Performance analysis of orthogonal pairs designed for an expanded eukaryotic genetic code

Sebastian Nehring, Nediljko Budisa, Birgit Wiltschi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The suppression of amber stop codons with non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) is used for the site-specific introduction of many unusual functions into proteins. Specific orthogonal aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (o-aaRS)/amber suppressor tRNA CUA pairs (o-pairs) for the incorporation of ncAAs in S. cerevisiae were previously selected from an E. coli tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase/tRNA CUA mutant library. Incorporation fidelity relies on the specificity of the o-aaRSs for their ncAAs and the ability to effectively discriminate against their natural substrate Tyr or any other canonical amino acid. Methodology/Principal Findings: We used o-pairs previously developed for ncAAs carrying reactive alkyne-, azido-, or photocrosslinker side chains to suppress an amber mutant of human superoxide dismutase 1 in S. cerevisiae. We found worse incorporation efficiencies of the alkyne- and the photocrosslinker ncAAs than reported earlier. In our hands, amber suppression with the ncAA containing the azido group did not occur at all. In addition to the incorporation experiments in S. cerevisiae, we analyzed the catalytic properties of the o-aaRSs in vitro. Surprisingly, all o-aaRSs showed much higher preference for their natural substrate Tyr than for any of the tested ncAAs. While it is unclear why efficiently recognized Tyr is not inserted at amber codons, we speculate that metabolically inert ncAAs accumulate in the cell, and for this reason they are incorporated despite being weak substrates for the o-aaRSs. Conclusions/Significance: O-pairs have been developed for a whole plethora of ncAAs. However, a systematic and detailed analysis of their catalytic properties is still missing. Our study provides a comprehensive scrutiny of o-pairs developed for the site-specific incorporation of reactive ncAAs in S. cerevisiae. It suggests that future development of o-pairs as efficient biotechnological tools will greatly benefit from sound characterization in vivo and in vitro in parallel to monitoring intracellular ncAA levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31992
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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