Plasticity and diversity of tRNA anticodon determinants of substrate recognition by eukaryotic A37 isopentenyltransferases

RNA. 2011 Oct;17(10):1846-57. doi: 10.1261/rna.2628611. Epub 2011 Aug 26.


The N(6)-(isopentenyl)adenosine (i(6)A) modification of some tRNAs at position A37 is found in all kingdoms and facilitates codon-specific mRNA decoding, but occurs in different subsets of tRNAs in different species. Here we examine yeasts' tRNA isopentenyltransferases (i.e., dimethylallyltransferase, DMATase, members of the Δ(2)-isopentenylpyrophosphate transferase, IPPT superfamily) encoded by tit1(+) in Schizosaccharomyces pombe and MOD5 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, whose homologs are Escherichia coli miaA, the human tumor suppressor TRIT1, and the Caenorhabditis elegans life-span gene product GRO-1. A major determinant of miaA activity is known to be the single-stranded tRNA sequence, A36A37A38, in a stem-loop. tRNA(Trp)(CCA) from either yeast is a Tit1p substrate, but neither is a Mod5p substrate despite the presence of A36A37A38. We show that Tit1p accommodates a broader range of substrates than Mod5p. tRNA(Trp)(CCA) is distinct from Mod5p substrates, which we sort into two classes based on the presence of G at position 34 and other elements. A single substitution of C34 to G converts tRNA(Trp)(CCA) to a Mod5p substrate in vitro and in vivo, consistent with amino acid contacts to G34 in existing Mod5p-tRNA(Cys)(GCA) crystal structures. Mutation of Mod5p in its G34 recognition loop region debilitates it differentially for its G34 (class I) substrates. Multiple alignments reveal that the G34 recognition loop sequence of Mod5p differs significantly from Tit1p, which more resembles human TRIT1 and other DMATases. We show that TRIT1 can also modify tRNA(Trp)(CCA) consistent with broad recognition similar to Tit1p. This study illustrates previously unappreciated molecular plasticity and biological diversity of the tRNA-isopentenyltransferase system of eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / genetics
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / metabolism*
  • Anticodon / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Schizosaccharomyces / enzymology*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Anticodon
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • adenylate isopentenyltransferase
  • MOD5 protein, S cerevisiae