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J Mol Biol. 1989 Nov 20;210(2):323-36.

Protein-induced conformational changes in 16 S ribosomal RNA during the initial assembly steps of the Escherichia coli 30 S ribosomal subunit.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, Roche Research Center, Nutley, NJ 07110.


The mechanism of 16 S ribosomal RNA folding into its compact form in the native 30 S ribosomal subunit of Escherichia coli was studied by scanning transmission electron microscopy and circular dichroism spectroscopy. This approach made it possible to visualize and quantitatively analyze the conformational changes induced in 16 S rRNA under various ionic conditions and to characterize the interactions of ribosomal proteins S4, S8, S15, S20, S17 and S7, the six proteins known to bind to 16 S rRNA in the initial assembly steps. 16 S rRNA and the reconstituted RNA-protein core particles were characterized by their mass, morphology, radii of gyration (RG), and the extent and stability of 16 S rRNA secondary structure. The stepwise binding of S4, S8 and S15 led to a corresponding increase of mass and was accompanied by increased folding of 16 S rRNA in the core particles, as evident from the electron micrographs and from the decrease of RG values from 114 A and 91 A. Although the binding of S20, S17 and S7 continued the trend of mass increase, the RG values of these core particles showed a variable trend. While there was a slight increase in the RG value of the S20 core particles to 94 A, the RG value remained unchanged (94 A) with the further addition of S17. With subsequent addition of S7 to the core particles, the RG values showed an increase to 108 A. Association with S7 led to the formation of a globular mass cluster with a diameter of about 115 A and a mass of about 300 kDa. The rest of the mass (about 330 kDa) remained loosely coiled, giving the core particle a "medusa-like" appearance. Morphology of the 16 S rRNA and 16 S rRNA-protein core particles, even those with all six proteins, does not resemble the native 30 S subunit, contrary to what has been reported by others. The circular dichroism spectra of the 16 S rRNA-protein complexes and of free 16 S rRNA indicate a similarity of RNA secondary structure in the core particles with the first four proteins, S4, S8, S15, S20. The circular dichroism melting profiles of these core particles show only insignificant variations, implying no obvious changes in the distribution or the stability of the helical segments of 16 S rRNA. However, subsequent binding of proteins S17 and S7 affected both the extent and the thermal stability of 16 S rRNA secondary structure.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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