Unusual tertiary pairs in eukaryotic tRNAAla

RNA. 2020 Nov;26(11):1519-1529. doi: 10.1261/rna.076299.120. Epub 2020 Jul 31.


tRNA molecules have well-defined sequence conservations that reflect the conserved tertiary pairs maintaining their architecture and functions during the translation processes. An analysis of aligned tRNA sequences present in the GtRNAdb database (the Lowe Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz) led to surprising conservations on some cytosolic tRNAs specific for alanine compared to other tRNA species, including tRNAs specific for glycine. First, besides the well-known G3oU70 base pair in the amino acid stem, there is the frequent occurrence of a second wobble pair at G30oU40, a pair generally observed as a Watson-Crick pair throughout phylogeny. Second, the tertiary pair R15/Y48 occurs as a purine-purine R15/A48 pair. Finally, the conserved T54/A58 pair maintaining the fold of the T-loop is observed as a purine-purine A54/A58 pair. The R15/A48 and A54/A58 pairs always occur together. The G30oU40 pair occurs alone or together with these other two pairs. The pairing variations are observed to a variable extent depending on phylogeny. Among eukaryotes, insects display all variations simultaneously, whereas mammals present either the G30oU40 pair or both R15/A48 and A54/A58. tRNAs with the anticodon 34A(I)GC36 are the most prone to display all those pair variations in mammals and insects. tRNAs with anticodon Y34GC36 have preferentially G30oU40 only. These unusual pairs are not observed in bacterial, nor archaeal, tRNAs, probably because of the avoidance of A34-containing anticodons in four-codon boxes. Among eukaryotes, these unusual pairing features were not observed in fungi and nematodes. These unusual structural features may affect, besides aminoacylation, transcription rates (e.g., 54/58) or ribosomal translocation (30/40).

Keywords: Ala; Gly; anticodons; insects; mammals; tRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Insecta / genetics*
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA Folding
  • RNA, Transfer, Ala / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer, Ala / metabolism


  • RNA, Transfer, Ala