Oligonucleotide-mediated tRNA sequestration enables one-pot sense codon reassignment in vitro.
ABSTRACT: Sense codon reassignment to unnatural amino acids (uAAs) represents a powerful approach for introducing novel properties into polypeptides. The main obstacle to this approach is competition between the native isoacceptor tRNA(s) and orthogonal tRNA(s) for the reassigned codon. While several chromatographic and enzymatic procedures for selective deactivation of tRNA isoacceptors in cell-free translation systems exist, they are complex and not scalable. We designed a set of tRNA antisense oligonucleotides composed of either deoxy-, ribo- or 2'-O-methyl ribonucleotides and tested their ability to efficiently complex tRNAs of choice. Methylated oligonucleotides targeting sequence between the anticodon and variable loop of tRNASerGCU displayed subnanomolar binding affinity with slow dissociation kinetics. Such oligonucleotides efficiently and selectively sequestered native tRNASerGCU directly in translation-competent Escherichia coli S30 lysate, thereby, abrogating its translational activity and liberating the AGU/AGC codons. Expression of eGFP protein from the template harboring a single reassignable AGU codon in tRNASerGCU-depleted E. coli lysate allowed its homogeneous modification with n-propargyl-l-lysine or p-azido-l-phenylalanine. The strategy developed here is generic, as demonstrated by sequestration of tRNAArgCCU isoacceptor in E. coli translation system. Furthermore, this method is likely to be species-independent and was successfully applied to the eukaryotic Leishmania tarentolae in vitro translation system. This approach represents a new direction in genetic code reassignment with numerous practical applications.
Project description:Expansion of the genetic code through engineering the translation machinery has greatly increased the chemical repertoire of the proteome. This has been accomplished mainly by read-through of UAG or UGA stop codons by the noncanonical aminoacyl-tRNA of choice. While stop codon read-through involves competition with the translation release factors, sense codon reassignment entails competition with a large pool of endogenous tRNAs. We used an engineered pyrrolysyl-tRNA synthetase to incorporate 3-iodo-l-phenylalanine (3-I-Phe) at a number of different serine and leucine codons in wild-type Escherichia coli. Quantitative LC-MS/MS measurements of amino acid incorporation yields carried out in a selected reaction monitoring experiment revealed that the 3-I-Phe abundance at the Ser208AGU codon in superfolder GFP was 65 ± 17%. This method also allowed quantification of other amino acids (serine, 33 ± 17%; phenylalanine, 1 ± 1%; threonine, 1 ± 1%) that compete with 3-I-Phe at both the aminoacylation and decoding steps of translation for incorporation at the same codon position. Reassignments of different serine (AGU, AGC, UCG) and leucine (CUG) codons with the matching tRNA(Pyl) anticodon variants were met with varying success, and our findings provide a guideline for the choice of sense codons to be reassigned. Our results indicate that the 3-iodo-l-phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (IFRS)/tRNA(Pyl) pair can efficiently outcompete the cellular machinery to reassign select sense codons in wild-type E. coli.
Project description:Recoding a stop codon to an amino acid may afford orthogonal genetic systems for biosynthesizing new protein and organism properties. Although reassignment of stop codons has been found in extant organisms, a model organism is lacking to investigate the reassignment process and to direct code evolution. Complete reassignment of a stop codon is precluded by release factors (RFs), which recognize stop codons to terminate translation. Here we discovered that RF1 could be unconditionally knocked out from various Escherichia coli stains, demonstrating that the reportedly essential RF1 is generally dispensable for the E. coli species. The apparent essentiality of RF1 was found to be caused by the inefficiency of a mutant RF2 in terminating all UAA stop codons; a wild type RF2 was sufficient for RF1 knockout. The RF1-knockout strains were autonomous and unambiguously reassigned UAG to encode natural or unnatural amino acids (Uaas) at multiple sites, affording a previously unavailable model for studying code evolution and a unique host for exploiting Uaas to evolve new biological functions.
Project description:The specificity of most aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases for an amino acid and cognate tRNA pair evolved before the divergence of the three domains of life. Glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase (GlnRS) evolved later and is derived from the archaeal-type nondiscriminating glutamyl-tRNA synthetase (GluRS), an enzyme with relaxed tRNA specificity capable of forming both Glu-tRNA(Glu) and Glu-tRNA(Gln). The archaea lack GlnRS and use a specialized amidotransferase to convert Glu-tRNA(Gln) to Gln-tRNA(Gln) needed for protein synthesis. We show that the Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus GluRS is active toward tRNA(Glu) and the two tRNA(Gln) isoacceptors the organism encodes, but with a significant catalytic preference for tRNA(Gln2)(CUG). The less active tRNA(Gln1)(UUG) responds to the less common CAA codon for Gln. From a biochemical characterization of M. thermautotrophicus GluRS variants, we found that the evolution of tRNA specificity in GlnRS could be recapitulated by converting the M. thermautotrophicus GluRS to a tRNA(Gln) specific enzyme, solely through the addition of an acceptor stem loop present in bacterial GlnRS. One designed GluRS variant is also highly specific for the tRNA(Gln2)(CUG) isoacceptor, which responds to the CAG codon, and shows no activity toward tRNA(Gln1)(UUG). Because it is now possible to eliminate particular codons from the genome of Escherichia coli, additional codons will become available for genetic code engineering. Isoacceptor-specific aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases will enable the reassignment of more open codons while preserving accurate encoding of the 20 canonical amino acids.
Project description:Long stretches of "rare" codons are known to severely inhibit the efficiency of translation. Understanding the distribution of such rare codons is of critical importance in improving the efficiency of heterologous gene expression systems. Accurate estimates of codon usage take the abundance of each protein into consideration. In this paper, we analyze the correlation between approximate measures of codon usage and the availability of tRNA at various growth rates in E coli. We show that the computationally derived estimates of tRNA isoacceptor concentration enable the finding of poorly translated codons.
Project description:Recently we described an unusual programmed +1 frameshift event in yeast retrotransposon Ty3. Frameshifting depends on the presence of peptidyl-tRNA(AlaCGC) on the GCG codon in the ribosomal P site and on a translational pause stimulated by the slowly decoded AGU codon. Frameshifting occurs on the sequence GCG-AGU-U by out-of-frame binding of a valyl-tRNA to GUU without slippage of peptidyl-tRNA(AlaCGC). This mechanism challenges the conventional understanding that frameshift efficiency must correlate with the ability of mRNA-bound tRNA to slip between cognate or near-cognate codons. Though frameshifting does not require slippery tRNAs, it does require special peptidyl-tRNAs. We show that overproducing a second isoacceptor whose anticodon had been changed to CGC eliminated frameshifting; peptidyl-tRNA(AlaCGC) must have a special capacity to induce +1 frameshifting in the adjacent ribosomal A site. In order to identify other special peptidyl-tRNAs, we tested the ability of each of the other 63 codons to replace GCG in the P site. We found no correlation between the ability to stimulate +1 frameshifting and the ability of the cognate tRNA to slip on the mRNA--several codons predicted to slip efficiently do not stimulate frameshifting, while several predicted not to slip do stimulate frameshifting. By inducing a severe translational pause, we identified eight tRNAs capable of inducing measurable +1 frameshifting, only four of which are predicted to slip on the mRNA. We conclude that in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, special peptidyl-tRNAs can induce frameshifting dependent on some characteristic(s) other than the ability to slip on the mRNA.
Project description:Over the last decade, the ability to genetically encode unnatural amino acids (UAAs) has evolved rapidly. The programmed incorporation of UAAs into recombinant proteins relies on the reassignment or suppression of canonical codons with an amino-acyl tRNA synthetase/tRNA (aaRS/tRNA) pair, selective for the UAA of choice. In order to achieve selective incorporation, the aaRS should be selective for the designed tRNA and UAA over the endogenous amino acids and tRNAs. Enhanced selectivity has been achieved by transferring an aaRS/tRNA pair from another kingdom to the organism of interest, and subsequent aaRS evolution to acquire enhanced selectivity for the desired UAA. Today, over 150 non-canonical amino acids have been incorporated using such methods. This enables the introduction of a large variety of structures into proteins, in organisms ranging from prokaryote, yeast and mammalian cells lines to whole animals, enabling the study of protein function at a level that could not previously be achieved. While most research to date has focused on the suppression of 'non-sense' codons, recent developments are beginning to open up the possibility of quadruplet codon decoding and the more selective reassignment of sense codons, offering a potentially powerful tool for incorporating multiple amino acids. Here, we aim to provide a focused review of methods for UAA incorporation with an emphasis in particular on the different tRNA synthetase/tRNA pairs exploited or developed, focusing upon the different UAA structures that have been incorporated and the logic behind the design and future creation of such systems. Our hope is that this will help rationalize the design of systems for incorporation of unexplored unnatural amino acids, as well as novel applications for those already known.
Project description:The site-specific incorporation of unnatural amino acids (UAAs) into proteins in living cells relies on an engineered tRNA/aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (tRNA/aaRS) pair, orthogonal to the host cell, to deliver the UAA of choice in response to a unique nonsense or frameshift codon. Here we report the generation of mutually orthogonal prolyl-tRNA/prolyl-tRNA synthase (ProRS) pairs derived from an archaebacterial ancestor for use in Escherichia coli. By reprogramming the anticodon-binding pocket of Pyrococcus horikoshii ProRS (PhProRS), we were able to identify synthetase variants that recognize engineered Archaeoglobus fulgidus prolyl-tRNAs (Af-tRNA(Pro)) with three different anticodons: CUA, AGGG, and CUAG. Several of these evolved PhProRSs show specificity toward a particular anticodon variant of Af-tRNA(Pro), whereas others are promiscuous. Further evolution of the Af-tRNA(Pro) led to a variant exhibiting significantly improved amber suppression efficiency. Availability of a prolyl-tRNA/aaRS pair should enable site-specific incorporation of proline analogs and other N-modified UAAs into proteins in E. coli. The evolution of mutually orthogonal prolyl-tRNA/ProRS pairs demonstrates the plasticity of the tRNA-aaRS interface and should facilitate the incorporation of multiple, distinct UAAs into proteins.
Project description:Increased proliferation and elevated levels of protein synthesis are characteristics of transformed and tumor cells. Though components of the translation machinery are often misregulated in cancers, what role tRNA plays in cancer cells has not been explored. We compare genome-wide tRNA expression in cancer-derived versus non-cancer-derived breast cell lines, as well as tRNA expression in breast tumors versus normal breast tissues. In cancer-derived versus non-cancer-derived cell lines, nuclear-encoded tRNAs increase by up to 3-fold and mitochondrial-encoded tRNAs increase by up to 5-fold. In tumors versus normal breast tissues, both nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded tRNAs increase up to 10-fold. This tRNA over-expression is selective and coordinates with the properties of cognate amino acids. Nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded tRNAs exhibit distinct expression patterns, indicating that tRNAs can be used as biomarkers for breast cancer. We also performed association analysis for codon usage-tRNA expression for the cell lines. tRNA isoacceptor expression levels are not geared towards optimal translation of house-keeping or cell line specific genes. Instead, tRNA isoacceptor expression levels may favor the translation of cancer-related genes having regulatory roles. Our results suggest a functional consequence of tRNA over-expression in tumor cells. tRNA isoacceptor over-expression may increase the translational efficiency of genes relevant to cancer development and progression.
Project description:The genetic code is the cellular translation table for the conversion of nucleotide sequences into amino acid sequences. Changes to the meaning of sense codons would introduce errors into almost every translated message and are expected to be highly detrimental. However, reassignment of single or multiple codons in mitochondria and nuclear genomes, although extremely rare, demonstrates that the code can evolve. Several models for the mechanism of alteration of nuclear genetic codes have been proposed (including "codon capture," "genome streamlining," and "ambiguous intermediate" theories), but with little resolution. Here, we report a novel sense codon reassignment in Pachysolen tannophilus, a yeast related to the Pichiaceae. By generating proteomics data and using tRNA sequence comparisons, we show that Pachysolen translates CUG codons as alanine and not as the more usual leucine. The Pachysolen tRNACAG is an anticodon-mutated tRNA(Ala) containing all major alanine tRNA recognition sites. The polyphyly of the CUG-decoding tRNAs in yeasts is best explained by a tRNA loss driven codon reassignment mechanism. Loss of the CUG-tRNA in the ancient yeast is followed by gradual decrease of respective codons and subsequent codon capture by tRNAs whose anticodon is not part of the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase recognition region. Our hypothesis applies to all nuclear genetic code alterations and provides several testable predictions. We anticipate more codon reassignments to be uncovered in existing and upcoming genome projects.
Project description:Deviations from the universal genetic code have evolved independently several times in ciliated protozoa. Thus, in some species UAA and UAG are no longer used as termination codons, but are read as glutamine, whereas in the genus Euplotes , UGA is translated as cysteine. We have investigated the nature of the tRNACys isoacceptor responsible for decoding UGA in Euplotes cells. Southern hybridization analyses indicated that a single DNA molecule of 630 bp encoding tRNACys exists in the macronucleus of Euplotes octocarinatus . Cloning and sequencing of this fragment revealed that it contains only one copy of a tRNACys gene, which codes for a normal tRNACys with GCA anticodon. This is the first report of the characterization of a tRNA gene in any hypotrichous ciliate. It contains putative signals for initiation and termination of transcription by RNA polymerase III and can be transcribed efficiently in vitro in HeLa cell nuclear extract. Intensive studies on the DNA and tRNA level involving PCR analyses have not disclosed the existence of any tRNA Cys isoacceptor with UCA or ICA anticodons. Translation of the UGA codon by tRNA sub GCA sup Cys necessitates a G:A mispairing in the first anticodon position. We discuss a number of aspects which might contribute to the finding that a near-cognate tRNA isoacceptor efficiently translates the UGA stop codon.