- ItemOpen AccessModification of orthogonal tRNAs: unexpected consequences for sense codon reassignment(Colorado State University. Libraries, 2016-10-23) Biddle, Wil, author; Schmitt, Margaret A., author; Fisk, John D., author; Oxford University Press, publisherBreaking the degeneracy of the genetic code via sense codon reassignment has emerged as a way to incorporate multiple copies of multiple non-canonical amino acids into a protein of interest. Here, we report the modification of a normally orthogonal tRNA by a host enzyme and show that this adventitious modification has a direct impact on the activity of the orthogonal tRNA in translation. We observed nearly equal decoding of both histidine codons, CAU and CAC, by an engineered orthogonal M. jannaschii tRNA with an AUG anticodon: tRNAOpt. We suspected a modification of the tRNAOptAUG anticodon was responsible for the anomalous lack of codon discrimination and demonstrate that adenosine 34 of tRNAOptAUG is converted to inosine. We identified tRNAOptAUG anticodon loop variants that increase reassignment of the histidine CAU codon, decrease incorporation in response to the histidine CAC codon, and improve cell health and growth profiles. Recognizing tRNA modification as both a potential pitfall and avenue of directed alteration will be important as the field of genetic code engineering continues to infiltrate the genetic codes of diverse organisms.