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Structure. 1995 Aug 15;3(8):815-21.

The 70S Escherichia coli ribosome at 23 A resolution: fitting the ribosomal RNA.

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Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin, Germany.



The ribosome--essential for protein synthesis in all organisms--has been an evasive target for structural studies. The best available structures for the 70S Escherichia coli ribosome or its 30S and 50S subunits are based on electron microscopical tilt experiments and are limited in resolution to 28-55 A. The angular reconstitution approach, which exploits the random orientations of particles within a vitreous ice matrix, can be used in conjunction with cryo-electron microscopy to yield a higher-resolution structure.


Our 23 A resolution map of the 70S ribosome elucidates many structural details, such as an extensive system of channels within the 50S subunit and an intersubunit gap ideally shaped to accommodate two transfer RNA molecules. The resolution achieved is sufficient to allow the preliminary fitting of double-helical regions of an earlier three-dimensional ribosomal RNA model.


Although we are still a long way from attaining an atomic-resolution structure of the ribosome, cryo-electron microscopy, in combination with angular reconstitution, is likely to yield three-dimensional maps with gradually increasing resolution. As exemplified by our current 23 A reconstruction, these maps will lead to progressive refinement of models of the ribosomal RNA.

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