trans-Translation is a process which the bacterial cells apply to rescue the ribosomes that are arrested during the translation of damaged mRNA and to get rid of the mRNA and the product polypeptide. In the course of trans-translation, the mRNA-like domain of tmRNA replaces the nonstop messenger RNA bound to the ribosome. Although several structural elements of tmRNA and SmpB known to be essential for correct determination of resume codon, the molecular mechanism of trans-translation is not well understood. Computer modeling has been used to develop a model for the spatial organization of the tmRNA inside the ribosome at different stages of trans-translation leading to a proposal for the mechanism of the template-switching process.
Trans-translation is a process which switches the synthesis of a polypeptide chain encoded by a nonstop messenger RNA to the mRNA-like domain of a transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA). It is used in bacterial cells for rescuing the ribosomes arrested during translation of damaged mRNA and directing this mRNA and the product polypeptide for degradation. The molecular basis of this process is not well understood. Earlier, we developed an approach that allowed isolation of tmRNA-ribosomal complexes arrested at a desired step of tmRNA passage through the ribosome. We have here exploited it to examine the tmRNA structure using chemical probing and cryo-electron microscopy tomography. Computer modeling has been used to develop a model for spatial organization of the tmRNA inside the ribosome at different stages of trans-translation.
Bacterial ribosomes stalled at the 3 end of malfunctioning messenger RNAs can be rescued by transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA)-mediated trans-translation. The SmpB protein forms a complex with the tmRNA, and the transfer-RNA-like domain (TLD) of the tmRNA then enters the A site of the ribosome. Subsequently, the TLD-SmpB module is translocated to the P site, a process that is facilitated by the elongation factor EF-G, and translation is switched to the mRNA-like domain (MLD) of the tmRNA. Accurate loading of the MLD into the mRNA path is an unusual initiation mechanism. Despite various snapshots of different ribosome-tmRNA complexes at low to intermediate resolution, it is unclear how the large, highly structured tmRNA is translocated and how the MLD is loaded. Here we present a cryo-electron microscopy reconstruction of a fusidic-acid-stalled ribosomal 70S-tmRNA-SmpB-EF-G complex (carrying both of the large ligands, that is, EF-G and tmRNA) at 8.3?Å resolution. This post-translocational intermediate (TI(POST)) presents the TLD-SmpB module in an intrasubunit ap/P hybrid site and a tRNA(fMet) in an intrasubunit pe/E hybrid site. Conformational changes in the ribosome and tmRNA occur in the intersubunit space and on the solvent side. The key underlying event is a unique extra-large swivel movement of the 30S head, which is crucial for both tmRNA-SmpB translocation and MLD loading, thereby coupling translocation to MLD loading. This mechanism exemplifies the versatile, dynamic nature of the ribosome, and it shows that the conformational modes of the ribosome that normally drive canonical translation can also be used in a modified form to facilitate more complex tasks in specialized non-canonical pathways.
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