Elongator is a conserved, multi-protein complex discovered in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, loss of which confers a range of pleiotropic phenotypes. Elongator in higher eukaryotes is required for normal growth and development and a mutation in the largest subunit of human Elongator (Elp1) causes familial dysautonomia, a severe recessive neuropathy. Elongator promotes addition of mcm(5) and ncm(5) modifications to uridine in the tRNA anticodon 'wobble' position in both yeast and higher eukaryotes. Since these modifications are required for the tRNAs to function efficiently, a translation defect caused by hypomodified tRNAs may therefore underlie the variety of phenotypes associated with Elongator dysfunction. The Elp1 carboxy-terminal domain contains a highly conserved arginine/lysine-rich region that resembles a nuclear localization sequence (NLS). Using alanine substitution mutagenesis, we show that this region is essential for Elongator's function in tRNA wobble uridine modification. However, rather than acting to determine the nucleo-cytoplasmic distribution of Elongator, we find that the basic region plays a critical role in a novel interaction between tRNA and the Elp1 carboxy-terminal domain. Thus the conserved basic region in Elp1 may be essential for tRNA wobble uridine modification by acting as tRNA binding motif.
© 2014 The Authors. Molecular Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.