Variations in the genetic code are found frequently in mitochondrial decoding systems. Four non-universal genetic codes are employed in ascidian mitochondria: AUA for Met, UGA for Trp, and AGA/AGG(AGR) for Gly. To clarify the decoding mechanism for the non-universal genetic codes, we isolated and analyzed mitochondrial tRNAs for Trp, Met, and Gly from an ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi. Mass spectrometric analysis identified 5-taurinomethyluridine (τm 5U) at the anticodon wobble positions of tRNA Met(AUR), tRNA Trp(UGR), and tRNA Gly-(AGR), suggesting that τm 5U plays a critical role in the accurate deciphering of all four non-universal codes by preventing the misreading of pyrimidine-ending near-cognate codons (NNY) in their respective family boxes. Acquisition of the wobble modification appears to be a prerequisite for the genetic code alteration.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology