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Life, Volume 5, Issue 4 (December 2015) – 10 articles , Pages 1567-1725

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Open AccessReview
Evolutionary Limitation and Opportunities for Developing tRNA Synthetase Inhibitors with 5-Binding-Mode Classification
Life 2015, 5(4), 1703-1725; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041703 - 08 Dec 2015
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 3209
Abstract
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are enzymes that catalyze the transfer of amino acids to their cognate tRNAs as building blocks for translation. Each of the aaRS families plays a pivotal role in protein biosynthesis and is indispensable for cell growth and survival. In addition, [...] Read more.
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are enzymes that catalyze the transfer of amino acids to their cognate tRNAs as building blocks for translation. Each of the aaRS families plays a pivotal role in protein biosynthesis and is indispensable for cell growth and survival. In addition, aaRSs in higher species have evolved important non-translational functions. These translational and non-translational functions of aaRS are attractive for developing antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic agents and for treating other human diseases. The interplay between amino acids, tRNA, ATP, EF-Tu and non-canonical binding partners, had shaped each family with distinct pattern of key sites for regulation, with characters varying among species across the path of evolution. These sporadic variations in the aaRSs offer great opportunity to target these essential enzymes for therapy. Up to this day, growing numbers of aaRS inhibitors have been discovered and developed. Here, we summarize the latest developments and structural studies of aaRS inhibitors, and classify them with distinct binding modes into five categories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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Open AccessEditorial
Protocells Models in Origin of Life and Synthetic Biology
Life 2015, 5(4), 1700-1702; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041700 - 08 Dec 2015
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2484
Abstract
Over recent years, the investigation of protocells (here intended either as primitive cell models, either as synthetic cell-like systems of minimal complexity) has gained prominence in an interdisciplinary field embracing both origins-of-life studies [1–4] and modern synthetic biology [5–10].[...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Protocells - Designs for Life)
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Open AccessReview
Origins and Early Evolution of the tRNA Molecule
Life 2015, 5(4), 1687-1699; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041687 - 03 Dec 2015
Cited by 25 | Viewed by 7061
Abstract
Modern transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are composed of ~76 nucleotides and play an important role as “adaptor” molecules that mediate the translation of information from messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Many studies suggest that the contemporary full-length tRNA was formed by the ligation of half-sized hairpin-like [...] Read more.
Modern transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are composed of ~76 nucleotides and play an important role as “adaptor” molecules that mediate the translation of information from messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Many studies suggest that the contemporary full-length tRNA was formed by the ligation of half-sized hairpin-like RNAs. A minihelix (a coaxial stack of the acceptor stem on the T-stem of tRNA) can function both in aminoacylation by aminoacyl tRNA synthetases and in peptide bond formation on the ribosome, indicating that it may be a vestige of the ancestral tRNA. The universal CCA-3′ terminus of tRNA is also a typical characteristic of the molecule. “Why CCA?” is the fundamental unanswered question, but several findings give a comprehensive picture of its origin. Here, the origins and early evolution of tRNA are discussed in terms of various perspectives, including nucleotide ligation, chiral selectivity of amino acids, genetic code evolution, and the organization of the ribosomal peptidyl transferase center (PTC). The proto-tRNA molecules may have evolved not only as adaptors but also as contributors to the composition of the ribosome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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Open AccessReview
Assessing the Ecophysiology of Methanogens in the Context of Recent Astrobiological and Planetological Studies
Life 2015, 5(4), 1652-1686; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041652 - 03 Dec 2015
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 3447
Abstract
Among all known microbes capable of thriving under extreme and, therefore, potentially extraterrestrial environmental conditions, methanogens from the domain Archaea are intriguing organisms. This is due to their broad metabolic versatility, enormous diversity, and ability to grow under extreme environmental conditions. Several studies [...] Read more.
Among all known microbes capable of thriving under extreme and, therefore, potentially extraterrestrial environmental conditions, methanogens from the domain Archaea are intriguing organisms. This is due to their broad metabolic versatility, enormous diversity, and ability to grow under extreme environmental conditions. Several studies revealed that growth conditions of methanogens are compatible with environmental conditions on extraterrestrial bodies throughout the Solar System. Hence, life in the Solar System might not be limited to the classical habitable zone. In this contribution we assess the main ecophysiological characteristics of methanogens and compare these to the environmental conditions of putative habitats in the Solar System, in particular Mars and icy moons. Eventually, we give an outlook on the feasibility and the necessity of future astrobiological studies concerning methanogens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Archaea: Evolution, Physiology, and Molecular Biology)
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Open AccessReview
tRNA-Derived Fragments (tRFs): Emerging New Roles for an Ancient RNA in the Regulation of Gene Expression
Life 2015, 5(4), 1638-1651; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041638 - 27 Nov 2015
Cited by 114 | Viewed by 5591
Abstract
This review will summarise the recent discoveries and current state of research on short noncoding RNAs derived from tRNAs—known as tRNA-derived fragments (tRFs). It will describe the features of the known subtypes of these RNAs; including sequence characteristics, protein interactors, expression characteristics, biogenesis, [...] Read more.
This review will summarise the recent discoveries and current state of research on short noncoding RNAs derived from tRNAs—known as tRNA-derived fragments (tRFs). It will describe the features of the known subtypes of these RNAs; including sequence characteristics, protein interactors, expression characteristics, biogenesis, and similarity to canonical miRNA pathways. Also their role in regulating gene expression; including mediating translational suppression, will be discussed. We also highlight their potential use as biomarkers, functions in gene regulation and links to disease. Finally, this review will speculate as to the origin and rationale for the conservation of this novel class of noncoding RNAs amongst both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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Open AccessReview
On the Origin of Sequence
Life 2015, 5(4), 1629-1637; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041629 - 16 Nov 2015
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3214
Abstract
Three aspects which make planet Earth special, and which must be taken in consideration with respect to the emergence of peptides, are the mineralogical composition, the Moon which is in the same size class, and the triple environment consisting of ocean, atmosphere, and [...] Read more.
Three aspects which make planet Earth special, and which must be taken in consideration with respect to the emergence of peptides, are the mineralogical composition, the Moon which is in the same size class, and the triple environment consisting of ocean, atmosphere, and continent. GlyGly is a remarkable peptide because it stimulates peptide bond formation in the Salt-Induced Peptide Formation reaction. The role glycine and aspartic acid play in the active site of RNA polymerase is remarkable too. GlyGly might have been the original product of coded peptide synthesis because of its importance in stimulating the production of oligopeptides with a high aspartic acid content, which protected small RNA molecules by binding Mg2+ ions. The feedback loop, which is closed by having RNA molecules producing GlyGly, is proposed as the essential element fundamental to life. Having this system running, longer sequences could evolve, gradually solving the problem of error catastrophe. The basic structure of the standard genetic code (8 fourfold degenerate codon boxes and 8 split codon boxes) is an example of the way information concerning the emergence of life is frozen in the biological constitution of organisms: the structure of the code contains historical information. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology)
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Open AccessReview
Non-Standard Genetic Codes Define New Concepts for Protein Engineering
Life 2015, 5(4), 1610-1628; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041610 - 12 Nov 2015
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 3802
Abstract
The essential feature of the genetic code is the strict one-to-one correspondence between codons and amino acids. The canonical code consists of three stop codons and 61 sense codons that encode 20% of the amino acid repertoire observed in nature. It was originally [...] Read more.
The essential feature of the genetic code is the strict one-to-one correspondence between codons and amino acids. The canonical code consists of three stop codons and 61 sense codons that encode 20% of the amino acid repertoire observed in nature. It was originally designated as immutable and universal due to its conservation in most organisms, but sequencing of genes from the human mitochondrial genomes revealed deviations in codon assignments. Since then, alternative codes have been reported in both nuclear and mitochondrial genomes and genetic code engineering has become an important research field. Here, we review the most recent concepts arising from the study of natural non-standard genetic codes with special emphasis on codon re-assignment strategies that are relevant to engineering genetic code in the laboratory. Recent tools for synthetic biology and current attempts to engineer new codes for incorporation of non-standard amino acids are also reviewed in this article. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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Open AccessArticle
Starvation-Survival in Haloarchaea
Life 2015, 5(4), 1587-1609; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041587 - 12 Nov 2015
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4290
Abstract
Recent studies claiming to revive ancient microorganisms trapped in fluid inclusions in halite have warranted an investigation of long-term microbial persistence. While starvation-survival is widely reported for bacteria, it is less well known for halophilic archaea—microorganisms likely to be trapped in ancient salt [...] Read more.
Recent studies claiming to revive ancient microorganisms trapped in fluid inclusions in halite have warranted an investigation of long-term microbial persistence. While starvation-survival is widely reported for bacteria, it is less well known for halophilic archaea—microorganisms likely to be trapped in ancient salt crystals. To better understand microbial survival in fluid inclusions in ancient evaporites, laboratory experiments were designed to simulate growth of halophilic archaea under media-rich conditions, complete nutrient deprivation, and a controlled substrate condition (glycerol-rich) and record their responses. Haloarchaea used for this work included Hbt. salinarum and isolate DV582A-1 (genus Haloterrigena) sub-cultured from 34 kyear Death Valley salt. Hbt. salinarum and DV582A-1 reacted to nutrient limitation with morphological and population changes. Starved populations increased and most cells converted from rods to small cocci within 56 days of nutrient deprivation. The exact timing of starvation adaptations and the physical transformations differed between species, populations of the same species, and cells of the same population. This is the first study to report the timing of starvation strategies for Hbt. salinarum and DV582A-1. The morphological states in these experiments may allow differentiation between cells trapped with adequate nutrients (represented here by early stages in nutrient-rich media) from cells trapped without nutrients (represented here by experimental starvation) in ancient salt. The hypothesis that glycerol, leaked from Dunaliella, provides nutrients for the survival of haloarchaea trapped in fluid inclusions in ancient halite, is also tested. Hbt. salinarum and DV582A-1 were exposed to a mixture of lysed and intact Dunaliella for 56 days. The ability of these organisms to utilize glycerol from Dunaliella cells was assessed by documenting population growth, cell length, and cell morphology. Hbt. salinarum and DV582A-1 experienced size reductions and shape transitions from rods to cocci. In the short-term, these trends more closely resembled the response of these organisms to starvation conditions than to nutrient-rich media. Results from this experiment reproduced the physical state of cells (small cocci) in ancient halite where prokaryotes co-exist with single-celled algae. We conclude that glycerol is not the limiting factor in the survival of haloarchaea for thousands of years in fluid inclusions in halite. Full article
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Open AccessEditorial
The RNA World: 4,000,000,050 years old
Life 2015, 5(4), 1583-1586; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041583 - 22 Oct 2015
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2950
Abstract
The RNA World is now some four billion years behind us, but only recently turned 50 as a human hypothesis. [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Origins and Early Evolution of RNA)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Non-Conserved Residues in Clostridium acetobutylicum tRNAAla Contribute to tRNA Tuning for Efficient Antitermination of the alaS T Box Riboswitch
Life 2015, 5(4), 1567-1582; https://doi.org/10.3390/life5041567 - 28 Sep 2015
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2976
Abstract
The T box riboswitch regulates expression of amino acid-related genes in Gram-positive bacteria by monitoring the aminoacylation status of a specific tRNA, the binding of which affects the folding of the riboswitch into mutually exclusive terminator or antiterminator structures. Two main pairing interactions [...] Read more.
The T box riboswitch regulates expression of amino acid-related genes in Gram-positive bacteria by monitoring the aminoacylation status of a specific tRNA, the binding of which affects the folding of the riboswitch into mutually exclusive terminator or antiterminator structures. Two main pairing interactions between the tRNA and the leader RNA have been demonstrated to be necessary, but not sufficient, for efficient antitermination. In this study, we used the Clostridium acetobutylicum alaS gene, which encodes alanyl-tRNA synthetase, to investigate the specificity of the tRNA response. We show that the homologous C. acetobutylicum tRNAAla directs antitermination of the C. acetobutylicum alaS gene in vitro, but the heterologous Bacillus subtilis tRNAAla (with the same anticodon and acceptor end) does not. Base substitutions at positions that vary between these two tRNAs revealed synergistic and antagonistic effects. Variation occurs primarily at positions that are not conserved in tRNAAla species, which indicates that these non-conserved residues contribute to optimal antitermination of the homologous alaS gene. This study suggests that elements in tRNAAla may have coevolved with the homologous alaS T box leader RNA for efficient antitermination. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolution of tRNA)
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