A tunnel in the large ribosomal subunit revealed by three-dimensional image reconstruction

Science  15 May 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4803, pp. 813-816
DOI: 10.1126/science.3576200


A better understanding of the molecular mechanism of protein biosynthesis depends on the availability of a reliable model for the ribosome particle. The application of a diffraction technique, namely, three-dimensional image reconstruction from two-dimensional sheets of the large ribosomal subunits of Bacillus stearothermophilus at a resolution of 30 angstroms is described. The resulting three-dimensional model shows at least four projecting arms, arranged radially near the presumed interface with the 30S subunit. The projecting arms are positioned around a cleft, which turns into a tunnel with a length of 100 to 120 angstroms and a diameter of up to 25 angstroms. This tunnel spans the particle and may provide the path taken by the nascent polypeptide chain.