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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions
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AaRS gene family

Reviewed August 2011

What are the aaRS genes?

Genes in the aaRS gene family provide instructions for making enzymes known as aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. These enzymes are found in all types of cells, where they play an important role in the production (synthesis) of proteins. Protein synthesis begins with a process called transcription. During this process, the information stored in a gene's DNA is transferred to a similar molecule called RNA in the cell nucleus. The type of RNA that contains the information for making a protein is called messenger RNA (mRNA) because it carries the information, or message, from the DNA out of the nucleus.

Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase enzymes are involved in translation, the second step in creating a protein from a gene's instructions. The mRNA interacts with a specialized complex called a ribosome, which "reads" the sequence of mRNA bases (building blocks of RNA and DNA). Each sequence of three bases, called a codon, usually codes for one particular amino acid. (Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.) A type of RNA called transfer RNA (tRNA) assembles the protein, one amino acid at a time. Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases help attach the amino acid to the tRNA.

During protein synthesis, amino acids are linked together in a specific order. Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase enzymes each play a role in adding a specific amino acid at the proper place in a protein's chain of amino acids. For example, the enzyme produced from the GARS gene, glycyl-tRNA synthetase, helps add the amino acid glycine at the proper place in the protein sequence.

Nerve cells (neurons) seem to be particularly sensitive to mutations in aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase genes, and several of these mutations have been associated with neurological disorders. Researchers suggest that genes in this family may have additional functions in neurons that are impaired by some of these mutations. Another possibility is that some mutations may result in an aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase that is folded improperly, which can allow this protein to build up to toxic levels in neurons. The accumulation of misfolded proteins is associated with several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer disease and prion diseases.

Which genes are included in the aaRS gene family?

The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) provides a list of genes in the aaRS family (http://www.genenames.org/genefamilies/aaRS).

Genetics Home Reference summarizes the normal function and health implications of these members of the aaRS gene family: DARS2, GARS, RARS2, and YARS.

What conditions are related to genes in the aaRS gene family?

Genetics Home Reference includes these conditions related to genes in the aaRS gene family:

  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • distal hereditary motor neuropathy, type V
  • leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and lactate elevation
  • pontocerebellar hypoplasia

Where can I find additional information about the aaRS gene family?

You may find the following resources about the aaRS gene family helpful.

  • Molecular Biology of the Cell (fourth edition, 2002): Specific Enzymes Couple Each Amino Acid to Its Appropriate tRNA Molecule (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26829/) (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  • Biochemistry (fifth edition, 2002): Aminoacyl-Transfer-RNA Synthetases Read the Genetic Code (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22425/) (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  • Molecular Cell Biology (fourth edition, 2000): Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases Activate Amino Acids by Linking Them to tRNAs (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21603/) (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

What glossary definitions help with understanding the aaRS gene family?

acids ; amino acid ; cell ; cell nucleus ; codon ; DNA ; enzyme ; gene ; glycine ; messenger RNA ; molecule ; mRNA ; neurological ; nucleus ; prion ; protein ; protein sequence ; RNA ; synthesis ; synthetases ; toxic ; transcription ; transfer RNA ; translation ; tRNA

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary (http://www.ghr.nlm.nih.gov/glossary).

References

These sources were used to develop the Genetics Home Reference summary for the aaRS gene family.

  • Antonellis A, Green ED. The role of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in genetic diseases. Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2008;9:87-107. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.9.081307.164204. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18767960?dopt=Abstract)
  • Park SG, Schimmel P, Kim S. Aminoacyl tRNA synthetases and their connections to disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11043-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802862105. Epub 2008 Aug 5. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18682559?dopt=Abstract)
  • Schimmel P. Development of tRNA synthetases and connection to genetic code and disease. Protein Sci. 2008 Oct;17(10):1643-52. doi: 10.1110/ps.037242.108. Epub 2008 Sep 2. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18765819?dopt=Abstract)

 

The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/findingprofessional) in the Handbook.

 
Reviewed: August 2011
Published: July 21, 2014