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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Jun;85(12):4162-5.

Mutant 16S ribosomal RNA: a codon-specific translational suppressor.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


We have isolated an unusual codon-specific translational suppressor in Escherichia coli. The suppressor resulted from a spontaneous mutation in a chromosomal gene during a selection for suppressors of the auxotrophic nonsense mutation trpA(UGA211). The suppressor allows readthrough of UGA mutations at two positions in trpA and at two sites in bacteriophage T4. It does not, however, suppress amber (UAG) or ochre (UAA) mutations that were tested in both genomes, some of which were at the same positions as the suppressible UGA mutations. The suppressor also does not allow mistranslation of the UGA-related trpA missense mutations UGG at positions 211 and 234, AGA at 211 and 234, CGA at 211, or UGU and UGC at 234. The suppressor mutation was mapped by genetic procedures to position 89 on the E. coli genetic map. Localization of the suppressor mutation to rrnB was achieved by cloning it in the low-copy-number plasmid pEJM007 by in vivo recombination from the chromosome. Recloning in bacteriophage M13 and subsequent DNA sequence analysis allowed the identification of the suppressor mutation as a deletion of the cytidylic acid residue at nucleotide position 1054 of the 16S ribosomal RNA. The mutant EcoRI-Xba I fragment from the suppressor gene was recloned, from M13, in an otherwise wild-type rrnB in the plasmid pEJM007, and UGA suppression was examined. The UGA-suppressing activity of the reconstructed suppressor-containing pEJM007 was indistinguishable from that of the original recombinant suppressor-containing plasmid. This result demonstrates that the C1054 deletion in 16S rRNA is both necessary and sufficient for UGA suppression. The existence of this mutant suggests an important role for rRNA in codon recognition, at least for accurate polypeptide chain termination.

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