Effects of Heterologous tRNA Modifications on the Production of Proteins Containing Noncanonical Amino Acids

Bioengineering (Basel). 2018 Feb 2;5(1):11. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering5010011.


Synthesis of proteins with noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) enables the creation of protein-based biomaterials with diverse new chemical properties that may be attractive for material science. Current methods for large-scale production of ncAA-containing proteins, frequently carried out in Escherichia coli, involve the use of orthogonal aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (o-aaRSs) and tRNAs (o-tRNAs). Although o-tRNAs are designed to be orthogonal to endogenous aaRSs, their orthogonality to the components of the E. coli metabolism remains largely unexplored. We systematically investigated how the E. coli tRNA modification machinery affects the efficiency and orthogonality of o-tRNASep used for production of proteins with the ncAA O-phosphoserine (Sep). The incorporation of Sep into a green fluorescent protein (GFP) in 42 E. coli strains carrying deletions of single tRNA modification genes identified several genes that affect the o-tRNA activity. Deletion of cysteine desulfurase (iscS) increased the yield of Sep-containing GFP more than eightfold, while overexpression of dimethylallyltransferase MiaA and pseudouridine synthase TruB improved the specificity of Sep incorporation. These results highlight the importance of tRNA modifications for the biosynthesis of proteins containing ncAAs, and provide a novel framework for optimization of o-tRNAs.

Keywords: aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; genetic code expansion; noncanonical amino acids; phosphoserine; posttranscriptional modifications; protein translation; tRNA.