RtcB enzymes are novel RNA ligases that join 2',3'-cyclic phosphate and 5'-OH ends. The phylogenetic distribution of RtcB points to its candidacy as a tRNA splicing/repair enzyme. Here we show that Escherichia coli RtcB is competent and sufficient for tRNA splicing in vivo by virtue of its ability to complement growth of yeast cells that lack the endogenous "healing/sealing-type" tRNA ligase Trl1. RtcB also protects yeast trl1Δ cells against a fungal ribotoxin that incises the anticodon loop of cellular tRNAs. Moreover, RtcB can replace Trl1 as the catalyst of HAC1 mRNA splicing during the unfolded protein response. Thus, RtcB is a bona fide RNA repair enzyme with broad physiological actions. Biochemical analysis of RtcB highlights the uniqueness of its active site and catalytic mechanism. Our findings draw attention to tRNA ligase as a promising drug target.
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