Translation elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) delivers aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) to ribosomes in protein synthesis. EF-Tu generally recognizes aminoacyl moieties and acceptor- and T-stems of aa-tRNAs. However, nematode mitochondrial (mt) tRNAs frequently lack all or part of the T-arm that is recognized by canonical EF-Tu. We previously reported that two distinct EF-Tu species, EF-Tu1 and EF-Tu2, respectively, recognize mt tRNAs lacking T-arms and D-arms in the mitochondria of the chromadorean nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. C. elegans EF-Tu2 specifically recognizes the seryl moiety of serylated D-armless tRNAs. Mitochondria of the enoplean nematode Trichinella possess three structural types of tRNAs: T-armless tRNAs, D-armless tRNAs, and cloverleaf tRNAs with a short T-arm. Trichinella mt EF-Tu1 binds to all three types and EF-Tu2 binds only to D-armless Ser-tRNAs, showing an evolutionary intermediate state from canonical EF-Tu to chromadorean nematode (e.g. C. elegans) EF-Tu species. We report here that two EF-Tu species also participate in Drosophila melanogaster mitochondria. Both D. melanogaster EF-Tu1 and EF-Tu2 bound to cloverleaf and D-armless tRNAs. D. melanogaster EF-Tu1 has the ability to recognize T-armless tRNAs that do not evidently exist in D. melanogaster mitochondria, but do exist in related arthropod species. In addition, D. melanogaster EF-Tu2 preferentially bound to aa-tRNAs carrying small amino acids, but not to aa-tRNAs carrying bulky amino acids. These results suggest that the Drosophila mt translation system could be another intermediate state between the canonical and nematode mitochondria-type translation systems.

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