Cryo-EM structure of 90S small ribosomal subunit precursors in transition states

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Science  18 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6510, pp. 1477-1481
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba9690

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How ribosomes are made

The formation of eukaryotic ribosomes is a complex process that starts with transcription of a large precursor RNA that assembles into a large 90S preribosome, which matures to finally give the 40S small subunit of the ribosome. Cheng et al. and Du et al. give insight into this process, using cryo–electron microscopy to look at intermediates along the pathway. Together, these studies reveal how a cast of molecular players act to coordinate the compositional and structural changes that transform the 90S preribosome into a pre-40S subunit.

Science, this issue p. 1470, p. 1477


The 90S preribosome is a large, early assembly intermediate of small ribosomal subunits that undergoes structural changes to give a pre-40S ribosome. Here, we gained insight into this transition by determining cryo–electron microscopy structures of Saccharomyces cerevisiae intermediates in the path from the 90S to the pre-40S. The full transition is blocked by deletion of RNA helicase Dhr1. A series of structural snapshots revealed that the excised 5′ external transcribed spacer (5′ ETS) is degraded within 90S, driving stepwise disassembly of assembly factors and ribosome maturation. The nuclear exosome, an RNA degradation machine, docks on the 90S through helicase Mtr4 and is primed to digest the 3′ end of the 5′ ETS. The structures resolved between 3.2- and 8.6-angstrom resolution reveal key intermediates and the critical role of 5′ ETS degradation in 90S progression.

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