Assembly of Bacterial Ribosomes

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Science  02 Mar 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4076, pp. 864-873
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4076.864


I have not mentioned the remarkable progress made mainly by Fellner and his co-workers (86) in the elucidation of the primary structure of rRNA's and by Wittmann and his co-workers (87) in determining the structure of several ribosomal proteins. Such knowledge of primary structures is certainly the basis of complete understanding of the structure of the ribosome. With the current progress in technology, complete elucidation of the primary structure of all the ribosomal components is probably a matter of time. As indicated in this article, a rough approximation of the three-dimensional structure of ribosomes is likely to emerge soon. Although not mentioned in this article, studies of ribosomes from higher organisms are also progressing. We must, therefore, consider what further studies should be conducted and what kinds of questions we would like to solve.

Some groups of investigators aim to elucidate the complete three-dimensional structure of ribosomes and to find out how these complex cell organelles function; they hope to determine the conformational changes of many of the component molecules within the ribosome structure in response to external macromolecules and cofactors engaged in protein synthesis. Such knowledge will also be important in enabling us to understand the regulation of translation of genetic messages. Other groups of investigators aim to elucidate the complex series of events which originate in the transcription of the more than 60 genes and culminate in the formation of the specific structure of the organelle. Complete reproduction in vitro of all the assembly events that occur in vivo should not be difficult to achieve in principle. It should then become possible to study in vitro any factor regulating the biogenesis of the organelle. Although we do not know whether such studies would reveal any new fundamental principle that governs the complex circuits of interconnected macromolecular interactions, the achievement of such a complete in vitro system would represent a necessary step in the comprehensive understanding of biogenesis of organelles, and eventually, of the more complex behavior and genesis of cells (89).

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