skip to main content

Title: Structure of the bacterial ribosome at 2 Å resolution
Using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), we determined the structure of the Escherichia coli 70S ribosome with a global resolution of 2.0 Å. The maps reveal unambiguous positioning of protein and RNA residues, their detailed chemical interactions, and chemical modifications. Notable features include the first examples of isopeptide and thioamide backbone substitutions in ribosomal proteins, the former likely conserved in all domains of life. The maps also reveal extensive solvation of the small (30S) ribosomal subunit, and interactions with A-site and P-site tRNAs, mRNA, and the antibiotic paromomycin. The maps and models of the bacterial ribosome presented here now allow a deeper phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal components including structural conservation to the level of solvation. The high quality of the maps should enable future structural analysis of the chemical basis for translation and aid the development of robust tools for cryo-EM structure modeling and refinement.
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract The ribosome serves as the universally conserved translator of the genetic code into proteins and supports life across diverse temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 120°C. Ribosomes are capable of functioning across this wide range of temperatures even though the catalytic site for peptide bond formation, the peptidyl transferase center, is nearly universally conserved. Here we find that Thermoproteota, a phylum of thermophilic Archaea, substitute cytidine for uridine at large subunit rRNA positions 2554 and 2555 (Escherichia coli numbering) in the A loop, immediately adjacent to the binding site for the 3′-end of A-site tRNA. We show by cryo-EM that E. coli ribosomes with uridine to cytidine mutations at these positions retain the proper fold and post-transcriptional modification of the A loop. Additionally, these mutations do not affect cellular growth, protect the large ribosomal subunit from thermal denaturation, and increase the mutational robustness of nucleotides in the peptidyl transferase center. This work identifies sequence variation across archaeal ribosomes in the peptidyl transferase center that likely confers stabilization of the ribosome at high temperatures and develops a stable mutant bacterial ribosome that can act as a scaffold for future ribosome engineering efforts.
  2. The structural and regulatory elements in therapeutically relevant RNAs offer many opportunities for targeting by small molecules, yet fundamental understanding of what drives selectivity in small molecule:RNA recognition has been a recurrent challenge. In particular, RNAs tend to be more dynamic and offer less chemical functionality than proteins, and biologically active ligands must compete with the highly abundant and highly structured RNA of the ribosome. Indeed, the only small molecule drug targeting RNA other than the ribosome was just approved in August 2020, and our recent survey of the literature revealed fewer than 150 reported chemical probes that target non-ribosomal RNA in biological systems. This Feature outlines our efforts to improve small molecule targeting strategies and gain fundamental insights into small molecule:RNA recognition by analyzing patterns in both RNA-biased small molecule chemical space and RNA topological space privileged for differentiation. First, we synthesized libraries based on RNA binding scaffolds that allowed us to reveal general principles in small molecule:recognition and to ask precise chemical questions about drivers of affinity and selectivity. Elaboration of these scaffolds has led to recognition of medicinally relevant RNA targets, including viral and long noncoding RNA structures. More globally, we identified physicochemical, structural, and spatial propertiesmore »of biologically active RNA ligands that are distinct from those of protein-targeted ligands, and we have provided the dataset and associated analytical tools as part of a publicly available online platform to facilitate RNA ligand discovery. At the same time, we used pattern recognition protocols to identify RNA topologies that can be differentially recognized by small molecules and have elaborated this technique to visualize conformational changes in RNA secondary structure. These fundamental insights into the drivers of RNA recognition in vitro have led to functional targeting of RNA structures in biological systems. We hope that these initial guiding principles, as well as the approaches and assays developed in their pursuit, will enable rapid progress toward the development of RNA-targeted chemical probes and ultimately new therapeutic approaches to a wide range of deadly human diseases.« less
  3. The ribosome translates the genetic code into proteins in all domains of life. Its size and complexity demand long-range interactions that regulate ribosome function. These interactions are largely unknown. Here, we apply a global coevolution method, statistical coupling analysis (SCA), to identify coevolving residue networks (sectors) within the 23S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) of the large ribosomal subunit. As in proteins, SCA reveals a hierarchical organization of evolutionary constraints with near-independent groups of nucleotides forming physically contiguous networks within the three-dimensional structure. Using a quantitative, continuous-culture-with-deep-sequencing assay, we confirm that the top two SCA-predicted sectors contribute to ribosome function. These sectors map to distinct ribosome activities, and their origins trace to phylogenetic divergences across all domains of life. These findings provide a foundation to map ribosome allostery, explore ribosome biogenesis, and engineer ribosomes for new functions. Despite differences in chemical structure, protein and RNA enzymes appear to share a common internal logic of interaction and assembly.
  4. Splicing is highly regulated and is modulated by numerous factors. Quantitative predictions for how a mutation will affect precursor mRNA (pre-mRNA) structure and downstream function are particularly challenging. Here, we use a novel chemical probing strategy to visualize endogenous precursor and mature MAPT mRNA structures in cells. We used these data to estimate Boltzmann suboptimal structural ensembles, which were then analyzed to predict consequences of mutations on pre-mRNA structure. Further analysis of recent cryo-EM structures of the spliceosome at different stages of the splicing cycle revealed that the footprint of the B act complex with pre-mRNA best predicted alternative splicing outcomes for exon 10 inclusion of the alternatively spliced MAPT gene, achieving 74% accuracy. We further developed a β-regression weighting framework that incorporates splice site strength, RNA structure, and exonic/intronic splicing regulatory elements capable of predicting, with 90% accuracy, the effects of 47 known and 6 newly discovered mutations on inclusion of exon 10 of MAPT . This combined experimental and computational framework represents a path forward for accurate prediction of splicing-related disease-causing variants.
  5. Single-particle cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) has revolutionized the field of the structural biology, providing an access to the atomic resolution structures of large biomolecular complexes in their near-native environment. Today’s cryo-EM maps can frequently reach the atomic-level resolution, while often containing a range of resolutions, with conformationally variable regions obtained at 6 Å or worse. Low resolution density maps obtained for protein flexible domains, as well as the ensemble of coexisting conformational states arising from cryo-EM, poses new challenges and opportunities for Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations. With the ability to describe the biomolecular dynamics at the atomic level, MD can extend the capabilities of cryo-EM, capturing the conformational variability and predicting biologically relevant short-lived conformational states. Here, we report about the state-of-the-art MD procedures that are currently used to refine, reconstruct and interpret cryo-EM maps. We show the capability of MD to predict short-lived conformational states, finding remarkable confirmation by cryo-EM structures subsequently solved. This has been the case of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing machinery, whose catalytically active structure has been predicted through both long-time scale MD and enhanced sampling techniques 2 years earlier than cryo-EM. In summary, this contribution remarks the ability of MD to complement cryo-EM, describing conformational landscapes andmore »relating structural transitions to function, ultimately discerning relevant short-lived conformational states and providing mechanistic knowledge of biological function.« less