Electrostatic potential of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase navigates tRNA on its pathway to the binding site

Dmitry Tworowski, Anna V. Feldman, Mark G. Safro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


In the first stage of a diffusion-controlled enzymatic reaction, aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) interact with cognate tRNAs forming non-specific encounters. The aaRSs catalyzing the same overall aminoacylation reaction vary greatly in subunit organization, structural domain composition and amino acid sequence. The diffusional association of aaRS and tRNA was found to be governed by long-range electrostatic interactions when the homogeneous negative potential of tRNA fits to the patches of positive potential produced by aaRS; one patch for each tRNA substrate molecule. Considering aaRS as a molecule with anisotropic reactivity and on the basis of continuum electrostatics and Smoluchowski's theory, the reaction conditions for tRNA-aaRS diffusional encounters were formulated. The domains, categorized as enzymatically relevant, appeared to be non-essential for field sculpturing at long distances. On the other hand, a set of complementary domains exerts primary control on the aaRS isopotential surface formation. Subdividing the aaRS charged residues into native, conservative and non-conservative subsets, we evaluated the contribution of each group to long-range electrostatic potential. Surprisingly, the electrostatic potential landscapes generated by native and non-conservative subsets are fairly similar, thus suggesting the non-conservative subset is developed specifically for efficient tRNA attraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)866-882
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 29 Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase
  • Continuum electrostatics
  • Encounter complex
  • Protein-RNA recognition
  • tRNA


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