Evolving tRNA(Sec) for efficient canonical incorporation of selenocysteine

J Am Chem Soc. 2015 Jan 14;137(1):46-9. doi: 10.1021/ja510695g. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Bacterial selenocysteine incorporation occurs in response to opal stop codons and is dependent on the presence of a selenocysteine insertion sequence (SECIS) element, which recruits the selenocysteine specific elongation factor and tRNA(Sec) needed to reassign the UGA codon. The SECIS element is a stem-loop RNA structure immediately following the UGA codon and forms part of the coding sequence in bacterial selenoproteins. Although the site specific incorporation of selenocysteine is of great interest for protein engineering, the sequence constraints imposed by the adjoining SECIS element severely limit its use. We have evolved an E. coli tRNA(Sec) that is compatible with the canonical translation machinery and can suppress amber stop codons to incorporate selenocysteine with high efficiency. This evolved tRNA(Sec) allows the production of new recombinant selenoproteins containing structural motifs such as selenyl-sulfhydryl and diselenide bonds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Engineering
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • Selenocysteine / chemistry*
  • Selenocysteine / metabolism
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism


  • Selenocysteine
  • RNA, Transfer
  • beta-Lactamases