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Elongation in translation as a dynamic interaction among the ribosome, tRNA, and elongation factors EF-G and EF-Tu

  • Xabier Agirrezabala (a1) and Joachim Frank (a1) (a2)

The ribosome is a complex macromolecular machine that translates the message encoded in the messenger RNA and synthesizes polypeptides by linking the individual amino acids carried by the cognate transfer RNAs (tRNAs). The protein elongation cycle, during which the tRNAs traverse the ribosome in a coordinated manner along a path of more than 100 Å, is facilitated by large-scale rearrangements of the ribosome. These rearrangements go hand in hand with conformational changes of tRNA as well as elongation factors EF-Tu and EF-G – GTPases that catalyze tRNA delivery and translocation, respectively. This review focuses on the structural data related to the dynamics of the ribosomal machinery, which are the basis, in conjunction with existing biochemical, kinetic, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer data, of our knowledge of the decoding and translocation steps of protein elongation.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: Dr. J. Frank, The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, P&S BB 2-221, 650 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA. Email:
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H. Gao , J. Lebarron & J. Frank (2009). Ribosomal dynamics: intrinsic instability of a molecular machine. In Non-Protein Coding RNAs (eds. N. G. Walter , S. A. Woodson & R. T. Batey ), pp 303316. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

J. Lebarron , K. Mitra & J. Frank (2007). Displaying 3D data on RNA secondary structures: ColoRNA. Journal of Structural Biology 157, 262270.

J. Lebarron , R. A. Grassucci , T. R. Shaikh , W. T. Baxter , J. Sengupta & J. Frank (2008). Exploration of parameters in cryo-EM leading to an improved density map of the E. coli ribosome. Journal of Structural Biology 164, 2432.

R. Lill , J. M. Robertson & W. Wintermeyer (1989). Binding of the 3′ terminus of tRNA to 23S rRNA in the ribosomal exit site actively promotes translocation. EMBO Journal 8, 39333938.

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Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics
  • ISSN: 0033-5835
  • EISSN: 1469-8994
  • URL: /core/journals/quarterly-reviews-of-biophysics
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