Natural amino acids do not require their native tRNAs for efficient selection by the ribosome

Philip R. Effraim, Jiangning Wang, Michael T. Englander, Josh Avins, Thomas S. Leyh, Ruben L. Gonzalez, Virginia W. Cornish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The involvement of tRNA structural elements beyond the anticodon in aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) selection by the ribosome has revealed that substrate recognition is considerably more complex than originally envisioned in the adaptor hypothesis. By combining recent breakthroughs in aa-tRNA synthesis and mechanistic and structural studies of protein synthesis, we have investigated whether aa-tRNA recognition further extends to the amino acid, which would explain various translation disorders exhibited by misacylated tRNAs. Contrary to expectation, we find that natural amino acids misacylated onto natural but non-native tRNAs are selected with efficiencies very similar to those of their correctly acylated counterparts. Despite this, small but reproducible differences in selection indeed demonstrate that the translational machinery is sensitive to the amino acidg-tRNA pairing. These results suggest either that the ribosome is an exquisite sensor of natural versus unnatural amino acidg-tRNA pairings and/or that aa-tRNA selection is not the primary step governing the amino acid specificity of the ribosome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-953
Number of pages7
JournalNature Chemical Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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