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Acta Biochim Pol. 1998;45(4):883-94.

Possible evolution of factors involved in protein biosynthesis.

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Laboratory of Macromolecular Crystallography, Institute of Molecular and Structural Biology, University of Aarhus, Denmark.


The elongation factors of protein biosynthesis are well preserved through out evolution. They catalyze the elongation phase of protein biosynthesis, where on the ribosome amino acids are added one at a time to a growing peptide according to the genetic information transcribed into mRNA. Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) provides the binding of aminoacylated tRNA to the ribosome and protects the aminoester bond against hydrolysis until a correct match between the codon on mRNA and the anticodon on tRNA can be achieved. Elongation factor G (EF-G) supports the translocation of tRNAs and of mRNA on the ribosome so that a new codon can be exposed for decoding. Both these factors are GTP binding proteins, and as such exist in an active form with GTP and an inactive form with GDP bound to the nucleotide binding domain. Elongation factor Ts (EF-Ts) will catalyze the exchange of nucleotide on EF-Tu. This review describes structural work on EF-Tu performed in our laboratory over the last eight years. The structural results provide a rather complete picture of the major structural forms of EF-Tu, including the so called ternary complex of aa-tRNA:EF-Tu:GTP. The structural comparison of this ternary complex with the structure of EF-G:GDP displays an unexpected macromolecular mimicry, where three domains of EF-G mimick the shape of the tRNA in the ternary complex. This observation has initiated much speculation on the evolution of all factors involved in protein synthesis, as well as on the details of the ribosomal function in one part of elongation.

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