Partition of tRNA synthetases into two classes based on mutually exclusive sets of sequence motifs

Nature. 1990 Sep 13;347(6289):203-6. doi: 10.1038/347203a0.


The aminoacyl-transfer RNA synthetases (aaRS) catalyse the attachment of an amino acid to its cognate transfer RNA molecule in a highly specific two-step reaction. These proteins differ widely in size and oligomeric state, and have limited sequence homology. Out of the 18 known aaRS, only 9 referred to as class I synthetases (GlnRS, TyrRS, MetRS, GluRS, ArgRS, ValRS, IleRS, LeuRS, TrpRS), display two short common consensus sequences ('HIGH' and 'KMSKS') which indicate, as observed in three crystal structures, the presence of a structural domain (the Rossman fold) that binds ATP. We report here the sequence of Escherichia coli ProRS, a dimer of relative molecular mass 127,402, which is homologous to both ThrRS and SerRS. These three latter aaRS share three new sequence motifs with AspRS, AsnRS, LysRS, HisRS and the beta subunit of PheRS. These three motifs (motifs 1, 2 and 3), in a search through the entire data bank, proved to be specific for this set of aaRS (referred to as class II). Class II may also contain AlaRS and GlyRS, because these sequences have a typical motif 3. Surprisingly, this partition of aaRS in two classes is found to be strongly correlated on the functional level with the acylation occurring either on the 2' OH (class I) or 3' OH (class II) of the ribose of the last nucleotide of tRNA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / classification*
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases
  • prolyl T RNA synthetase