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EMBO J. 1988 May;7(5):1503-7.

Reading frame switch caused by base-pair formation between the 3' end of 16S rRNA and the mRNA during elongation of protein synthesis in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah Medical Center, Salt Lake City 84132.


Watson-Crick base pairing is shown to occur between the mRNA and nucleotides near the 3' end of 16S rRNA during the elongation phase of protein synthesis in Escherichia coli. This base-pairing is similar to the mRNA-rRNA interaction formed during initiation of protein synthesis between the Shine and Dalgarno (S-D) nucleotides of ribosome binding sites and their complements in the 1540-1535 region of 16S rRNA. mRNA-rRNA hybrid formation during elongation had been postulated to explain the dependence of an efficient ribosomal frameshift on S-D nucleotides precisely spaced 5' on the mRNA from the frameshift site. Here we show that disruption of the postulated base pairs by single nucleotide substitutions, either in the S-D sequence required for shifting or in nucleotide 1538 of 16S rRNA, decrease the amount of shifting, and that this defect is corrected by restoring complementary base pairing. This result implies that the 3' end of 16S rRNA scans the mRNA very close to the decoding sites during elongation.

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