Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases: Probing the molecular basis of catalysis and discrimination

James Scott Williams, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (RSs) are responsible for the essential connection of amino acids with trinucleotide sequences of tRNA's. The RS family constitutes two structurally dissimilar groups of proteins, class I and class II. Methionyl-tRNA synthetase (MetRS) and isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase (IleRS), both members of class I, were the focus of this work. Both enzymes are zinc-containing proteins; show a high degree of amino acid specificity; and edit activated noncognate amino acids, thereby ensuring the fidelity of the genetic code. The goals of this work were to further delineate the molecular basis of catalysis and discrimination in these enzymes by mapping active site geometries using high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). Internuclear distances obtained from transferred nuclear Overhauser effects were used to define the conformations of Mg($\alpha$,$\beta$-methylene)ATP bound to E. coli MetRS and E. coli IleRS in multiple complexes. Identical conformations were found for the bound ATP. Thus, the predicted structural homology between IleRS and MetRS is supported by consensus enzyme-bound nucleotide conformations. The conformation of the bound nucleotide is not sensitive to occupation of the amino acid site of MetRS or IleRS. Therefore, conformational changes known to occur in the synthetases upon ligand binding appear not to alter the bound conformation of the adenosine portion of the nucleotide. Nuclear Overhauser effects on the substrate amino acid L-selenomethionine were also used to evaluate the enzyme-bound conformation of the cognate amino acid. The amino acid assumes a conformation which is consistent with a proposed editing mechanism. The E. coli MetRS was shown to catalyze amino acid $\alpha$-proton exchange in the presence of deuterium oxide of all cognate amino acids. It is proposed that the enzyme-bound zinc coordinates the $\alpha$-carboxylate of the amino acid, rendering the $\alpha$-proton more acidic. An enzymic base is responsible for exchange of the $\alpha$-proton. This proposal suggests that the enzyme-bound zinc may have a role in amino acid discrimination in MetRS. However, the role of this exchange reaction in catalysis remains unknown.

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Recommended Citation

Williams, James Scott, "Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases: Probing the molecular basis of catalysis and discrimination" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9125575.