Biological chemistry

Fast in vitro translation system immobilized on a surface via specific biotinylation of the ribosome.

PMID 18713011


The ribosome is the macromolecular machine responsible for translating the genetic code into polypeptide chains. Despite impressive structural and kinetic studies of the translation process, a number of challenges remain with respect to understanding the dynamic properties of the translation apparatus. Single-molecule techniques hold the potential of characterizing the structural and mechanical properties of macromolecules during their functional cycles in real time. These techniques often necessitate the specific coupling of biologically active molecules to a surface. Here, we describe a procedure for such coupling of functionally active ribosomes that permits single-molecule studies of protein synthesis. Oxidation with NaIO4 at the 3' end of 23S rRNA and subsequent reaction with a biotin hydrazide produces biotinylated 70S ribosomes, which can be immobilized on a streptavidin-coated surface. The surface-attached ribosomes are fully active in poly(U) translation in vitro, synthesizing poly(Phe) at a rate of 3-6 peptide bonds/s per active ribosome at 37 degrees C. Specificity of binding of biotinylated ribosomes to a streptavidin-coated quartz surface was confirmed by observation of individual fluorescently labeled, biotinylated 70S ribosomes, using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. Functional interactions of the immobilized ribosomes with various components of the protein synthesis apparatus are shown by use of surface plasmon resonance.