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Proteomics. 2010 Oct;10(20):3669-87. doi: 10.1002/pmic.201000342.

Variation of the chemical reactivity of Thermus thermophilus HB8 ribosomal proteins as a function of pH.

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Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408, USA.


Ribosomes occupy a central position in cellular metabolism, converting stored genetic information into active cellular machinery. Ribosomal proteins modulate both the intrinsic function of the ribosome and its interaction with other cellular complexes, such as chaperonins or the signal recognition particle. Chemical modification of proteins combined with mass spectrometric detection of the extent and position of covalent modifications is a rapid, sensitive method for the study of protein structure and flexibility. By altering the pH of the solution, we have induced non-denaturing changes in the structure of bacterial ribosomal proteins and detected these conformational changes by covalent labeling. Changes in ribosomal protein modification across a pH range from 6.6 to 8.3 are unique to each protein, and correlate with their structural environment in the ribosome. Lysine residues whose extent of modification increases as a function of increasing pH are on the surface of proteins, but in close proximity either to glutamate and aspartate residues, or to rRNA backbone phosphates. Increasing pH disrupts tertiary and quaternary interactions mediated by hydrogen bonding or ionic interactions, and regions of protein structure whose conformations are sensitive to these changes are of potential importance in modulating the flexibility of the ribosome or its interaction with other cellular complexes.

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