Doing it in reverse: 3'-to-5' polymerization by the Thg1 superfamily

RNA. 2012 May;18(5):886-99. doi: 10.1261/rna.032300.112. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


The tRNA(His) guanylyltransferase (Thg1) family of enzymes comprises members from all three domains of life (Eucarya, Bacteria, Archaea). Although the initial activity associated with Thg1 enzymes was a single 3'-to-5' nucleotide addition reaction that specifies tRNA(His) identity in eukaryotes, the discovery of a generalized base pair-dependent 3'-to-5' polymerase reaction greatly expanded the scope of Thg1 family-catalyzed reactions to include tRNA repair and editing activities in bacteria, archaea, and organelles. While the identification of the 3'-to-5' polymerase activity associated with Thg1 enzymes is relatively recent, the roots of this discovery and its likely physiological relevance were described ≈ 30 yr ago. Here we review recent advances toward understanding diverse Thg1 family enzyme functions and mechanisms. We also discuss possible evolutionary origins of Thg1 family-catalyzed 3'-to-5' addition activities and their implications for the currently observed phylogenetic distribution of Thg1-related enzymes in biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / enzymology
  • Archaea / genetics
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Nucleotides / metabolism
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Editing
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • Yeasts / enzymology
  • Yeasts / genetics


  • Nucleic Acids
  • Nucleotides
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • tRNA guanylyltransferase