About employee

prof. dr. sc. Ita Gruić Sovulj

Title: Full Professor

Public phone number:
+385 1 4606 230
Internal phone number:

Teaching duties

university undergraduate

university graduate

university doctoral


Education at Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb: Diploma thesis (Chemistry, 1993); Master degree thesis (Chemistry, Biochemistry, 1998); Doctoral thesis (Chemistry, Biochemistry, 2001).

Affiliation and current position: Division of Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb: Assistant (1994-2005), Assistant Professor (2005-2012), Associate professor (2012-2018), Full professor (2018- )

Visits to foreign research and education institutions: 1996-1997 Institute of Medical Physics and Biophysics, Muenster, Germany, work on MALDI-mass spectrometry of nucleic acids and non-covalent complexes of proteins and nucleic acids in the group of Prof. Franz Hillenkamp and Prof. Jasna Peter Katalinić (four month visit, DAAD fellowship); 2003-2004 University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, US, gaining expertise in steady state and transient kinetic methods in enzymology in the group of Prof. John Perona (one year post-doctoral visit; NATO-NSF fellowship)

Research interest: research in my group is concentrated on the mechanisms that ensure high level of specificity in protein translation. We investigate aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS) and their specificity in recognition of amino acid substrates in aminoacylation reaction. We intensively study the proofreading mechanisms employed by some aaRSs to ensure high level of specificity in aminoacyl-tRNA synthesis when initial enzyme discrimination against similar non-cognate amino acids is limiting. Using genetic and proteomic approaches we investigate requirement for proofreading under different growth conditions. Recently, we became interested in non-canonical mistranslation and production of the proteins containing non-canonical amino acids. In our work we use standard biochemical and molecular biology methods, steady-state and transient enzyme kinetics, biophysical techniques (ITC, fluorescence, MST), computational and genetic approaches.

Major collaborations:

Prof. John J. Perona, Portland State University, Oregon, US – mechanisms of prooferading by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases

Prof. Boris Lenhard, Imperial College London, UK – evolution of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases

Prof. Steven Cusack, EMBL Grenoble, France – structure/function relationship in leucyl-tRNA synthesis

Prof. Boris Maček, Tübingen Proteome Center, Germany – proteomic approaches in studying mistranslation

Prof. Nediljko Budiša, Technical University Berlin, Germany – incorporation of artificial amino acids in proteins

Prof. Dan Tawfik, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel - evolution of proofreading mechanisms in protein synthesis

Scientific papers: Author of 34 scientific papers (16 Q1 and 9 Q2) and one chapter in the textbook approved by University of Zagreb. Number of citations is 560 and h-index is 12 (SCOPUS database).

Awards and recognitions and memberships: Member of the Croatian Chemical Society; Member of the Croatian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Member of the editorial board of the journal Croatica Chemica Acta. In 2014. I was granted National Science Awards the Republic of Croatia (Annual Science Award) for an outstanding scientific discovery in the field of protein synthesis.

Published papers recorded in the Croatian Scientific Bibliography Database (CROSBI)

Note: this list of papers is located in an maintained by the Ruđer Bošković Institute which is in charge of the Croatian Scientific Bibliography Database (CROSBI). This link will take you to the appropriate CROSBI page of this person, containing a list of papers they have themselves entered in the database.
For further information and for instructions on changing the above data, please contact help@bib.irb.hr.

List of select publications

1. Dulic M, Cvetesic N, Zivkovic I, Palencia A, Cusack S, Bertosa B, Gruic-Sovulj IKinetic Origin of Substrate Specificity in Post-Transfer Editing by Leucyl-tRNA Synthetase. J Mol Biol. 430 (2018) 1–16

2. Völler JS, Dulic M, Gerling-Driessen UI, Biava H, Baumann T, Budisa N*, Gruic-Sovulj I,*, Koksch B*. Discovery and Investigation of Natural Editing Function against Artificial Amino Acids in Protein Translation. ACS Cent Sci. 3 (2017) 73-80

* corresponding authors

3. Cvetesic N, Dulic M, Bilus M, Sostaric N, Lenhard B, Gruic-Sovulj I. Naturally Ocurring Isoleucyl-tRNA-synthetase without tRNA-Dependent Pre-Transfer Editing, J Biol Chem 291 (2016) 8618-31.

4. Cvetesic N, Palencia A, Halasz I, Cusack S, Gruic-Sovulj I. The physiological target for LeuRS translational quality control is norvaline. EMBO J. 33 (2014) 1639-53

5. Perona JJ, Gruic-Sovulj I. Synthetic and editing mechanisms of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. Top Curr Chem. 344 (2014) 1-41. Review.

6. Cvetesic, N., Perona J.J., Gruic-Sovulj, I. Kinetic partitioning between synthetic and editing pathways in class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases occurs at both pre-transfer and post-transfer hydrolytic steps, J Biol Chem. 287 (2012) 25381-94.

7. Dulic,  M., Cvetesic, N., Perona, J.J., Gruic-Sovulj, I. Partitioning of tRNA-dependent Editing Between Pre- and Post-transfer Pathways in Class I Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases, J. Biol. Chem. 285 (2010) 23799-23809.

List of select projects

Principal investigator on the following projects:

2018-2020 Cellular responses to canonical and non-canonical mistranslation

Ministry of Science and education of the Republic of Croatia and DAAD 

PIs: Ita Gruić Sovulj i Boris Maček


 2017-2021  Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases as gatekeepers of the standard genetic code

 Croatian science foundation

 PI: Ita Gruić Sovulj


2014-2016 Role of translational quality control mechanisms in maintaining the functional Escherichia coli proteome

Ministry of Science and education of the Republic of Croatia and DAAD 

PIs: Ita Gruić Sovulj i Boris Maček


2013-2016 Noncanonical roles of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases

Croatian science foundation

PIs: Ivana Weygand-Đurašević i Ita Gruić Sovulj


 2013-2016   Integrating research in molecular life sciences at the University of   Zagreb (INTEGRA-LIFE)


 PI: Gordan Lauc; WP4: Ita Gruić Sovulj, Jasmina Rokov Plavec, Ivana   Weygand-Đurašević


2013-2015  The origin of amino acid specificity in editing class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and cellular requirements for proofreading

Unity Through Knowledge Fund

PI: Ita Gruić Sovulj

CoPI: Boris Lenhard


2011-2013 Mapping of the isoleucyl-tRNA synthetase active site aimed to develop new inhibitors

Adris foundation

PI: Ita Gruić Sovulj


2008-2011 Mechanism of proofreading by class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases


PIs: John J. Perona i Ita Gruic Sovulj