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Annu Rev Biophys. 2010;39:491-513. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.093008.131427.

Single ribosome dynamics and the mechanism of translation.

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Biophysics Program, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5126, USA.


Our current understanding of the mechanism of translation is based on nearly fifty years of biochemical and biophysical studies. This mechanism, which requires the ribosome to manipulate tRNA and step repetitively along the mRNA, implies movement. High-resolution structures of the ribosome and its ligands have recently described translation in atomic detail, capturing the endpoints of large-scale rearrangements of the ribosome. Direct observation of the dynamic events that underlie the mechanism of translation is challenged by ensemble averaging in bulk solutions. Single-molecule methods, which eliminate these averaging effects, have emerged as powerful tools to probe the mechanism of translation. Single-molecule fluorescence experiments have described the dynamic motion of the ribosome and tRNA. Single-molecule force measurements have directly probed the forces stabilizing ribosomal complexes. Recent developments have allowed real-time observation of ribosome movement and dynamics during translation. This review covers the contributions of single-molecule studies to our understanding of the dynamic nature of translation.

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