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EMBO J. 1994 Aug 15;13(16):3892-901.

Footprinting mRNA-ribosome complexes with chemical probes.

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Sinsheimer Laboratories, University of California at Santa Cruz 95064.


We footprinted the interaction of model mRNAs with 30S ribosomal subunits in the presence or absence of tRNA(fMet) or tRNA(Phe) using chemical probes directed at the sugar-phosphate backbone or bases of the mRNAs. When bound to the 30S subunits in the presence of tRNA(fMet), the sugar-phosphate backbones of gene 32 mRNA and 022 mRNA are protected from hydroxyl radical attack within a region of about 54 nucleotides bounded by positions -35 (+/- 2) and +19, extending to position +22 when tRNA(Phe) is used. In 70S ribosomes, protection is extended in the 5' direction to about position -39 (+/- 2). In the absence of tRNA, the 30S subunit protects only nucleotides -35 (+/- 2) to +5. Introduction of a stable tetraloop hairpin between positions +10 and +11 of gene 32 mRNA does not interfere with tRNA(fMet)-dependent binding of the mRNA to 30S subunits, but results in loss of protection of the sugar-phosphate backbone of the mRNA downstream of position +5. Using base-specific probes, we find that the Shine-Dalgarno sequence (A-12, A-11, G-10 and G-9) and the initiation codon (A+1, U+2 and G+3) of gene 32 mRNA are strongly protected by 30S subunits in the presence of initiator tRNA. In the presence of tRNA(Phe), the same Shine-Dalgarno bases are protected, as are U+4, U+5 and U+6 of the phenylalanine codon. Interestingly, A-1, immediately preceding the initiation codon, is protected in the complex with 30S subunits and initiator tRNA, while U+2 and G+3 are protected in the complex with tRNA(Phe) in the absence of initiator tRNA. Additionally, specific bases upstream from the Shine-Dalgarno region (U-33, G-32 and U-22) as well as 3' to the initiation codon (G+11) are protected by 30S subunits in the presence of either tRNA. These results imply that the mRNA binding site of the 30S subunit covers about 54-57 nucleotides and are consistent with the possibility that the ribosome interacts with mRNA along its sugar-phosphate backbone.

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