Preparation of aminoacylated tRNAs and analogues

The ribosome-mediated, site-specific incorporation of unnatural amino acids into proteins is a powerful tool for creating protein analogues with specific steric, chemical, electronic or spectroscopic properties, in vitro and in vivo. The required aminoacylated tRNA analogues are prepared semisynthetically, by ribozyme-catalyzed amino acid transfer from short aminoacylated RNA sequences, from complementary PNA amino acid thioesters or by modified aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. The common semisynthetic preparation of aminoacylated tRNA analogues is based on the ligation of aminoacylated dimers with a truncated tRNA, produced by run-off transcription. However, the presence of overtranscripts and the lability of the amino acid/nucleotide ester bond represent a severe limitation in terms of purity and efficiency of this ligation reaction. In this context, we first have optimized the in vitro RNA transcription reaction to obtain a straightforward access to homogeneous truncated tRNAs. We found that addition of 3.5 equivalents of GMP results not only in the selective formation of transcripts with 5'-monophosphate termini, but also in the formation of less overtranscripts without affecting the yield. Moreover, we have investigated the purification of in vitro transcription reaction mixtures by anion exchange HPLC, resulting in a simple and efficient isolation/purification protocol (Chapter 2.1). We have prepared tRNAs aminoacylated with L-lysine -BODIPY and L-lysine-fluorescein conjugates, respectively, by efficient blunt-end ligation of a corresponding, protected and stabilized aminoacylated dimer with truncated tRNAs. The resulting protected and stabilized aminoacylated tRNAs could be characterized by ESI-MS. The presence of two photolabile groups at the 3'-terminal 2'-OH group and on the α-amino group of the amino acid allowed an efficient preparation and purification of the aminoacylated tRNA analogues and to store them for an unlimited time at -20° (Chapter 2.2). Although RNA transcription is an easy method to prepare truncated tRNAs, this method suffers from severe limitations to introduce modified nucleotides into tRNAs. To overcome this limitation, we have optimized their preparation from synthetic RNA fragments by T4-DNA ligase mediated ligation reactions. An amber suppressor tRNA derived from the E.coli tRNAPhe was used as model system and a ligation from three RNA fragments was investigated. Specifically, the design of the templates and the reaction conditions were evaluated and optimized. We found that 2'-OMeRNA templates or DNA/2'-OMeRNA hybrid templates could lead to a significantly better conversion than the commonly employed DNA templates. Under optimized conditions, the full tRNA could be assembled with an efficiency of 65% (Chapter 2.3). Finally within the context of a new concept for tRNA aminoacylation, we have prepared a biotinyl-lysine tRNA containing a 3'-terminal 2'-deoxy-2'-thioadenosine. The new concept was developed in our group by S. Porcher and M. Meyyappan, who found that such RNA analogues react efficiently, spontaneously and site-specifically with weakly activated amino acid thioesters in buffered aqueous solutions and under a wide range of conditions (Chapter 2.4). Some efforts towards the development of translation assays are described. Unfortunately, the corresponding experiments were not successful (Chapter 2.5).


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