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RNA. 2010 Oct;16(10):2023-32. doi: 10.1261/rna.2160010. Epub 2010 Aug 18.

Subribosomal particle analysis reveals the stages of bacterial ribosome assembly at which rRNA nucleotides are modified.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.


Modified nucleosides of ribosomal RNA are synthesized during ribosome assembly. In bacteria, each modification is made by a specialized enzyme. In vitro studies have shown that some enzymes need the presence of ribosomal proteins while other enzymes can modify only protein-free rRNA. We have analyzed the addition of modified nucleosides to rRNA during ribosome assembly. Accumulation of incompletely assembled ribosomal particles (25S, 35S, and 45S) was induced by chloramphenicol or erythromycin in an exponentially growing Escherichia coli culture. Incompletely assembled ribosomal particles were isolated from drug-treated and free 30S and 50S subunits and mature 70S ribosomes from untreated cells. Nucleosides of 16S and 23S rRNA were prepared and analyzed by reverse-phase, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Pseudouridines were identified by the chemical modification/primer extension method. Based on the results, the rRNA modifications were divided into three major groups: early, intermediate, and late assembly specific modifications. Seven out of 11 modified nucleosides of 16S rRNA were late assembly specific. In contrast, 16 out of 25 modified nucleosides of 23S rRNA were made during early steps of ribosome assembly. Free subunits of exponentially growing bacteria contain undermodified rRNA, indicating that a specific set of modifications is synthesized during very late steps of ribosome subunit assembly.

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