Dynamics of Recognition between tRNA and Elongation Factor Tu

John Eargle, Alexis A. Black, Anurag Sethi, Leonardo G. Trabuco, Zaida Luthey-Schulten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) binds to all standard aminoacyl transfer RNAs (aa-tRNAs) and transports them to the ribosome while protecting the ester linkage between the tRNA and its cognate amino acid. We use molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the dynamics of the EF-Tu·guanosine 5′-triphosphate·aa-tRNACys complex and the roles played by Mg2+ ions and modified nucleosides on the free energy of protein·RNA binding. Individual modified nucleosides have pronounced effects on the structural dynamics of tRNA and the EF-Tu·Cys-tRNACys interface. Combined energetic and evolutionary analyses identify the coevolution of residues in EF-Tu and aa-tRNAs at the binding interface. Highly conserved EF-Tu residues are responsible for both attracting aa-tRNAs as well as providing nearby nonbonded repulsive energies that help fine-tune molecular attraction at the binding interface. In addition to the 3′ CCA end, highly conserved tRNA nucleotides G1, G52, G53, and U54 contribute significantly to EF-Tu binding energies. Modification of U54 to thymine affects the structure of the tRNA common loop resulting in a change in binding interface contacts. In addition, other nucleotides, conserved within certain tRNA specificities, may be responsible for tuning aa-tRNA binding to EF-Tu. The trend in EF-Tu·Cys-tRNACys binding energies observed as the result of mutating the tRNA agrees with experimental observation. We also predict variations in binding free energies upon misacylation of tRNACys with d-cysteine or O-phosphoserine and upon changing the protonation state of l-cysteine. Principal components analysis in each case reveals changes in the communication network across the protein·tRNA interface and is the basis for the entropy calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1382-1405
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 11 2008


  • elongation factor Tu
  • evolution
  • molecular dynamics
  • tRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamics of Recognition between tRNA and Elongation Factor Tu'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this