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J Mol Biol. 1986 Oct 5;191(3):483-93.

Interconversion of active and inactive 30 S ribosomal subunits is accompanied by a conformational change in the decoding region of 16 S rRNA.


Zamir, Elson and their co-workers have shown that 30 S ribosomal subunits are reversibly inactivated by depletion of monovalent or divalent cations. We have re-investigated the conformation of 16 S rRNA in the active and inactive forms of the 30 S subunit, using a strategy that is designed to eliminate reversible ion-dependent conformational effects that are unrelated to the heat-dependent Zamir-Elson transition. A combination of structure-specific chemical probes enables us to monitor the accessibility of pyrimidines at N-3 and purines at N-1 and N-7. Chemically modified bases are identified by end-labeling followed by analine-induced strand scission (in some cases preceded by hybrid selection), or by primer extension using synthetic DNA oligomers. These studies show the following: The transition from the active to the inactive state cannot be described as a simple loosening or unfolding of native structure, such as that which is observed under conditions of more severe ion depletion. Instead, it has the appearance of a reciprocal interconversion between two differently structured states; some bases become more reactive toward the probes, whilst others become less reactive as a result of inactivation. Changes in reactivity are almost exclusively confined to the "decoding site" centered at positions 1400 and 1500, but significant differences are also detected at U723 and G791 in the central domain. This may reflect possible structural and functional interactions between the central and 3' regions of 16 S rRNA. The inactive form also shows significantly decreased reactivity at positions 1533 to 1538 (the Shine-Dalgarno region), in agreement with earlier findings. The principal changes in reactivity involve the universally conserved nucleotides G926, C1395, A1398 and G1401. The three purines show reciprocal behavior at their N-1 versus N-7 positions. G926 loses its reactivity at N-1, but becomes highly reactive at N-7 as a result of the transition of the inactive state. In contrast, A1398 and G1401 become reactive at N-1, but lose their hyper-reactivity at N-7. The possible structural and functional implications of these findings are discussed.

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