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X-ray structure of the fourth type of archaeal tRNA splicing endonuclease: insights into the evolution of a novel three-unit composition and a unique loop involved in broad substrate specificity


Cleavage of introns from precursor transfer RNAs (tRNAs) by tRNA splicing endonuclease (EndA) is essential for tRNA maturation in Archaea and Eukarya. In the past, archaeal EndAs were classified into three types (α'2, α4 and α2β2) according to subunit composition. Recently, we have identified a fourth type of archaeal EndA from an uncultivated archaeon Candidatus Micrarchaeum acidiphilum, referred to as ARMAN-2, which is deeply branched within Euryarchaea. The ARMAN-2 EndA forms an ε2 homodimer and has broad substrate specificity like the α2β2 type EndAs found in Crenarchaea and Nanoarchaea. However, the precise architecture of ARMAN-2 EndA was unknown. Here, we report the crystal structure of the ε2 homodimer of ARMAN-2 EndA. The structure reveals that the ε protomer is separated into three novel units (αN, α and βC) fused by two distinct linkers, although the overall structure of ARMAN-2 EndA is similar to those of the other three types of archaeal EndAs. Structural comparison and mutational analyses reveal that an ARMAN-2 type-specific loop (ASL) is involved in the broad substrate specificity and that K161 in the ASL functions as the RNA recognition site. These findings suggest that the broad substrate specificities of ε2 and α2β2 EndAs were separately acquired through different evolutionary processes.

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