Transfer-messenger RNA unfolds as it transits the ribosome

Iwona K. Wower, Christian Zwieb, Jacek Wower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In bacteria, translation of mRNAs lacking stop codons produces truncated polypeptides and traps ribosomes in unproductive complexes. Potentially harmful truncated proteins are tagged with short peptides encoded by the mRNA-like domain of tmRNA and targeted for digestion by housekeeping proteases. We show that altered Escherichia coli transfer-messenger RNAs (tmRNAs) produce in vivo fusion proteins with peptide tags that extend far beyond the conventional termination signal of the wild-type tmRNA. Regions of tmRNA capable of serving as templates for protein synthesis include helix 5, as well as pseudoknots 2, 3, and 4. The removal of all six in-frame stop codons negatively affects tmRNA processing, thereby preventing translation of the 3′ portion of the tRNA-like domain. These findings provide evidence that trans-translation can be accompanied by the unfolding of significant portions of the tmRNA molecule. Many of these conformational changes are likely to be required during trans-translation to maintain the ribosomal subunits in close proximity to the tmRNA for monitoring its transit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-673
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Protein tagging
  • RNA structure
  • Ribosome rescue
  • tmRNA
  • trans-translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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