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Title: Molecular reconstruction of a fungal genetic code alteration
Author: Mateus, Denisa D.
Paredes, João A.
Español, Yaiza
Ribas de Pouplana, Lluís
Moura, Gabriela R.
Santos, Manuel A. S.
Keywords: CTG clade
CUG codon
Candida albicans
genetic code
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Abstract: Fungi of the CTG clade translate the Leu CUG codon as Ser. This genetic code alteration is the only eukaryotic sense-to-sense codon reassignment known to date, is mediated by an ambiguous serine tRNA (tRNACAG(Ser)), exposes unanticipated flexibility of the genetic code and raises major questions about its selection and fixation in this fungal lineage. In particular, the origin of the tRNACAG(Ser) and the evolutionary mechanism of CUG reassignment from Leu to Ser remain poorly understood. In this study, we have traced the origin of the tDNACAG(Ser) gene and studied critical mutations in the tRNACAG(Ser) anticodon-loop that modulated CUG reassignment. Our data show that the tRNACAG(Ser) emerged from insertion of an adenosine in the middle position of the 5'-CGA-3'anticodon of a tRNACGA(Ser) ancestor, producing the 5'-CAG-3' anticodon of the tRNACAG(Ser), without altering its aminoacylation properties. This mutation initiated CUG reassignment while two additional mutations in the anticodon-loop resolved a structural conflict produced by incorporation of the Leu 5'-CAG-3'anticodon in the anticodon-arm of a tRNA(Ser). Expression of the mutant tRNACAG(Ser) in yeast showed that it cannot be expressed at physiological levels and we postulate that such downregulation was essential to maintain Ser misincorporation at sub-lethal levels during the initial stages of CUG reassignment. We demonstrate here that such low level CUG ambiguity is advantageous in specific ecological niches and we propose that misreading tRNAs are targeted for degradation by an unidentified tRNA quality control pathway.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.4161/rna.24683
ISSN: 1547-6286
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