Evidence that uncharged tRNA can inhibit a programmed translational frameshift inescherichia coli

Wenwu Gao, Hieronim Jakubowski, Emanuel Goldman

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9 Scopus citations


In the modified release factor 2 (RF2) programmed translational frameshift (with a sense codon replacing the wild-type in-frame UGA codon at the shift site), ribosomes shift+1 into the reading frame for an out-of-frame reporter fused to the frameshift sequence. Partitioning of ribosomes between the out-of-frame shift and in-frame reading depends on the codon at the shift site and on the levels of tRNA decoding the in-frame codon. Overexpression of a tRNA species cognate to the in-frame codon at the shift site significantly reduces the frequency of frame-shifting, presumably by facilitating in-frame reading, which would reduce production of the out-of-frame reporter. However, since overexpression of a tRNA increases levels of both charged and uncharged tRNA, it is possible that uncharged cognate tRNA might be able to reduce the frequency of the frameshift, by entering the A site on the ribosome. To test this, we manipulated charged and uncharged tRNA levelsin vivo, using the tryptophan analog tryptophan hydroxamate, which increases the proportion of uncharged tRNATrpby competing with cognate amino acid tryptophan for tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase, thereby reducing protein synthesis. We report here that a slight but reproducible reduction in the relative frequency of the frameshift is observed when tryptophan hydroxamate is added to cells containing the modified RF2 shift with UGG (Trp codon) at the shift site. When tRNATrpis overexpressed from another plasmid, the shift frequency drops three- to fourfold, as expected, however, this reduction is still seen in the presence of the analog. Thus, under conditions when most of the tRNATrpis apparently uncharged, excess tRNATrpstill causes a significant reduction in the frameshift when UGG is at the shift site, providing evidence that uncharged cognate tRNA also can inhibit this frameshift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-216
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 11 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


  • Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase
  • Hyperaccurate ribosomes
  • Release factor 2
  • Ribosomal A site
  • Tryptophan hydroxamate


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