The accuracy in pairing tRNAs with correct amino acids by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) dictates the fidelity of translation. To ensure fidelity, multiple aaRSs developed editing functions that remove a wrong amino acid from tRNA before it reaches the ribosome. However, no specific mechanism within an aaRS is known to handle the scenario where a cognate amino acid is mischarged onto a wrong tRNA, as exemplified by AlaRS mischarging alanine to G4:U69-containing tRNAThr. Here, we report that the mischargeable G4:U69-containing tRNAThr are strictly conserved in vertebrates and are ubiquitously and abundantly expressed in mammalian cells and tissues. Although these tRNAs are efficiently mischarged, no corresponding Thr-to-Ala mistranslation is detectable. Mistranslation is prevented by a robust proofreading activity of ThrRS towards Ala-tRNAThr. Therefore, while wrong amino acids are corrected within an aaRS, a wrong tRNA is handled in trans by an aaRS cognate to the mischarged tRNA species. Interestingly, although Ala-tRNAThr mischarging is not known to occur in bacteria, Escherichia coli ThrRS also possesses robust cross-editing ability. We propose that the cross-editing activity of ThrRS is evolutionarily conserved and that this intrinsic activity allows G4:U69-containing tRNAThr to emerge and be preserved in vertebrates to have alternative functions without compromising translational fidelity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas