Background: A large number of post-transcriptional modifications of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) have been described in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. They are known to influence their stability, turnover, and chemical/physical properties. A specific subset of tRNAs contains a thiolated uridine residue at the wobble position to improve the codon-anticodon interaction and translational accuracy. The proteins involved in tRNA thiolation are reminiscent of prokaryotic sulfur transfer reactions and of the ubiquitylation process in eukaryotes. In plants, some of the proteins involved in this process have been identified and show a high degree of homology to their non-plant equivalents. For other proteins, the identification of the plant homologs is much less clear, due to the low conservation in protein sequence.
Results: This manuscript describes the identification of CTU2, the second CYTOPLASMIC THIOURIDYLASE protein of Arabidopsis thaliana. CTU2 is essential for tRNA thiolation and interacts with ROL5, the previously identified CTU1 homolog of Arabidopsis. CTU2 is ubiquitously expressed, yet its activity seems to be particularly important in root tissue. A ctu2 knock-out mutant shows an alteration in root development.
Conclusions: The analysis of CTU2 adds a new component to the so far characterized protein network involved in tRNA thiolation in Arabidopsis. CTU2 is essential for tRNA thiolation as a ctu2 mutant fails to perform this tRNA modification. The identified Arabidopsis CTU2 is the first CTU2-type protein from plants to be experimentally verified, which is important considering the limited conservation of these proteins between plant and non-plant species. Based on the Arabidopsis protein sequence, CTU2-type proteins of other plant species can now be readily identified.