Fidelity Of Translation Initiation In E. coli : Roles Of The Transcription-recycling Factor RapA, 23S rRNA Modifications, And Evolutionary Origin Of Initiator tRNA
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Translation initiation is a rate limiting step during protein biosynthesis. Initiation occurs by formation of an initiation complex comprising 30S subunit of ribosome, mRNA, initiator tRNA, and initiation factors. The initiator tRNA has a specialized function of binding to ribosomal P site whereas all the other tRNAs are selected in the ribosomal A site. The presence of a highly conserved 3 consecutive G-C base pairs in the anticodon stem of the initiator tRNA has been shown to be responsible for its P-site targeting. The exact molecular mechanism involved in the P-site targeting of the initiator tRNA is still unclear and focus of our study. Using genetic methods, we obtained mutant E. coli strains where initiator tRNA mutants lacking the characteristic 3-GC base pairs can also initiate translation. One such mutant strain, A30, was selected for this study. Using standard molecular genetic tools, the mutation was mapped and identified to be a mutation in a transcription remodeling factor, RapA (A511V). RapA is a transcription recycling factor and it displaces S1 when it performs its transcription recycling activity. We found this mutation to cause an increase in the S1-depleted ribosomes leading to decreased fidelity of translation initiation as the mutant RapA inefficiently displaces S1 from RNA polymerase complex. The mutation in the RapA was also found to cause changes in the transcriptome which leads to downregulation of major genes important for methionine and purine metabolism. Using mass spectrometric analysis, we identified deficiencies of methionine and adenine in the strain carrying mutant RapA. Our lab had previously reported that methionine and S-adenosyl methionine deficiency cause deficiency of methylations in ribosome which in turn decreases the fidelity of protein synthesis initiation. We used strains deleted for two newly identified methyltransferases, namely RlmH and RlmI, for our study and these strains also showed decreased fidelity of initiation. RlmH and RlmI methylate 1915 and 1962 positions of 23S rRNA respectively. We found that deletion of these methyltransferases also caused defects in ribosome biogenesis and compromised activity of ribosome recycling factor. We constructed phylogenetic trees of the initiator tRNA from 158 species which distinctly assembled into three domains of life. We also constructed trees using the minihelix or the whole sequence of species specific tRNAs, and iterated our analysis on 50 eubacterial species. We identified tRNAPro, tRNAGlu, or tRNAThr (but surprisingly not elongator tRNAMet) as probable ancestors of tRNAi. We then determined the factors imposing selection of methionine as the initiating amino acid. Overall frequency of occurrence of methionine, whose metabolic cost of synthesis is the highest among all amino acids, remains almost unchanged across the three domains of life. Our results indicate that methionine selection, as the initiating amino acid was possibly a consequence of the evolution of one-carbon metabolism, which plays an important role in regulating translation initiation. In conclusion, the current study reveals the importance of methylations in ribosome biogenesis and fidelity of translation initiation. It also strongly suggests a co-evolution of the metabolism and translation apparatus giving adaptive advantage to the cells where presence of methionine in the environment can be a signal to initiate translation with methionine initiator tRNA.