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Visualizing tmRNA Entry into a Stalled Ribosome

Science  04 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5616, pp. 127-130
DOI: 10.1126/science.1081798

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Abstract

Bacterial ribosomes stalled on defective messenger RNAs (mRNAs) are rescued by tmRNA, an ∼300-nucleotide-long molecule that functions as both transfer RNA (tRNA) and mRNA. Translation then switches from the defective message to a short open reading frame on tmRNA that tags the defective nascent peptide chain for degradation. However, the mechanism by which tmRNA can enter and move through the ribosome is unknown. We present a cryo–electron microscopy study at ∼13 to 15 angstroms of the entry of tmRNA into the ribosome. The structure reveals how tmRNA could move through the ribosome despite its complicated topology and also suggests roles for proteins S1 and SmpB in the function of tmRNA.

  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

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