Ubiquitously Expressed Proteins and Restricted Phenotypes: Exploring Cell-Specific Sensitivities to Impaired tRNA Charging

Trends Genet. 2020 Feb;36(2):105-117. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2019.11.007. Epub 2019 Dec 12.


Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (ARS) are ubiquitously expressed, essential enzymes that charge tRNA with cognate amino acids. Variants in genes encoding ARS enzymes lead to myriad human inherited diseases. First, missense alleles cause dominant peripheral neuropathy. Second, missense, nonsense, and frameshift alleles cause recessive multisystem disorders that differentially affect tissues depending on which ARS is mutated. A preponderance of evidence has shown that both phenotypic classes are associated with loss-of-function alleles, suggesting that tRNA charging plays a central role in disease pathogenesis. However, it is currently unclear how perturbation in the function of these ubiquitously expressed enzymes leads to tissue-specific or tissue-predominant phenotypes. Here, we review our current understanding of ARS-associated disease phenotypes and discuss potential explanations for the observed tissue specificity.

Keywords: aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; developmental delay; peripheral neuropathy; protein translation; recessive disease; tRNA charging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics*
  • Transfer RNA Aminoacylation / genetics


  • Amino Acids
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases