Published on Feb. 16, 2004 in J Biol Chem volume 279.
PubMed ID: 14594807
Escherichia coli has eight genes predicted to encode sulfurtransferases having the active site consensus sequence Cys-Xaa-Xaa-Gly. One of these genes, ybbB, is frequently found within bacterial operons that contain selD, the selenophosphate synthetase gene, suggesting a role in selenium metabolism. We show that ybbB is required in vivo for the specific substitution of selenium for sulfur in 2-thiouridine residues in E. coli tRNA. This modified tRNA nucleoside, 5-methylaminomethyl-2-selenouridine (mnm(5)se(2)U), is located at the wobble position of the anticodons of tRNA(Lys), tRNA(Glu), and tRNA(1)(Gln). Nucleoside analysis of tRNAs from wild-type and ybbB mutant strains revealed that production of mnm(5)se(2)U is lost in the ybbB mutant but that 5-methylaminomethyl-2-thiouridine, the mnm(5)se(2)U precursor, is unaffected by deletion of ybbB. Thus, ybbB is not required for the initial sulfurtransferase reaction but rather encodes a 2-selenouridine synthase that replaces a sulfur atom in 2-thiouridine in tRNA with selenium. Purified 2-selenouridine synthase containing a C-terminal His(6) tag exhibited spectral properties consistent with tRNA bound to the enzyme. In vitro mnm(5)se(2)U synthesis is shown to be dependent on 2-selenouridine synthase, SePO(3), and tRNA. Finally, we demonstrate that the conserved Cys(97) (but not Cys(96)) in the rhodanese sequence motif Cys(96)-Cys(97)-Xaa-Xaa-Gly is required for 2-selenouridine synthase in vivo activity. These data are consistent with the ybbB gene encoding a tRNA 2-selenouridine synthase and identifies a new role for the rhodanese homology domain in enzymes.