RNA Codewords and Protein Synthesis

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Science  25 Sep 1964:
Vol. 145, Issue 3639, pp. 1399-1407
DOI: 10.1126/science.145.3639.1399


A rapid, sensitive method is described for measuring C14-aminoacyl-sRNA interactions with ribosomes which are specifically induced by the appropriate RNA codewords prior to peptide-bond formation. Properties of the codeword recognition process and the minimum oligonucleotide chain length required to induce such interactions are presented. The trinucleotides, pUpUpU, pApApA, and pCpCpC, but not dinucleotides, specifically direct the binding to ribosomes of phenylalanine-, lysine-, and proline-sRNA, respectively.

Since 5'-terminal, 3'-terminal, and internal codewords differ in chemical structure, three corresponding classes of codewords are proposed. The recognition of each class in this system is described. The template efficiency of trinucleotide codewords is modified greatly by terminal phosphate. Triplets with 5'-terminal phosphate are more active as templates than triplets without terminal phosphate. Triplets with 3'- or 3' (2')-terminal phosphate are markedly less active as templates. These findings are discussed in relation to the probable functions of terminal codewords. The modification of RNA and DNA codewords, converting sense into missense or nonsense codewords, is suggested as a possible regulatory mechanism in protein synthesis.