An Unusually Flexible Structure
The analysis revealed that Ltn1 has an elongated, double-jointed and extraordinarily flexible structure with two working endsthe N-terminus and C-terminus. "We anticipate that the N-terminus is responsible for association with the ribosome and know that the C-terminus is responsible for the ubiquitylation of nonstop proteins," said Lyumkis. "We suspect that the high flexibility of this structure is needed for it to work on the variety of nonstop proteins that can get stuck in ribosomes."
One of the next steps for the team is to evaluate Ltn1's individual segments, which appear to be more rigid, using X-ray crystallography, in order to develop a piece-by-piece atomic-resolution model of the enzyme. Another is to determine the structure of Ltn1 when it is attached to a ribosome and operating on a nonstop protein. Joazeiro notes that a typical yeast cell has nearly 200,000 ribosomes but requires only 200 Ltn1 copies for adequate quality control under normal growth conditions. "Somehow this enzyme can efficiently sense which ribosomes are jammed, and we expect that by solving the joint structure of Ltn1 and a ribosome, we'll be able to understand how it does this," he says.
Lyumkis, Carragher, Potter and their colleagues at NRAMM also plan to use a similar electron microscopy-based approach to find the structures of other important proteins with highly variable "heterogeneous" conformations. "Heterogeneity has been a big challenge," said Potter, "and being able to collect this large dataset and do all of this data processing successfully has been a critical breakthrough."
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute