In eubacteria, stalled ribosomes are rescued by a conserved quality-control mechanism involving transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA) and its protein partner, SmpB. Mimicking a tRNA, tmRNA enters stalled ribosomes, adds Ala to the nascent polypeptide, and serves as a template to encode a short peptide that tags the nascent protein for destruction. To further characterize the tagging process, we developed two genetic selections that link tmRNA activity to cell death. These negative selections can be used to identify inhibitors of tagging or to identify mutations in key residues essential for ribosome rescue. Little is known about which ribosomal elements are specifically required for tmRNA activity. Using these selections, we isolated rRNA mutations that block the rescue of ribosomes stalled at rare Arg codons or at the inefficient termination signal Pro-opal. We found that deletion of A1150 in the 16S rRNA blocked tagging regardless of the stalling sequence, suggesting that it inhibits tmRNA activity directly. The C889U mutation in 23S rRNA, however, lowered tagging levels at Pro-opal and rare Arg codons, but not at the 3′ end of an mRNA lacking a stop codon. We concluded that the C889U mutation does not inhibit tmRNA activity per se but interferes with an upstream step intermediate between stalling and tagging. C889 is found in the A-site finger, where it interacts with the S13 protein in the small subunit (forming intersubunit bridge B1a).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology