Unraveling the Riddle of ProCys tRNA Synthetase

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Science  21 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5452, pp. 440-441
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5452.440

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Protein synthesis depends on the ability of the 20 aminoacyl tRNA synthetases to add the correct amino acid to the transfer RNA (tRNA) containing the corresponding anticodon. Although in most organisms it transpires that there is one synthetase for each amino acid, some archaea are a puzzle because they do not appear to have a synthetase for cysteine even though their proteins contain this amino acid. In a Perspective, Yarus explains new findings ( Stathopoulos et al.) showing that the synthetase that adds proline to the proline-specific tRNA can also add cysteine to the cysteine-specific tRNA. He suggests several possible arrangements of the active sites of the dual synthetase that might raise new evolutionary questions.