem contact fold (SCF) has been proposed to globally orient each enzyme’s cognate tRNA by interacting with the inner corner of the L-shaped tRNA. Despite the structural similarity of the SCF among class Ia/Ib enzymes, the sequence conservation is low. We replaced amino acids of the MetRS SCF with portions of the structurally similar glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase (GlnRS) motif or with alanine residues. Chimeric variants retained significant tRNA methionylation activity, indicating that structural integrity of the helix−turn−strand−helix motif contributes more to tRNA aminoacylation than does amino acid identity. In contrast, chimeras were significantly reduced in methionyl adenylate synthesis, suggesting a role for the SCF in formation of a structured active site domain. A highly conserved aspartic acid within the MetRS SCF is proposed to make an electrostatic interaction with an active site lysine; these residues were replaced with alanines or conservative substitutions. Both methionyl adenylate formation and methionine transfer were impaired, and activity was not significantly recovered by making the compensatory double substitution.