Aminoacylating urzymes challenge the RNA world hypothesis.
ABSTRACT: We describe experimental evidence that ancestral peptide catalysts substantially accelerated development of genetic coding. Structurally invariant 120-130-residue Urzymes (Ur = primitive plus enzyme) derived from Class I and Class II aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) acylate tRNA far faster than the uncatalyzed rate of nonribosomal peptide bond formation from activated amino acids. These new data allow us to demonstrate statistically indistinguishable catalytic profiles for Class I and II aaRSs in both amino acid activation and tRNA acylation, over a time period extending to well before the assembly of full-length enzymes and even further before the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Both Urzymes also exhibit ∼60% of the contemporary catalytic proficiencies. Moreover, they are linked by ancestral sense/antisense genetic coding, and their evident modularities suggest descent from even simpler ancestral pairs also coded by opposite strands of the same gene. Thus, aaRS Urzymes substantially pre-date modern aaRS but are, nevertheless, highly evolved. Their unexpectedly advanced catalytic repertoires, sense/antisense coding, and ancestral modularities imply considerable prior protein-tRNA co-evolution. Further, unlike ribozymes that motivated the RNA World hypothesis, Class I and II Urzyme·tRNA pairs represent consensus ancestral forms sufficient for codon-directed synthesis of nonrandom peptides. By tracing aaRS catalytic activities back to simpler ancestral peptides, we demonstrate key steps for a simpler and hence more probable peptide·RNA development of rapid coding systems matching amino acids with anticodon trinucleotides.
Project description:Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS) catalyze both chemical steps that translate the universal genetic code. Rodin and Ohno offered an explanation for the existence of two aaRS classes, observing that codons for the most highly conserved Class I active-site residues are anticodons for corresponding Class II active-site residues. They proposed that the two classes arose simultaneously, by translation of opposite strands from the same gene. We have characterized wild-type 46-residue peptides containing ATP-binding sites of Class I and II synthetases and those coded by a gene designed by Rosetta to encode the corresponding peptides on opposite strands. Catalysis by WT and designed peptides is saturable, and the designed peptides are sensitive to active-site residue mutation. All have comparable apparent second-order rate constants 2.9-7.0E-3 M(-1) s(-1) or ?750,000-1,300,000 times the uncatalyzed rate. The activities of the two complementary peptides demonstrate that the unique information in a gene can have two functional interpretations, one from each complementary strand. The peptides contain phylogenetic signatures of longer, more sophisticated catalysts we call Urzymes and are short enough to bridge the gap between them and simpler uncoded peptides. Thus, they directly substantiate the sense/antisense coding ancestry of Class I and II aaRS. Furthermore, designed 46-mers achieve similar catalytic proficiency to wild-type 46-mers by significant increases in both kcat and Km values, supporting suggestions that the earliest peptide catalysts activated ATP for biosynthetic purposes.
Project description:Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are multidomain proteins that specifically attach amino acids to their cognate tRNAs. Their most conserved, and presumably evolutionarily oldest, domains are the catalytic cores, which activate amino acids and transfer them to the 3' ends of tRNAs. Additional domains appended to or inserted in the body of aaRSs increase efficiency and specificity of the aminoacylation process, either by providing additional tRNA contacts, or by hydrolyzing noncognate amino acid products (cis-editing). Here, we report specific tRNA-dependent trans-editing by aaRS-like proteins that reciprocate the editing domains of aaRSs, but not the remainder of the corresponding enzyme. A freestanding homologue of the prolyl-tRNA synthetase-editing domain, the PrdX protein from Clostridium sticklandii, efficiently and specifically hydrolyzes Ala-tRNAPro. Similarly, autonomous alanyl-tRNA synthetase-editing domain homologues (AlaX proteins) from Methanosarcina barkeri and Sulfolobus solfataricus hydrolyze Ser-tRNAAla and Gly-tRNAAla substrates. The discovery of autonomous editing proteins efficient in hydrolyzing misacylated products provides a direct link between ancestral aaRSs consisting solely of the catalytic core and extant enzymes to which functionally independent modules are appended.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) constitute an essential enzyme super-family, providing fidelity of the translation process of mRNA to proteins in living cells. They are common to all kingdoms and are of utmost importance to all organisms. It is thus of great interest to understand the evolutionary relationships among them and underline signature motifs defining their common domains. RESULTS: We utilized the Common Peptides (CPs) framework, based on extracted deterministic motifs from all aaRSs, to study family-specific properties. We identified novel aaRS-class related signatures that may supplement the current classification methods and provide a basis for identifying functional regions specific to each aaRS class. We exploited the space spanned by the CPs in order to identify similarities between aaRS families that are not observed using sequence alignment methods, identifying different inter-aaRS associations across different kingdom of life. We explored the evolutionary history of the aaRS families and evolutionary origins of the mitochondrial aaRSs. Lastly, we showed that prevalent CPs significantly overlap known catalytic and binding sites, suggesting that they have meaningful functional roles, as well as identifying a motif shared between aaRSs and a the Biotin-[acetyl-CoA carboxylase] synthetase (birA) enzyme overlapping binding sites in both families. CONCLUSIONS: The study presents the multitude of ways to exploit the CP framework in order to extract meaningful patterns from the aaRS super-family. Specific CPs, discovered in this study, may play important roles in the functionality of these enzymes. We explored the evolutionary patterns in each aaRS family and tracked remote evolutionary links between these families.
Project description:Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) play essential roles in protein translation. In addition, numerous aaRSs (mostly in vertebrates) have also been discovered to possess a range of non-canonical functions. Very few studies have been conducted to elucidate or characterize non-canonical functions of plant aaRSs. A genome-wide search for aaRS genes in Arabidopsis thaliana revealed a total of 59 aaRS genes. Among them, asparaginyl-tRNA synthetase (AsnRS) was found to possess a WHEP domain inserted into the catalytic domain in a plant-specific manner. This insertion was observed only in the cytosolic isoform. In addition, a long stretch of sequence that exhibited weak homology with histidine ammonia lyase (HAL) was found at the N-terminus of histidyl-tRNA synthetase (HisRS). This HAL-like domain has only been seen in plant HisRS, and only in cytosolic isoforms. Additionally, a number of genes lacking minor or major portions of the full-length aaRS sequence were found. These genes encode 14 aaRS fragments that lack key active site sequences and are likely catalytically null. These identified genes that encode plant-specific additional domains or aaRS fragment sequences are candidates for aaRSs possessing non-canonical functions.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Helminth infections affect ~?60% of the human population that lives in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. These infections result in diseases like schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness and echinococcosis. Here we provide a comprehensive computational analysis of the aminoacyl tRNA synthetase (aaRS) enzyme family from 27 human-infecting helminths. Our analyses support the idea that several helminth aaRSs can be targeted for drug repurposing or for development of new drugs. For experimental validation, we focused on Onchocerciasis (also known as "river blindness"), a filarial vector-borne disease that is prevalent in Africa and Latin America. We show that halofuginone (HF) can act as a potent inhibitor of Onchocerca volvulus prolyl tRNA synthetase (OvPRS). RESULTS:The conserved enzyme family of aaRSs has been validated as druggable targets in numerous eukaryotic parasites. We thus embarked on assessing aaRSs from the genomes of 27 helminths that cause infections in humans. In order to delineate the distribution of aaRSs per genome we utilized Hidden Markov Models of aaRS catalytic domains to identify all orthologues. We note that Fasciola hepatica genome encodes the highest number of aaRS-like proteins (69) whereas Taenia asiatica has the lowest count (32). The number of genes for any particular aaRS-like protein varies from 1 to 8 in these 27 studied helminths. Sequence alignments of helminth-encoded lysyl, prolyl, leucyl and threonyl tRNA synthetases suggest that various known aaRS inhibitors like Cladosporin, Halofuginone, Benzoborale and Borrelidin may be of utility against helminths. The recombinantly expressed Onchocerca volvulus PRS was used as proof of concept for targeting aaRS with drug-like molecules like HF. CONCLUSIONS:Systematic analysis of unique subdomains within helminth aaRSs reveals the presence of a number of non-canonical domains like PAC3, Utp-14, Pex2_Pex12 fused to catalytic domains in the predicted helminth aaRSs. We have established a platform for biochemical validation of a large number of helminth aaRSs that can be targeted using available inhibitors to jump-start drug repurposing against human helminths.
Project description:The early metabolism arising in a Thioester world gave rise to amino acids and their simple peptides. The catalytic activity of these early simple peptides became instrumental in the transition from Thioester World to a Phosphate World. This transition involved the appearances of sugar phosphates, nucleotides, and polynucleotides. The coupling of the amino acids and peptides to nucleotides and polynucleotides is the origin for the genetic code. Many of the key steps in this transition are seen in in the catalytic cores of the nucleotidyltransferases, the class II tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) and the CCA adding enzyme. These catalytic cores are dominated by simple beta hairpin structures formed in the Thioester World. The code evolved from a proto-tRNA a tetramer XCCA interacting with a proto-aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (aaRS) activating Glycine and Proline, the initial expanded code is found in the acceptor arm of the tRNA, the operational code. It is the coevolution of the tRNA with the aaRSs that is at the heart of the origin and evolution of the genetic code. There is also a close relationship between the accretion models of the evolving tRNA and that of the ribosome.
Project description:The origin of the machinery that realizes protein biosynthesis in all organisms is still unclear. One key component of this machinery are aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRS), which ligate tRNAs to amino acids while consuming ATP. Sequence analyses revealed that these enzymes can be divided into two complementary classes. Both classes differ significantly on a sequence and structural level, feature different reaction mechanisms, and occur in diverse oligomerization states. The one unifying aspect of both classes is their function of binding ATP. We identified Backbone Brackets and Arginine Tweezers as most compact ATP binding motifs characteristic for each Class. Geometric analysis shows a structural rearrangement of the Backbone Brackets upon ATP binding, indicating a general mechanism of all Class I structures. Regarding the origin of aaRS, the Rodin-Ohno hypothesis states that the peculiar nature of the two aaRS classes is the result of their primordial forms, called Protozymes, being encoded on opposite strands of the same gene. Backbone Brackets and Arginine Tweezers were traced back to the proposed Protozymes and their more efficient successors, the Urzymes. Both structural motifs can be observed as pairs of residues in contemporary structures and it seems that the time of their addition, indicated by their placement in the ancient aaRS, coincides with the evolutionary trace of Proto- and Urzymes.
Project description:Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are essential enzymes that catalyze the first reaction in protein biosynthesis, namely the charging of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) with their cognate amino acids. aaRSs have been increasingly implicated in dominantly and recessively inherited human diseases. The most common aaRS-associated monogenic disorder is the incurable neurodegenerative disease Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy (CMT), caused by dominant mono-allelic mutations in aaRSs. With six currently known members (GlyRS, TyrRS, AlaRS, HisRS, TrpRS, and MetRS), aaRSs represent the largest protein family implicated in CMT etiology. After the initial discovery linking aaRSs to CMT, the field has progressed from understanding whether impaired tRNA charging is a critical component of this disease to elucidating the specific pathways affected by CMT-causing mutations in aaRSs. Although many aaRS CMT mutants result in loss of tRNA aminoacylation function, animal genetics studies demonstrated that dominant mutations in GlyRS cause CMT through toxic gain-of-function effects, which also may apply to other aaRS-linked CMT subtypes. The CMT-causing mechanism is likely to be multifactorial and involves multiple cellular compartments, including the nucleus and the extracellular space, where the normal WT enzymes also appear. Thus, the association of aaRSs with neuropathy is relevant to discoveries indicating that aaRSs also have nonenzymatic regulatory functions that coordinate protein synthesis with other biological processes. Through genetic, functional, and structural analyses, commonalities among different mutations and different aaRS-linked CMT subtypes have begun to emerge, providing insights into the nonenzymatic functions of aaRSs and the pathogenesis of aaRS-linked CMT to guide therapeutic development to treat this disease.
Project description:Cyclodipeptides are secondary metabolites biosynthesized by many bacteria and exhibit a wide array of biological activities. Recently, a new class of small proteins, named cyclodipeptide synthases (CDPS), which are unrelated to the typical nonribosomal peptide synthetases, was shown to generate several cyclodipeptides, using aminoacyl-tRNAs as substrates. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis CDPS, Rv2275, was found to generate cyclodityrosine through the formation of an aminoacyl-enzyme intermediate and to have a structure and oligomeric state similar to those of the class Ic aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs). However, the poor sequence conservation among CDPSs has raised questions about the architecture and catalytic mechanism of the identified homologs. Here we report the crystal structures of Bacillus licheniformis CDPS YvmC-Blic, in the apo form and complexed with substrate mimics, at 1.7-2.4-Å resolutions. The YvmC-Blic structure also exhibits similarity to the class Ic aaRSs catalytic domain. Our mutational analysis confirmed the importance of a set of residues for cyclodileucine formation among the conserved residues localized in the catalytic pocket. Our biochemical data indicated that YvmC-Blic binds tRNA and generates cyclodileucine as a monomer. We were also able to detect the presence of an aminoacyl-enzyme reaction intermediate, but not a dipeptide tRNA intermediate, whose existence was postulated for Rv2275. Instead, our results support a sequential catalytic mechanism for YvmC-Blic, with the successive attachment of two leucine residues on the enzyme via a conserved serine residue. Altogether, our findings suggest that all CDPS enzymes share a common aaRS-like architecture and a catalytic mechanism involving the formation of an enzyme-bound intermediate.