Aminoacylation properties of pathology-related human mitochondrial tRNA(Lys) variants

RNA. 2004 May;10(5):841-53. doi: 10.1261/rna.5267604.


In vitro transcription has proven to be a successful tool for preparation of functional RNAs, especially in the tRNA field, in which, despite the absence of post-transcriptional modifications, transcripts are correctly folded and functionally active. Human mitochondrial (mt) tRNA(Lys) deviates from this principle and folds into various inactive conformations, due to the absence of the post-transcriptional modification m(1)A9 which hinders base-pairing with U64 in the native tRNA. Unavailability of a functional transcript is a serious drawback for structure/function investigations as well as in deciphering the molecular mechanisms by which point mutations in the mt tRNA(Lys) gene cause severe human disorders. Here, we show that an engineered in vitro transcribed "pseudo-WT" tRNA(Lys) variant is efficiently recognized by lysyl-tRNA synthetase and can substitute for the WT tRNA as a valuable reference molecule. This has been exploited in a systematic analysis of the effects on aminoacylation of nine pathology-related mutations described so far. The sole mutation located in a loop of the tRNA secondary structure, A8344G, does not affect aminoacylation efficiency. Out of eight mutations located in helical domains converting canonical Watson-Crick pairs into G-U pairs or C.A mismatches, six have no effect on aminoacylation (A8296G, U8316C, G8342A, U8356C, U8362G, G8363A), and two lead to drastic decreases (5000- to 7000-fold) in lysylation efficiencies (G8313A and G8328A). This screening, allowing for analysis of the primary impact level of all mutations affecting one tRNA under comparable conditions, indicates distinct molecular origins for different disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acylation
  • Aminoacyltransferases / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • MERRF Syndrome / genetics
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • RNA, Transfer, Lys
  • Aminoacyltransferases