There are two isoforms of selenocysteine (Sec) tRNA([Ser]Sec) that differ by a single methyl group, Um34. The non-Um34 isoform supports the synthesis of a subclass of selenoproteins, designated housekeeping, while the Um34 isoform supports the expression of another subclass, designated stress-related selenoproteins. Herein, we investigated the relationship between tRNA([Ser]Sec) aminoacylation and Um34 synthesis which is the last step in the maturation of this tRNA. Mutation of the discriminator base at position 73 in tRNA([Ser]Sec) dramatically reduced aminoacylation with serine, as did an inhibitor of seryl-tRNA synthetase, SB-217452. Although both the mutation and the inhibitor prevented Um34 synthesis, neither precluded the synthesis of any other of the known base modifications on tRNA([Ser]Sec) following microinjection and incubation of the mutant tRNA([Ser]Sec) transcript, or the wild type transcript along with inhibitor, in Xenopus oocytes. The data demonstrate that Sec tRNA([Ser]Sec) must be aminoacylated for Um34 addition. The fact that selenium is required for Um34 methylation suggests that Sec must be attached to its tRNA for Um34 methylation. This would explain why selenium is essential for the function of Um34 methylase and provides further insights into the hierarchy of selenoprotein expression.
Published by Elsevier Inc.