Natural reassignment of CUU and CUA sense codons to alanine in Ashbya mitochondria
Ling J, Daoud R, Lajoie MJ, Church GM, Soll D, Lang BF
Nucleic Acids Res (2013)
Category: mitochondria-evolution, mitochondria-gene expression, mitochondrial DNA, translation ¤ Added: Sep 19, 2013 ¤ Rating: ◊◊
The discovery of diverse codon reassignment events has demonstrated that the canonical genetic code is not universal. Studying coding reassignment at the molecular level is critical for understanding genetic code evolution, and provides clues to genetic code manipulation in synthetic biology. Here we report a novel reassignment event in the mitochondria of Ashbya (Eremothecium) gossypii, a filamentous-growing plant pathogen related to yeast (Saccharomycetaceae). Bioinformatics studies of conserved positions in mitochondrial DNA-encoded proteins suggest that CUU and CUA codons correspond to alanine in A. gossypii, instead of leucine in the standard code or threonine in yeast mitochondria. Reassignment of CUA to Ala was confirmed at the protein level by mass spectrometry. We further demonstrate that a predicted tRNAAla UAG is transcribed and accurately processed in vivo, and is responsible for Ala reassignment. Enzymatic studies reveal that tRNAAla UAG is efficiently recognized by A. gossypii mitochondrial alanyl-tRNA synthetase (AgAlaRS). AlaRS typically recognizes the G3:U70 base pair of tRNAAla; a G3A change in Ashbya tRNAAla UAG abolishes its recognition by AgAlaRS. Conversely, an A3G mutation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae tRNAThr UAG confers tRNA recognition by AgAlaRS. Our work highlights the dynamic feature of natural genetic codes in mitochondria, and the relative simplicity by which tRNA identity may be switched.