The Native 3D Organization of Bacterial Polysomes

Cell, 2009, 136, 2, 261-71 published on 23.01.2009
Cell, online article
Recent advances have led to insights into the structure of the bacterial ribosome, but little is knownabout the 3D organization of ribosomes in the context of translating polysomes. We employed cryoelectron tomography and a template-matching approach to map 70S ribosomes in vitrified bacterial translation extracts and in lysates of active E. coli spheroplasts. In these preparations, polysomal arrangements were observed inwhich neighboring ribosomesare densely packed and exhibit preferred orientations. Analysis of characteristic examples of polysomes reveals a staggered or pseudohelical organization of ribosomes along the mRNA trace, with the transcript being sequestered on the inside, the tRNA entrance sites being accessible, and the polypeptide exit sites facing the cytosol. Modeling of elongating nascent polypeptide chains suggests that this arrangement maximizes the distance between nascent chains on adjacent ribosomes, thereby reducing the probability of intermolecular interactions thatwould give rise to aggregation and limit productive folding.

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