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An In Vitro Assay to Detect tRNA-Isopentenyl Transferase Activity

Published: October 8th, 2018



1Department of Biology, Ball State University, 2Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, 3Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan
* These authors contributed equally

Here, we describe a protocol for the biochemical characterization of the yeast RNA-modifying enzyme, Mod5, and discuss how this protocol could be applied to other RNA-modifying enzymes.

N6-isopentenyladenosine RNA modifications are functionally diverse and highly conserved among prokaryotes and eukaryotes. One of the most highly conserved N6-isopentenyladenosine modifications occurs at the A37 position in a subset of tRNAs. This modification improves translation efficiency and fidelity by increasing the affinity of the tRNA for the ribosome. Mutation of enzymes responsible for this modification in eukaryotes are associated with several disease states, including mitochondrial dysfunction and cancer. Therefore, understanding the substrate specificity and biochemical activities of these enzymes is important for understanding of normal and pathologic eukaryotic biology. A diverse array of methods has been employed to characterize i6A modifications. Herein is described a direct approach for the detection of isopentenylation by Mod5. This method utilizes incubation of RNAs with a recombinant isopentenyl transferase, followed by RNase T1 digestion, and 1-dimensional gel electrophoresis analysis to detect i6A modifications. In addition, the potential adaptability of this protocol to characterize other RNA-modifying enzymes is discussed.

At least 163 distinct posttranscriptional RNA modifications have been identified, with these modifications conferring diverse and context-dependent functions to RNAs, directly influencing RNA structure, and affecting interactions of RNA with other molecules1,2. As the appreciation for the number and variety of RNA modifications increases, it is critical to develop assays that can reliably interrogate both the RNA modifications and the enzymes that catalyze them.

One of the first RNA modifications to be identified occurs at base 37 in tRNAs, adjacent to the anti-codon on the 3' s....

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NOTE: The protocol was adapted from Ref. 24.

1. Obtain RNA and Enzyme of Interest

  1. Use in vitro transcribed RNAs internally labeled with 32P, and recombinant His6-Mod5 expressed in and purified from E. coli, as previously described24.
    1. Introduce in vitro transcribed RNAs (section 3) using T7 RNA polymerase in the presence of unlabeled ATP, UTP, CTP, GTP and 10 µCi of gel-purified, e.......

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Mod5 was incubated with a tyrosine tRNA or serine tRNA in the presence or absence of DMAPP. Following the modification reaction, products were RNase T1-digested, which cleaves the 3' end of all guanosines leaving a 3' guanosine monophosphates (GMP)24 (Figure 1). Full digestion of the RNAs produces a predictable pattern of radiolabeled fragments (Figure 2A), which are then resolved .......

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RNA modifications continue to be shown to play ever more important and diverse roles in cellular and organismal function. As such, the development of assays to interrogate RNA modifying enzymes is central to better understanding the fundamental aspects of biology. This protocol describes a high-resolution in vitro assay to characterize the tRNA modification activity of Mod5.

This protocol has the distinct advantage of providing a direct, and easily interpretable readout of isopentenyl.......

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We would like to thank Dr. David Engelke for his guidance and helpful comments on this manuscript. PJS - Ball State University laboratory startup funds; DAB - grant 1R15AI130950-01.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
UreaGel Concentrate National Diagnostics EC-833 As part of a kit
UreaGel Diluent National Diagnostics EC-833 As part of a kit
UreaGel Buffer National Diagnostics EC-833 As part of a kit
10x TBE National Diagnostics EC-833 As part of a kit
Ammonium persulfate (APS) Sigma-Aldrich 7727-54-0
N,N,N′,N′-Tetramethylethylenediamine (TMED) Sigma-Aldrich T9281
Tris base Sigma-Aldrich T1503
Boric acid Sigma-Aldrich 10043-35-3
EDTA Sigma-Aldrich 60-00-4
ATP Sigma-Aldrich 34369-07-8
MgCl2 Sigma-Aldrich 7786-30-3
DMAPP Caymen Chemical 1186-30-7
Super RNaseIN ThermoFisher Scientific AM2694
2-mercaptoethanol Sigma-Aldrich 60-24-2
Ethanol Sigma-Aldrich 64-17-5
Sodiume acetate Sigma-Aldrich 127-09-3
Rnase T1 ThermoFisher Scientific EN0541
Glycerol Sigma-Aldrich 56-81-5
Xylene cyanol Sigma-Aldrich 2650-17-1
Equipment and Supplies
Short glass plates (20-40 cm W x 40 cm L) The Gel Company
Long glass plates (20-40 cm W x 40 cm L) The Gel Company
Vertical gel apparatus The Gel Company S2-3040
50 mL disposable syringe Fisher Scientific 03-377-26
Stainless steel binder clips Idea Scientific 1066
Phosphoscreen Sigma-Aldrich 28-9564-74
Plastic wrap (local grocery store)

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