Further confirmation came as the researchers imaged components from different timeframes. After breaking down ribosome components, the scientists prepared samples at various stages allowing enough time for the molecular mix to begin combining as they do during ribosome creation in cells.
Imaging this time series, the team was able to show higher concentrations of larger, more complex molecules and fewer smaller molecules as time elapsed. These results fit with the limited information that was already available about the timing of formation steps, providing further confirmation of the team's success.
Interestingly, this work also confirmed that there are more than one possible paths in ribosome formation, a phenomenon known as parallel assembly that been suggested by prior research but never definitively confirmed.
Williamson says that with the information now at hand, they will be able to move forward with studies of which additional molecules might be present in cells and essential for ribosome formation. Such data could offer exciting medical potential.
All bacteria contain and are dependent on ribosomes. Identification of molecules required for ribosome assembly could offer new targets for antibiotic drugs aimed at killing bacteria. "If we can figure out how to inhibit assembly, that would be a very important therapeutic avenue," said Williamson.
There are also indications that some diseases such as Diamond Blackfan Anemia might be caused, at least in some cases, by errors in ribosome production. Better understanding of that production could also reveal ways such errors might be repaired to cure or prevent disease.
At the more basic level, this successful project has also proven techniques that Scripps Research scientists and other researchers can apply to allow similar imaging and understanding of other complex but critical cellular processes.
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute