Nineteen of the highly conserved residues of Escherichia coli (E. coli) Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) that form the binding interface with aa-tRNA were mutated to alanine to better understand how modifying the thermodynamic properties of EF-Tu-tRNA interaction can affect the decoding properties of the ribosome. Comparison of ΔΔGo values for binding EF-Tu to aa-tRNA show that the majority of the interface residues stabilize the ternary complex and their thermodynamic contribution can depend on the tRNA species that is used. Experiments with a very tight binding mutation of tRNATyr indicate that interface amino acids distant from the tRNA mutation can contribute to the specificity. For nearly all of the mutations, the values of ΔΔGo were identical to those previously determined at the orthologous positions of Thermus thermophilus (T. thermophilus) EF-Tu indicating that the thermodynamic properties of the interface were conserved between distantly related bacteria. Measurement of the rate of GTP hydrolysis on programmed ribosomes revealed that nearly all of the interface mutations were able to function in ribosomal decoding. The only interface mutation with greatly impaired GTPase activity was R223A which is the only one that also forms a direct contact with the ribosome. Finally, the ability of the EF-Tu interface mutants to destabilize the EF-Tu-aa-tRNA interaction on the ribosome after GTP hydrolysis were evaluated by their ability to suppress the hyperstable T1 tRNATyr variant where EF-Tu release is sufficiently slow to limit the rate of peptide bond formation (kpep). In general, interface mutations that destabilize EF-Tu binding are also able to stimulate kpep of T1 tRNATyr, suggesting that the thermodynamic properties of the EF-Tu-aa-tRNA interaction on the ribosome are quite similar to those found in the free ternary complex.
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