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J Bacteriol. 2005 Jul;187(14):4804-12.

Mutational analysis of 16S and 23S rRNA genes of Thermus thermophilus.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Structural studies of the ribosome have benefited greatly from the use of organisms adapted to extreme environments. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which ribosomes or other ribonucleoprotein complexes have adapted to functioning under extreme conditions, and it is unclear to what degree mutant phenotypes of extremophiles will resemble those of their counterparts adapted to more moderate environments. It is conceivable that phenotypes of mutations affecting thermophilic ribosomes, for instance, will be influenced by structural adaptations specific to a thermophilic existence. This consideration is particularly important when using crystal structures of thermophilic ribosomes to interpret genetic results from nonextremophilic species. To address this issue, we have conducted a survey of spontaneously arising antibiotic-resistant mutants of the extremely thermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus, a species which has featured prominently in ribosome structural studies. We have accumulated over 20 single-base substitutions in T. thermophilus 16S and 23S rRNA, in the decoding site and in the peptidyltransferase active site of the ribosome. These mutations produce phenotypes that are largely identical to those of corresponding mutants of mesophilic organisms encompassing a broad phylogenetic range, suggesting that T. thermophilus may be an ideal model system for the study of ribosome structure and function.

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