Thermus thermophilus: a link in evolution of the tRNA-dependent amino acid amidation pathways

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Oct 27;95(22):12832-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.95.22.12832.


Thermus thermophilus possesses an aspartyl-tRNA synthetase (AspRS2) able to aspartylate efficiently tRNAAsp and tRNAAsn. Aspartate mischarged on tRNAAsn then is converted into asparagine by an omega amidase that differs structurally from all known asparagine synthetases. However, aspartate is not misincorporated into proteins because the binding capacity of aminoacylated tRNAAsn to elongation factor Tu is only conferred by conversion of aspartate into asparagine. T. thermophilus additionally contains a second aspartyl-tRNA synthetase (AspRS1) able to aspartylate tRNAAsp and an asparaginyl-tRNA synthetase able to charge tRNAAsn with free asparagine, although the organism does not contain a tRNA-independent asparagine synthetase. In contrast to the duplicated pathway of tRNA asparaginylation, tRNA glutaminylation occurs in the thermophile via the usual pathway by using glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase and free glutamine synthesized by glutamine synthetase that is unique. T. thermophilus is able to ensure tRNA aminoacylation by alternative routes involving either the direct pathway or by conversion of amino acid mischarged on tRNA. These findings shed light on the interrelation between the tRNA-dependent and tRNA-independent pathways of amino acid amidation and on the processes involved in fidelity of the aminoacylation systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Aspartate-tRNA Ligase / isolation & purification
  • Aspartate-tRNA Ligase / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Primers
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Peptide Elongation Factor Tu / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Transfer, Asn / metabolism*
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp / metabolism*
  • Thermus thermophilus / genetics*
  • Thermus thermophilus / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Transfer, Asn
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp
  • Peptide Elongation Factor Tu
  • Aspartate-tRNA Ligase