Adenosine-to-inosine conversion at position 34 (A34-to-I) of certain tRNAs is essential for expanding their decoding capacity. This reaction is catalyzed by the adenosine deaminase acting on tRNA (ADAT) complex, which in Eukarya is formed by two subunits: ADAT2 and ADAT3. We herein identified and thoroughly characterized the ADAT molecules from the protozoan pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas Disease. TcADAT2 and TcADAT3 spontaneously form a catalytically active complex, as shown by expression in engineered bacteria and/or by the increased ex vivo tRNA A-to-I deamination activity of T. cruzi epimastigotes overexpressing TcADAT subunits. Importantly, enhanced TcADAT2/3 activity in transgenic parasites caused a shift in their in vivo tRNAThrAGU signature, which correlated with significant changes in the expression of the Thr-rich TcSMUG proteins. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence indicating that T. cruzi tRNA editing can be modulated in vivo, in turn post-transcriptionally changing the expression of specific genes. Our findings suggest tRNA editing/availability as a forcible step in controlling gene expression and driving codon adaptation in T. cruzi. Moreover, we unveil certain differences between parasite and mammalian host tRNA editing and processing, such as cytosine-to-uridine conversion at position 32 of tRNAThrAGU in T. cruzi, that may be exploited for the identification of novel druggable targets of intervention.

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