Analysis of sequence dependent variations in secondary and tertiary structure of tRNA molecules

J Biomol Struct Dyn. 1994 Jun;11(6):1251-75. doi: 10.1080/07391102.1994.10508067.


The double helical regions of the five tRNA(Phe) and two tRNA(Asp) crystal structures have been analyzed using the local basepair step parameters. The sequence dependent effects in the mini double helices of tRNA are very similar to those observed in the crystal structures of oligonucleotides in the A-form, the purine-pyrimidine and purine-purine steps have small roll angles when compared to the fiber models of A-DNA as well as A-RNA, while the pyrimidine-purine doublet steps have large roll angles. The orientation of the basepairs in the D-stem is unusual and invariant i.e. they are different from the other three stems but are very similar in all the five tRNA(Phe) crystal structures, presumably due to tertiary interaction of the Watson-Crick basepairs with other bases, with all bases being highly conserved. The origin of the differences between the tertiary structures of tRNA(Phe) and tRNA(Asp) from yeast has also been investigated. It is found that even though the angle between the acceptor arm and the D-stem is very similar in the two structures, the angle subtended by the acceptor arm and the anticodon arm is smaller in the tRNA(Phe) structure (by more than 10 degrees). This is due to differences in the orientation of the two mini helices constituting the anticodon arm, which are inclined to each other by approximately 25 degrees in tRNA(Phe) and 16 degrees in tRNA(Asp). In addition, the acceptor arm, the D-stem and the anticodon stem are nearly coplanar in tRNA(Phe), while in tRNA(Asp) the anticodon stem projects out of the plane defined by the acceptor arm and the anticodon stem. These two features together lead to a larger separation between the acceptor and anticodon ends in tRNA(Asp) and indicate that the junction between the D-stem and the anticodon stem is quite variable, with features characteristic of a ball-and-socket type joint and determined for each tRNA molecule by the base sequence at the junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticodon / chemistry
  • Base Composition
  • Base Sequence
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe / chemistry*


  • Anticodon
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe