The 400-MHz 1 H NMR spectra of L-isoleucine and L-valine were measured in the presence of Escherichia coli isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase (IleRS). Because of chemical exchange of L-isoleucine or L-valine between the free state and the IleRS-bound state, a transferred nuclear Overhauser effect (TRNOE) was observed among proton resonances of L-isoleucine or L-valine. However, in the presence of isoleucyl adenylate tightly bound to the amino acid activation site of IleRS, no TRNOE for L-isoleucine or L-valine was observed. This indicates that the observed TRNOE is due to the interaction of L-isoleucine or L-valine with the amino acid activation site of IleRS. The conformations of these amino acids in the amino acid activation site of IleRS were determined by the analyses of time dependences of TRNOEs and TRNOE action spectra. The IleRS-bound L-isoleucine takes the gauche + form about the C α -C β bond and the trans form about the C β -C γ1 bond. The IleRS-bound L-valine takes the gauche - form about the C α -C β bond. Thus, the conformation of IleRS-bound L-valine is the same as that of IleRS-bound L-isoleucine except for the δ-methyl group. The side chain of L-isoleucine or L-valine lies in an aliphatic hydrophobic pocket of the active site of IleRS. Such hydrophobic interaction with IleRS is more significant for L-isoleucine than for L-valine. The TRNOE analysis is useful for studying the amino acid discrimination mechanism of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.
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