The translocation stage of protein synthesis is a highly conserved process in all cells. Although the components necessary for translocation have been delineated, the mechanism of this activity has not been well defined. Ribosome movement on template mRNA must allow for displacement of tRNA–mRNA complexes from the ribosomal A to P sites and P to E sites, while ensuring rigid maintenance of the correct reading frame. In Escherichia coli, translocation of the ribosome is promoted by elongation factor G (EF-G). To examine the role of EF-G and rRNA in translocation we have characterized mutations in rRNA genes that can suppress a temperature-sensitive (ts) allele of fusA, the gene in E. coli that encodes EF-G. This analysis was performed using the ts E. coli strain PEM100, which contains a point mutation within fusA. The ts phenotype of PEM100 can be suppressed by either of two mutations in the decoding region of the 16S rRNA when present in combination with a mutation at position 2058 in the peptidyltransferase domain of the 23S rRNA. Communication between these ribosomal domains is essential for coordinating the events of the elongation cycle. We propose a model in which EF-G promotes translocation by modulating this communication, thereby increasing the efficiency of this fundamental process.
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