tRNA binding to the ribosomal P site is dependent not only on correct codon–anticodon interaction but also involves identification of structural elements of tRNA by the ribosome. By using a phosphorothioate substitution–interference approach, we identified specific nonbridging Rp-phosphate oxygens in the anticodon loop of tRNAPhe from Escherichia coli which are required for P-site binding. Stereo-specific involvement of phosphate oxygens at these positions was confirmed by using synthetic anticodon arm analogues at which single Rp- or Sp-phosphorothioates were incorporated. Identical interference results with yeast tRNAPhe and E. coli tRNAfMet indicate a common backbone conformation or common recognition elements in the anticodon loop of tRNAs. N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea modification–interference experiments with natural tRNAs point to the importance of the same phosphates in the loop. Guided by the crystal structure of tRNAPhe, we propose that specific Rp-phosphate oxygens are required for anticodon loop (“U-turn”) stabilization or are involved in interactions with the ribosome on correct tRNA–mRNA complex formation
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