The notion that the ribosome is dynamic has been supported by various biochemical techniques, as well as by differences observed in high-resolution structures of ribosomal complexes frozen in various functional states. Yet, the mechanisms and extent of rRNA dynamics are still largely unknown. We have used a novel, fast chemical-modification technique to provide time-resolved details of 16 S rRNA structural changes that occur as bridges are formed between the ribosomal subunits as they associate. Association of different 16 S rRNA regions was found to be a sequential, multi-step process involving conformational rearrangements within the 30 S subunit. Our results suggest that key regions of 16 S rRNA, necessary for decoding and tRNA A-site binding, are structurally altered in a time-dependent manner by association with the 50 S ribosomal subunits.
- Subunit association