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Keywords:

  • aminoacyl-tRNA;
  • indirect pathways;
  • tRNA-dependent amidotransferase;
  • tRNA-dependent cysteine biosynthesis;
  • selenocysteine biosynthesis

The accurate formation of cognate aminoacyl-transfer RNAs (aa-tRNAs) is essential for the fidelity of translation. Most amino acids are esterified onto their cognate tRNA isoacceptors directly by aa-tRNA synthetases. However, in the case of four amino acids (Gln, Asn, Cys and Sec), aminoacyl-tRNAs are made through indirect pathways in many organisms across all three domains of life. The process begins with the charging of noncognate amino acids to tRNAs by a specialized synthetase in the case of Cys-tRNACys formation or by synthetases with relaxed specificity, such as the non-di scr iminating glutamyl-tRNA, non-disc rimi nati ng aspartyl-tRNA and seryl-tRNA synthetases. The resulting misacylated tRNAs are then converted to cognate pairs through transformation of the amino acids on the tRNA, which is catalyzed by a group of tRNA-dependent modifying enzymes, such as tRNA-dependent amidotransferases, Sep-tRNA:Cys-tRNA synthase, O-phosphoseryl-tRNA kinase and Sep-tRNA:Sec-tRNA synthase. The majority of these indirect pathways are widely spread in all domains of life and thought to be part of the evolutionary process.