Ribosome slowed by mutation to streptomycin resistance


ALTHOUGH the basic mechanisms of protein synthesis are now rather well understood, particularly in Escherichia coli, it is less clear how the high accuracy of this process is achieved. (The error rate in protein synthesis in E. coli seems to be about one in 104 amino acid misincorporations (Edelman and Gallant, unpublished results, and our own unpublished data)). A major site determining accuracy in protein synthesis is the ribosome, and in addition to the ribosome-mediated effects on accuracy (in vivo and in vitro) of various metal ions, aminoglycoside antibiotics and organic solvents, there are ribosomal mutations which increase or decrease accuracy2. Certain mutations of the 30S ribosomal protein SI2 conferring streptomycin resistance (the strA locus) enhance accuracy3–5, whereas certain mutations in the S4 protein (the ram locus) are known to decrease accuracy6. The strA mutations are restrictive (reducing) in their effect on both missense and nonsense suppression in vivo and on miscoding in vitro3, the ram mutation, on the other hand, has the opposite effect in both cases6. It is possible that it is the kinetics of polypeptide synthesis at the ribosome that determines accuracy and that the kinetics in turn are affected by the strA and ram mutations. Because the same transfer RNA (tRNA) discrimination kinetics that may determine accuracy may also contribute to the elongation speed, we have investigated the effect of mutation to streptomycin resistance on the speed of polypeptide elongation.

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