Glu-Q-tRNA(Asp) synthetase coded by the yadB gene, a new paralog of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase that glutamylates tRNA(Asp) anticodon

Biochimie. 2005 Sep-Oct;87(9-10):847-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2005.03.007. Epub 2005 Apr 8.


Analysis of the completed genome sequences revealed presence in various bacteria of an open reading frame (ORF) encoding a polypeptide chain presenting important similarities with the catalytic domain of glutamyl-tRNA synthetases but deprived of the C-terminal anticodon-binding domain. This paralog of glutamyl-tRNA synthetases, the YadB protein, activates glutamate in the absence of tRNA and transfers the activated glutamate not on tRNA(Glu) but instead on tRNA(Asp). It has been shown that tRNA(Asp) is able to accept two amino acids: aspartate charged by aspartyl-tRNA synthetase and glutamate charged by YadB. The functional properties of YadB contrast with those of the canonical glutamyl-tRNA synthetases, which activate Glu only in presence of the cognate tRNA before aminoacylation of the 3'-end of tRNA. Biochemical approaches and mass spectrometry investigations revealed that YadB transfers the activated glutamate on the cyclopenthene-diol ring of the modified nucleoside queuosine posttranscriptionally inserted at the wobble position of the anticodon-loop to form glutamyl-queuosine. Unstability of the ester bond between the glutamate residue and the cyclopenthene-diol (half-life 7.5 min) explains why until now this modification escaped detection. Among Escherichia coli tRNAs containing queuosine in the wobble position, only tRNA(Asp) is substrate of YadB. Sequence comparison reveals a structural mimicry between the anticodon-stem and loop of tRNA(Asp) and the amino acid acceptor-stem of tRNA(Glu). YadB, renamed glutamyl-Q-tRNA(Asp) synthetase, constitutes the first enzyme structurally related to aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases which catalyzes a hypermodification in tRNA, and whose function seems to be conserved among prokaryotes. The discovery of glutamyl-Q-tRNA(Asp) synthetase breaks down the current paradigm according to which the catalytic domain of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases recognizes the amino acid acceptor-stem of tRNA and aminoacylates the 3'-terminal ribose. The evolutionary significance of the existence of an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase paralog dedicated to the hypermodification of a tRNA anticodon will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / chemistry
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / metabolism*
  • Aminoacylation
  • Anticodon
  • Crystallography
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Glutamate-tRNA Ligase / chemistry
  • Glutamate-tRNA Ligase / genetics
  • Glutamate-tRNA Ligase / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp / metabolism*
  • Transfer RNA Aminoacylation


  • Anticodon
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp
  • YadB protein, E coli
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases
  • Glutamate-tRNA Ligase