Ribosome and ribosomal RNA Structure : An experimental and computational analysis of expansion segments in eukaryotic ribosomal RNA

University dissertation from Stockholm : Wenner-Grens institut för experimentell biologi

Abstract: Ribosomes are large ribonucleoprotein complexes which incorporate amino acids into peptide chains during translational process in all types of living cells. The eukaryotic ribosome is larger compared to its prokaryotic counterpart. The size differences are due to a larger protein part and that the rRNA contains eukaryote specific expansion segments (ES). Cryo-EM reconstruction has visualized many ES on the ribosomal surface which have given clues about function and structural features. However, the secondary structures of most ES are unknown or ill defined. In this thesis, the secondary and also to a certain extent the tertiary structures of several ES are determined by using computational methods and biochemical experimental techniques. The juxtaposition of ES6 close to ES3 in the Cryo-EM image of the yeast ribosome suggested that ES3 and ES6 might interact. A computational analysis of more than 2900 sequences shows that a complementary helical region of seven to nine contiguous base pairs can form between ES3 and ES6 in almost all analyzed sequences. Biochemical in situ experiments support the proposed interaction. Secondary structure models are presented for ES3 and ES6 in 18S rRNA and ES39 in 28S rRNA, where homologous structural elements could be modeled in the experimentally analyzed ribosomes from fungi, plants and mammals. The structure models were further supported by computational methods where the ES6 structure and the ES39 structure could be formed in more than 6000 and 900 sequences respectively. A tertiary structure model of ES3 and ES6 including the helical interaction is presented. An in vitro transcribed and folded ES6 sequence differed from that observed in situ, suggesting that chaperones, ribosomal proteins, and/or the tertiary rRNA interaction could be involved in the in vivo folding of ES6. An analysis of the similarities between ES39 structures suggests that it might be under selective constraint to preserve its secondary structure.

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