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Trends Biochem Sci. 2007 Jan;32(1):20-6. Epub 2006 Dec 8.

How ribosomes make peptide bonds.

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  • 1Institute of Physical Biochemistry, University of Witten/Herdecke, D-58448 Witten, Germany.


Ribosomes are molecular machines that synthesize proteins in the cell. Recent biochemical analyses and high-resolution crystal structures of the bacterial ribosome have shown that the active site for the formation of peptide bonds--the peptidyl-transferase center--is composed solely of rRNA. Thus, the ribosome is the largest known RNA catalyst and the only natural ribozyme that has a synthetic activity. The ribosome employs entropic catalysis to accelerate peptide-bond formation by positioning substrates, reorganizing water in the active site and providing an electrostatic network that stabilizes reaction intermediates. Proton transfer during the reaction seems to be promoted by a concerted shuttle mechanism that involves ribose hydroxyl groups on the tRNA substrate.

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