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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jul;41(2):289-97.

Evolution of a molecular switch: universal bacterial GTPases regulate ribosome function.

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School of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


The GTPases comprise a protein superfamily of highly conserved molecular switches adapted to many diverse functions. These proteins are found in all domains of life and often perform essential roles in fundamental cellular processes. Analysis of data from genome sequencing projects demonstrates that bacteria possess a core of 11 universally conserved GTPases (elongation factor G and Tu, initiation factor 2, LepA, Era, Obg, ThdF/TrmE, Ffh, FtsY, EngA and YchF). Investigations aimed at understanding the function of GTPases indicate that a second conserved feature of these proteins is that they elicit their function through interaction with RNA and/or ribosomes. An emerging concept suggests that the 11 universal GTPases are either necessary for ribosome function or transmitting information from the ribosome to downstream targets for the purpose of generating specific cellular responses. Furthermore, it is suggested that progenitor GTPases were early regulators of RNA function and may have existed in precursors of cellular systems driven by catalytic RNA. If this is the case, then a corollary of this hypothesis is that GTPases that do not bind RNA arose at a later time from an RNA-binding progenitor that lost the capability to bind RNA.

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