We have found the gene for a translation elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) homologue in the genome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Because the corresponding protein was detected immunologically in a nematode mitochondrial (mt) extract, it could be regarded as a nematode mt EF-Tu. The protein possesses an extension of about 57 amino acids (we call this domain 3′) at the C terminus, which is not found in any other known EF-Tu. Because most nematode mt tRNAs lack a T stem, domain 3′ may be related to this feature. The nematode EF-Tu bound to nematode T stem-lacking tRNA, but bacterial EF-Tu was unable to do so. A series of domain exchange experiments strongly suggested that domains 3 and 3′ are essential for binding to T stem-lacking tRNAs. This finding may constitute a novel example of the co-evolution of a structurally simplified RNA and the cognate RNA-binding protein, the latter having apparently acquired an additional domain to compensate for the lack of a binding site(s) on the RNA.
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