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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Sep;61(6):1660-72. Epub 2006 Aug 23.

The tandem GTPase, Der, is essential for the biogenesis of 50S ribosomal subunits in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Biochemistry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


A unique GTP-binding protein, Der contains two consecutive GTP-binding domains at the N-terminal region and its homologues are highly conserved in eubacteria but not in archaea and eukaryotes. In the present paper, we demonstrate that Der is one of the essential GTPases in Escherichia coli and that the growth rate correlates with the amount of Der in the cell. Interestingly, both GTP-binding domains are required at low temperature for cell growth, while at high temperature either one of the two domains is dispensable. Result of the sucrose density gradient experiment suggests that Der interacts specifically with 50S ribosomal subunits only in the presence of a GTP analogue, GMPPNP. The depletion of Der accumulates 50S and 30S ribosomal subunits with a concomitant reduction of polysomes and 70S ribosomes. Notably, Der-depleted cells accumulate precursors of both 23S and 16S rRNAs. Moreover, at lower Mg2+ concentration, 50S ribosomal subunits from Der-depleted cells are further dissociated into aberrant 50S ribosomal subunits; however, 30S subunits are stable. It was revealed that the aberrant 50S subunits, 40S subunits, contain less ribosomal proteins with significantly reduced amounts of L9 and L18. These results suggest that Der is a novel 50S ribosome-associated factor involved in the biogenesis and stability of 50S ribosomal subunits. We propose that Der plays a pivotal role in ribosome biogenesis possibly through interaction with rRNA or rRNA/r-protein complex.

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