Translation using four-base codons occurs in both natural and synthetic systems. What constraints contributed to the universal adoption of a triplet-codon, rather than quadruplet-codon, genetic code? Here, we investigate the tolerance of the Escherichia coli genetic code to tRNA mutations that increase codon size. We found that tRNAs from all twenty canonical isoacceptor classes can be converted to functional quadruplet tRNAs (qtRNAs). Many of these selectively incorporate a single amino acid in response to a specified four-base codon, as confirmed with mass spectrometry. However, efficient quadruplet codon translation often requires multiple tRNA mutations. Moreover, while tRNAs were largely amenable to quadruplet conversion, only nine of the twenty aminoacyl tRNA synthetases tolerate quadruplet anticodons. These may constitute a functional and mutually orthogonal set, but one that sharply limits the chemical alphabet available to a nascent all-quadruplet code. Our results suggest that the triplet codon code was selected because it is simpler and sufficient, not because a quadruplet codon code is unachievable. These data provide a blueprint for synthetic biologists to deliberately engineer an all-quadruplet expanded genetic code.
All luminescence raw data are compiled in Figure 5A and provided as Source Data 1. Raw spectra have been deposited in the PRIDE database, dataset identifier PXD031925 and 10.6019/PXD031925.
- Dieter Söll
- Dieter Söll
- Erika Alden DeBenedictis
- Kevin M Esvelt
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Timothy W Nilsen, Case Western Reserve University, United States
© 2022, DeBenedictis et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Nearly all mitochondrial proteins need to be targeted for import from the cytosol. For the majority, the first port of call is the translocase of the outer membrane (TOM complex), followed by a procession of alternative molecular machines, conducting transport to their final destination. The pre-sequence translocase of the inner membrane (TIM23-complex) imports proteins with cleavable pre-sequences. Progress in understanding these transport mechanisms has been hampered by the poor sensitivity and time resolution of import assays. However, with the development of an assay based on split NanoLuc luciferase, we can now explore this process in greater detail. Here, we apply this new methodology to understand how ∆ψ and ATP hydrolysis, the two main driving forces for import into the matrix, contribute to the transport of pre-sequence-containing precursors (PCPs) with varying properties. Notably, we found that two major rate-limiting steps define PCP import time: passage of PCP across the outer membrane and initiation of inner membrane transport by the pre-sequence – the rates of which are influenced by PCP size and net charge. The apparent distinction between transport through the two membranes (passage through TOM is substantially complete before PCP-TIM engagement) is in contrast with the current view that import occurs through TOM and TIM in a single continuous step. Our results also indicate that PCPs spend very little time in the TIM23 channel – presumably rapid success or failure of import is critical for maintenance of mitochondrial fitness.
Profilin-1 (PFN1) is a cytoskeletal protein that regulates the dynamics of actin and microtubule assembly. Thus, PFN1 is essential for the normal division, motility, and morphology of cells. Unfortunately, conventional fusion and direct labeling strategies compromise different facets of PFN1 function. As a consequence, the only methods used to determine known PFN1 functions have been indirect and often deduced in cell-free biochemical assays. We engineered and characterized two genetically encoded versions of tagged PFN1 that behave identical to each other and the tag-free protein. In biochemical assays purified proteins bind to phosphoinositide lipids, catalyze nucleotide exchange on actin monomers, stimulate formin-mediated actin filament assembly, and bound tubulin dimers (kD = 1.89 µM) to impact microtubule dynamics. In PFN1-deficient mammalian cells, Halo-PFN1 or mApple-PFN1 (mAp-PEN1) restored morphological and cytoskeletal functions. Titrations of self-labeling Halo-ligands were used to visualize molecules of PFN1. This approach combined with specific function-disrupting point-mutants (Y6D and R88E) revealed PFN1 bound to microtubules in live cells. Cells expressing the ALS-associated G118V disease variant did not associate with actin filaments or microtubules. Thus, these tagged PFN1s are reliable tools for studying the dynamic interactions of PFN1 with actin or microtubules in vitro as well as in important cell processes or disease-states.