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Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2002 Feb;3(1):79-91.

Three-dimensional electron cryomicroscopy of ribosomes.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Am Fassberg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Single particle electron cryomicroscopy is nowadays routinely used to generate three-dimensional structural information of ribosomal complexes without the need of crystallization. A large number of structures of functional important ribosomal complexes have thus been determined using this technique. In E. coli 70S ribosomes all three tRNA binding sites could be localized. The ternary complex of EF-TutRNAGTP that delivers the tRNA to the ribosome was directly visualized in a ribosomal complex blocked by the antibiotic kirromycin. Three different functional states of translocation have been studied and the respective EF-G binding sites have been mapped. The level of resolution achievable with electron cryomicroscopy allows conformational changes in the domain structures of elongation factors to be modelled in terms of rigid body movements. Structural information on eukaryotic ribosomes is also available for yeast and mammalian 80S ribosomes. The structural differences between rabbit 80S and E. coli 70S ribosomes could be interpreted in terms of ribosomal RNA expansion segments in the 18S and 23S RNA. The EF-G homologue EF2 was mapped analysing the structure of an 80SEF2sodarin complex and most recently the binding of a hepatitis C virus IRES element to a yeast 40S subunit has been studied. The first electron cryomicroscopical 3D reconstructions have further been used to overcome the initial phasing problems in X-ray crystallographic studies of the ribosome facilitating structure determination of the recent atomic resolution structures of the 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits. In turn, the knowledge of the atomic structure of the ribosome makes detailed interpretations of cryo-EM maps possible at approximately 20 A resolution.

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