Nematode-specific tRNAs that decode an alternative genetic code for leucine

Kiyofumi Hamashima, Kosuke Fujishima, Takeshi Masuda, Junichi Sugahara, Masaru Tomita, Akio Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Class II transfer RNAs (tRNAs), including tRNALeu and tRNA Ser, have an additional stem and loop structure, the long variable arm (V-arm). Here, we describe Class II tRNAs with a unique anticodon corresponding to neither leucine nor serine. Because these tRNAs are specifically conserved among the nematodes, we have called them 'nematode-specific V-arm-containing tRNAs' (nev-tRNAs). The expression of nev-tRNA genes in Caenorhabditis elegans was confirmed experimentally. A comparative sequence analysis suggested that the nev-tRNAs derived phylogenetically from tRNALeu. In vitro aminoacylation assays showed that nev-tRNAGly and nev-tRNAIle are only charged with leucine, which is inconsistent with their anticodons. Furthermore, the deletion and mutation of crucial determinants for leucylation in nev-tRNA led to a marked loss of activity. An in vitro translation analysis showed that nev-tRNA Gly decodes GGG as leucine instead of the universal glycine code, indicating that nev-tRNAs can be incorporated into ribosomes and participate in protein biosynthesis. Our findings provide the first example of unexpected tRNAs that do not consistently obey the general translation rules for higher eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3653-3662
Number of pages10
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Apr

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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