From prebiotics to probiotics: The evolution and functions of tRNA modifications

Katherine M. McKenney, Juan D. Alfonzo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


All nucleic acids in cells are subject to post-transcriptional chemical modifications. These are catalyzed by a myriad of enzymes with exquisite specificity and that utilize an often-exotic array of chemical substrates. In no molecule are modifications more prevalent than in transfer RNAs. In the present document, we will attempt to take a chemical rollercoaster ride from prebiotic times to the present, with nucleoside modifications as key players and tRNA as the centerpiece that drove the evolution of biological systems to where we are today. These ideas will be put forth while touching on several examples of tRNA modification enzymes and their modus operandi in cells. In passing, we submit that the choice of tRNA is not a whimsical one but rather highlights its critical function as an essential invention for the evolution of protein enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 14 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Evolution
  • Genetic code
  • tRNA modification


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