Ribosomes: molecular wedge assists recycling

February 22, 2024

The synthesis of proteins in the cell is a key process of life. By this means, the genetic code of the genome is translated into the amino acid sequence of proteins. Protein biosynthesis is performed by special molecular machines, ribosomes, which consist of a large and small subunit. At the end of protein biosynthesis, these protein factories have to be broken up into their individual parts (recycled), so that they are ready for the next round of translation. In the process, they discovered the role of an enzyme, a special E3 ligase that joins a small protein modification called UFM1 to the large ribosomal subunit, as a key mechanism of recycling.

The synthesis of proteins in the cell is a key process of life. By this means, the genetic code of the genome is translated into the amino acid sequence of proteins. The process is complex – and has been studied in detail for decades.

Protein biosynthesis is performed by special molecular machines, ribosomes, which consist of a large and small subunit. At the end of protein biosynthesis, these protein factories have to be broken up into their individual parts (recycled), so that they are ready for the next round of translation.

Now a team led by Professor Roland Beckmann, Dr. Thomas Becker, and Ivan Penchev from LMU’s Gene Center Munich, working in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University led by Professor Ron Kopito, have shown how the recycling of ribosomes at the so-called endoplasmic reticulum (ER) functions. In the process, they discovered the role of an enzyme, a special E3 ligase that joins a small protein modification called UFM1 to the large ribosomal subunit, as a key mechanism of recycling. An account of their investigations has been published in the prestigious journal Nature.