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Ribosome Finally Begins to Yield Its Complete Structure

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Science  27 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5432, pp. 1343
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5432.1343

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A conglomerate of some 54 different proteins and three RNAs, the ribosome--the cell's protein factory--lacks the symmetry and repetitions that have eased the way to solving the structures of bigger entities, such as viruses. Now, in work reported in the 26 August issue of Nature, two research teams have independently worked out the structure of the two distinct subunits--known as 30S and 50S--that form a complete ribosome. At a resolution of about 5 angstroms, the images are still too fuzzy for atomic detail, but they show the overall arrangement of the proteins with respect to the RNAs--enough detail that researchers consider this a milestone for ribosome studies.