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Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2016 Apr;23(4):342-8. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.3193. Epub 2016 Mar 21.

Choreography of molecular movements during ribosome progression along mRNA.

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Department of Physical Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany.


During translation elongation, ribosome translocation along an mRNA entails rotations of the ribosomal subunits, swiveling motions of the small subunit (SSU) head and stepwise movements of the tRNAs together with the mRNA. Here, we reconstructed the choreography of the collective motions of the Escherichia coli ribosome during translocation promoted by elongation factor EF-G, by recording the fluorescence signatures of nine different reporters placed on both ribosomal subunits, tRNA and mRNA. We captured an early forward swiveling of the SSU head taking place while the SSU body rotates in the opposite, clockwise direction. Backward swiveling of the SSU head starts upon tRNA translocation and continues until the post-translocation state is reached. This work places structures of translocation intermediates along a time axis and unravels principles of the motions of macromolecular machines.

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