Published on Dec. 2, 2002 in EMBO J volume 21.
PubMed ID: 12456664
Taurine (2-aminoethanesulphonic acid), a naturally occurring, sulfur-containing amino acid, is found at high concentrations in mammalian plasma and tissues. Although taurine is involved in a variety of processes in humans, it has never been found as a component of a protein or a nucleic acid, and its precise biochemical functions are not fully understood. Here, we report the identification of two novel taurine-containing modified uridines (5-taurinomethyluridine and 5-taurinomethyl-2-thiouridine) in human and bovine mitochondrial tRNAs. Our work further revealed that these nucleosides are synthesized by the direct incorporation of taurine supplied to the medium. This is the first reported evidence that taurine is a constituent of biological macromolecules, unveiling the prospect of obtaining new insights into the functions and subcellular localization of this abundant amino acid. Since modification of these taurine-containing uridines has been found to be lacking in mutant mitochondrial tRNAs for Leu(UUR) and Lys from pathogenic cells of the mitochondrial encephalomyopathies MELAS and MERRF, respectively, our findings will considerably deepen our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of mitochondrial encephalomyopathic diseases.