The mechanics of translocation: a molecular "spring-and-ratchet" system.
Moran SJ., Flanagan JF., Namy O., Stuart DI., Brierley I., Gilbert RJC.
The translation of genetic information into proteins is a fundamental process of life. Stepwise addition of amino acids to the growing polypeptide chain requires the coordinated movement of mRNA and tRNAs through the ribosome, a process known as translocation. Here, we review current understanding of the kinetics and mechanics of translocation, with particular emphasis on the structure of a functional mammalian ribosome stalled during translocation by an mRNA pseudoknot. In the context of a pseudoknot-stalled complex, the translocase EF-2 is seen to compress a hybrid-state tRNA into a strained conformation. We propose that this strain energy helps overcome the kinetic barrier to translocation and drives tRNA into the P-site, with EF-2 biasing this relaxation in one direction. The tRNA can thus be considered a molecular spring and EF-2 a Brownian ratchet in a "spring-and-ratchet" system within the translocation process.