Mutational unmasking of a tRNA-dependent pathway for preventing genetic code ambiguity

Amy M. Williams, Susan A. Martinis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases establish the genetic code by matching each amino acid with its cognate tRNA. Aminoacylation errors lead to genetic code ambiguity and statistical proteins. Some synthetases have editing activities that clear the wrong amino acid (aa) by hydrolysis of either of two substrates: misactivated aminoacyl-adenylates ("pretransfer" of aa to tRNA) or misacylated aa-tRNA ("posttransfer"). Whereas posttransfer editing can be directly measured, pretransfer editing is difficult to demonstrate, because adenylates are inherently labile and transient, and activity occurs against a background of posttransfer editing. Herein, different mutations in Escherichia coli leucyl-tRNA synthetase are combined to unmask the pretransfer pathway. The mutant enzymes completely lack posttransfer editing but prevent misacylations by clearing misactivated adenylates. We hypothesize that these mutations isolate a pretransfer translocation step that moves misactivated adenylates from the activation site for editing. The results highlight how evolution redundantly created two distinct pathways to prevent genetic code ambiguity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3586-3591
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 7 2006


  • Amino acid editing
  • Aminoacylation
  • Fidelity
  • Protein synthesis
  • tRNA synthetase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Mutational unmasking of a tRNA-dependent pathway for preventing genetic code ambiguity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this