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Letters to Nature
Nature 376, 441 - 444 (03 August 2002); doi:10.1038/376441a0

A model of protein synthesis based on cryo-electron microscopy of the E. coli ribosome

Joachim Frank*, Jun Zhu*, Pawel Penczek*, Yanhong Li*, Suman Srivastava*, Adriana Verschoor*, Michael Radermacher*, Robert Grassucci*, Ramani K. Lata* & Rajendra K. Agrawal*

* Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, PO Box 509, Albany, New York 12201-0509, USA
Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Computer Science, State University of New York at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12222, USA

THE ribosome is formed by assembly of proteins and nucleic acids, and synthesizes proteins according to genetic instructions in all organisms. Many of the biochemical steps of this fundamental process are known, but a detailed understanding requires a well-defined structural model of the ribosome. Electron microscopy combined with image reconstruction of two-dimensional crystals1á¤-3 or single ribosomes4 has been the most promising technique, but the resolution of the resulting models has been insufficient. Here we report a 25-Å reconstruction of the ribosome from Escherichia coli, obtained by combining 4,300 projections of ice-embedded single particles. Our new reconstruction reveals a channel in the small ribosomal subunit and a bifurcating tunnel in the large sub-unit which may constitute pathways for the incoming message and the nascent polypeptide chain, respectively. Based on these new findings, a three-dimensional model of the basic framework of protein synthesis is presented.

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