Aminoacylation of tRNA generates an aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) that is active for protein synthesis on the ribosome. Quantification of aminoacylation of tRNA is critical to understand the mechanism of specificity and the flux of the aa-tRNA into the protein synthesis machinery, which determines the rate of cell growth. Traditional assays for the quantification of tRNA aminoacylation involve radioactivity, either with a radioactive amino acid or with a [3'-32P]-labeled tRNA. We describe here a label-free assay that monitors aminoacylation by biotinylation-streptavidin (SA) conjugation to the α-amine or the α-imine of the aminoacyl group on the aa-tRNA. The conjugated aa-tRNA product is readily separated from the unreacted tRNA by a denaturing polyacrylamide gel, allowing for quantitative measurement of aminoacylation. This label-free assay is applicable to a wide range of amino acids and tRNA sequences and to both classes of aminoacylation. It is more sensitive and robust than the assay with a radioactive amino acid and has the potential to explore a wider range of tRNA than the assay with a [3'-32P]-labeled tRNA. This label-free assay reports kinetic parameters of aminoacylation quantitatively similar to those reported by using a radioactive amino acid, suggesting its broad applicability to research relevant to human health and disease.
Gamper, Howard and Hou, Ya-Ming, "A Label-Free Assay for Aminoacylation of tRNA" (2020). Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 173.
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