The binding of the codon UUC to the isolated anticodon loop of tRNAPhe (yeast) has been studied as a model of codon recognition by a simple adaptor. Fluorescence titrations demonstrate that UUC binds to the isolated anticodon loop with an equilibrium constant of 1.4 x 103M-1(at 7.2 °C). Equilibrium sedimentation curves reveal that UUC binding induces association of anticodon loops beyond the dimer stage. A set of complete sedimentation curves obtained for various reactant concentrations was analyzed according to a model with an infinite number of subsequent association steps for UUC-anticodon loop complexes and with equal affinity for each step. The coupling of association and sedimentation was considered quantitatively, and the information resulting from conservation of mass was used by integration. According to this procedure, the experimental data can be described by an isodesmic association constant of 8 x 103M-1 with satisfactory accuracy. Temperature-jump relaxation detected by fluorescence measurements provides independent evidence for codon-induced association of the anticodon loop. The data are consistent with the following mechanism: UUC preferentially binds to one of two loop conformations with a rate constant of 4.5 x 106M-1 s-1; the UUC-anticodon loop complex undergoes association with a rate constant of 6.5 x 106M-1 s-1. The reactions observed for the isolated anticodon loop are surprisingly similar to those observed previously for the complete tRNA, suggesting that simple hairpin loops are appropriate adaptors for a translation process at an early stage of evolution; the codon-induced association of the hairpin loop should be very useful to facilitate the transfer of cognate amino acids during translation.
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