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Did Amino Acid Side Chain Reactivity Dictate the Composition and Timing of Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetase Evolution?

Department of Chemistry, Wayne State University, 5101 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These two authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
Current address: Schmid College of Science and Technology, Chapman University, Orange, CA 92866, USA.
§
Current address: Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
Academic Editor: Francesca Tuorto
Genes 2021, 12(3), 409; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12030409
Received: 17 February 2021 / Revised: 5 March 2021 / Accepted: 10 March 2021 / Published: 12 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue tRNAs in Biology)
The twenty amino acids in the standard genetic code were fixed prior to the last universal common ancestor (LUCA). Factors that guided this selection included establishment of pathways for their metabolic synthesis and the concomitant fixation of substrate specificities in the emerging aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs). In this conceptual paper, we propose that the chemical reactivity of some amino acid side chains (e.g., lysine, cysteine, homocysteine, ornithine, homoserine, and selenocysteine) delayed or prohibited the emergence of the corresponding aaRSs and helped define the amino acids in the standard genetic code. We also consider the possibility that amino acid chemistry delayed the emergence of the glutaminyl- and asparaginyl-tRNA synthetases, neither of which are ubiquitous in extant organisms. We argue that fundamental chemical principles played critical roles in fixation of some aspects of the genetic code pre- and post-LUCA. View Full-Text
Keywords: aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase; evolution aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase; evolution
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hendrickson, T.L.; Wood, W.N.; Rathnayake, U.M. Did Amino Acid Side Chain Reactivity Dictate the Composition and Timing of Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetase Evolution? Genes 2021, 12, 409. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12030409

AMA Style

Hendrickson TL, Wood WN, Rathnayake UM. Did Amino Acid Side Chain Reactivity Dictate the Composition and Timing of Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetase Evolution? Genes. 2021; 12(3):409. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12030409

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hendrickson, Tamara L., Whitney N. Wood, and Udumbara M. Rathnayake 2021. "Did Amino Acid Side Chain Reactivity Dictate the Composition and Timing of Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetase Evolution?" Genes 12, no. 3: 409. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12030409

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