Sequence- and Structure-Specific tRNA Dihydrouridylation by hDUS2

Jingwei Ji, Nathan J. Yu, Ralph E. Kleiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The post-transcriptional reduction of uridine to dihydrouridine (D) by dihydrouridine synthase (DUS) enzymes is among the most ubiquitous transformations in RNA biology. D is found at multiple sites in tRNAs, and studies in yeast have proposed that each of the four eukaryotic DUS enzymes modifies a different site; however, the molecular basis for this exquisite selectivity is unknown, and human DUS enzymes have remained largely uncharacterized. Here we investigate the substrate specificity of human dihydrouridine synthase 2 (hDUS2) using mechanism-based cross-linking with 5-bromouridine (5-BrUrd)-modified oligonucleotide probes and in vitro dihydrouridylation assays. We find that hDUS2 exclusively modifies U20 across diverse tRNA substrates and identify a minimal GU sequence within the tRNA D loop that underlies selective substrate modification. Further, we use our mechanism-based platform to screen small molecule inhibitors of hDUS2, a potential anticancer target. Our work elucidates the principles of substrate modification by a conserved DUS and provides a general platform for studying RNA modifying enzymes with sequence-defined activity-based probes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Central Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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