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Cell. 2003 Oct 3;115(1):97-108.

Structure of the mammalian mitochondrial ribosome reveals an expanded functional role for its component proteins.

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Division of Molecular Medicine, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12201, USA.


The mitochondrial ribosome is responsible for the biosynthesis of protein components crucial to the generation of ATP in the eukaryotic cell. Because the protein:RNA ratio in the mitochondrial ribosome (approximately 69:approximately 31) is the inverse of that of its prokaryotic counterpart (approximately 33:approximately 67), it was thought that the additional and/or larger proteins of the mitochondrial ribosome must compensate for the shortened rRNAs. Here, we present a three-dimensional cryo-electron microscopic map of the mammalian mitochondrial 55S ribosome carrying a tRNA at its P site, and we find that instead, many of the proteins occupy new positions in the ribosome. Furthermore, unlike cytoplasmic ribosomes, the mitochondrial ribosome possesses intersubunit bridges composed largely of proteins; it has a gatelike structure at its mRNA entrance, perhaps involved in recruiting unique mitochondrial mRNAs; and it has a polypeptide exit tunnel that allows access to the solvent before the exit site, suggesting a unique nascent-polypeptide exit mechanism.

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