Small but large enough : structural properties of armless mitochondrial tRNAs from the nematode Romanomermis culicivorax

  • As adapter molecules to convert the nucleic acid information into the amino acid sequence, tRNAs play a central role in protein synthesis. To fulfill this function in a reliable way, tRNAs exhibit highly conserved structural features common in all organisms and in all cellular compartments active in translation. However, in mitochondria of metazoans, certain dramatic deviations from the consensus tRNA structure are described, where some tRNAs lack the D- or T-arm without losing their function. In Enoplea, this miniaturization comes to an extreme, and functional mitochondrial tRNAs can lack both arms, leading to a considerable size reduction. Here, we investigate the secondary and tertiary structure of two such armless tRNAs from Romanomermis culicivorax. Despite their high AU content, the transcripts fold into a single and surprisingly stable hairpin structure, deviating from standard tRNAs. The three-dimensional form is boomerang-like and diverges from the standard L-shape. These results indicate that such unconventional miniaturized tRNAs can still fold into a tRNA-like shape, although their length and secondary structure are very unusual. They highlight the remarkable flexibility of the protein synthesis apparatus and suggest that the translational machinery of Enoplea mitochondria may show compensatory adaptations to accommodate these armless tRNAs for efficient translation.

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Author:Tina Jühling, Elke Duchardt-FernerORCiD, Sonja Bonin, Jens WöhnertORCiDGND, Joern Pütz, Catherine Florentz, Heike Betat, Claude Sauter, Mario Mörl
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):Nucleic acids research
Publisher:Oxford Univ. Press
Place of publication:Oxford
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Date of first Publication:2018/07/09
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2019/08/29
Tag:RNA and RNA-protein complexes
Page Number:11
First Page:9170
Last Page:9180
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact
Institutes:Biowissenschaften / Biowissenschaften
Wissenschaftliche Zentren und koordinierte Programme / Zentrum für Biomolekulare Magnetische Resonanz (BMRZ)
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 59 Tiere (Zoologie) / 590 Tiere (Zoologie)
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell 4.0