Computational Studies of Protein Synthesis on the Ribosome and Ligand Binding to Riboswitches

  • Datum:
  • Plats: B41 BMC, Husargatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Lind, Christoffer
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Beräkningsbiologi och bioinformatik
  • Kontaktperson: Lind, Christoffer
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The ribosome is a macromolecular machine that produces proteins in all kingdoms of life. The proteins, in turn, control the biochemical processes within the cell. It is thus of extreme importance that the machine that makes the proteins works with high precision. By using three dimensional structures of the ribosome and homology modelling, we have applied molecular dynamics simulations and free-energy calculations to study the codon specificity of protein synthesis in initiation and termination on an atomistic level. In addition, we have examined the binding of small molecules to riboswitches, which can change the expression of an mRNA.

The relative affinities on the ribosome between the eukaryotic initiator tRNA to the AUG start codon and six near-cognate codons were determined. The free-energy calculations show that the initiator tRNA has a strong preference for the start codon, but requires assistance from initiation factors 1 and 1A to uphold discrimination against near-cognate codons.

When instead a stop codon (UAA, UGA or UAG) is positioned in the ribosomal A-site, a release factor binds and terminates protein synthesis by hydrolyzing the nascent peptide chain. However, vertebrate mitochondria have been thought to have four stop codons, namely AGA and AGG in addition to the standard UAA and UAG codons. Furthermore, two release factors have been identified, mtRF1 and mtRF1a. Free-energy calculations were used to determine if any of these two factors could bind to the two non-standard stop codons, and thereby terminate protein synthesis. Our calculations showed that the mtRF’s have similar stop codon specificity as bacterial RF1 and that it is highly unlikely that the mtRF’s are responsible for terminating at the AGA and AGG stop codons.

The eukaryotic release factor 1, eRF1, on the other hand, can read all three stop codons singlehandedly. We show that eRF1 exerts a high discrimination against near-cognate codons, while having little preference for the different cognate stop codons. We also found an energetic mechanism for avoiding misreading of the UGG codon and could identify a conserved cluster of hydrophobic amino acids which prevents excessive solvent molecules to enter the codon binding site.

The linear interaction energy method was used to examine binding of small molecules to the purine riboswitch and the FEP method was employed to explicitly calculate the LIE b-parameters. We show that the purine riboswitches have a remarkably high degree of electrostatic preorganization for their cognate ligands which is fundamental for discriminating against different purine analogs.