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Study reveals key step in protein synthesis

Posted on June 28, 2013

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have trapped the ribosome, a protein-building molecular machine essential to all life, in a key transitional state that has long eluded researchers. Now, for the first time, scientists can see how the ribosome performs the precise mechanical movements needed to translate genetic code into proteins without making mistakes.

“This is something that the whole field has been pursuing for the past decade,” said Harry Noller, Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology at UC Santa Cruz. “We’ve trapped the ribosome in the middle of its movement during translocation, which is the most interesting, profound, and complex thing the ribosome does.”

Understanding ribosomes is important not only because of their crucial role as the protein factories of all living cells, but also because many antibiotics work by targeting bacterial ribosomes. Research on ribosomes by Noller and others has led to the development of novel antibiotics that hold promise for use against drug-resistant bacteria.

Noller’s lab is known for its pioneering work to elucidate the atomic structure of the ribosome, which is made of long chains of RNA and proteins interlaced together in complicated foldings. Using x-ray crystallography, his group has shown the ribosome in different conformations as it interacts with other molecules. The new study, led by postdoctoral researcher Jie Zhou, is published in the June 28 issue of Science.

Read more at: Phys.org

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