Human SAMD9 is a poxvirus-activatable anticodon nuclease inhibiting codon-specific protein synthesis

Fushun Zhang, Quanquan Ji, Juhi Chaturvedi, Marisol Morales, Yuanhui Mao, Xiangzhi Meng, Leiming Dong, Junpeng Deng, Shu Bing Qian, Yan Xiang

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6 Scopus citations


As a defense strategy against viruses or competitors, some microbes use anticodon nucleases (ACNases) to deplete essential tRNAs, effectively halting global protein synthesis. However, this mechanism has not been observed in multicellular eukaryotes. Here, we report that human SAMD9 is an ACNase that specifically cleaves phenylalanine tRNA (tRNAPhe), resulting in codon-specific ribosomal pausing and stress signaling. While SAMD9 ACNase activity is normally latent in cells, it can be activated by poxvirus infection or rendered constitutively active by SAMD9 mutations associated with various human disorders, revealing tRNAPhe depletion as an antiviral mechanism and a pathogenic condition in SAMD9 disorders. We identified the N-terminal effector domain of SAMD9 as the ACNase, with substrate specificity primarily determined by a eukaryotic tRNAPhe-specific 2'-O-methylation at the wobble position, making virtually all eukaryotic tRNAPhe susceptible to SAMD9 cleavage. Notably, the structure and substrate specificity of SAMD9 ACNase differ from known microbial ACNases, suggesting convergent evolution of a common immune defense strategy targeting tRNAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereadh8502
JournalScience Advances
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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