Translation, the process of protein synthesis, occurs via a universally conserved mechanism that is central to gene expression in all domains of life. Translation is highly regulated in human cells and the loss of translation control is a key determinant of cancerous cell growth. Protein synthesis in bacteria is targeted by a broad array of clinically-important antibiotics that are used to combat infectious disease. However, resistance to these compounds is increasingly widespread. The ribosome is the principal component of the cellular translation apparatus and is the integration point for regulation. In order to fill this knowledge gap, the molecular mechanism of ribosome function and translational fidelity will be investigated using state-of-the-art biophysical methods, including single-molecule Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence and zero-mode waveguide imaging technologies. Using these platforms, the first multidimensional, high-spatial and -temporal resolution distance measurements of distinct conformational degrees of freedom will be obtained during both elemental and processive protein synthesis reactions. Together with collaborative and complementary efforts in the areas of molecular dynamics simulations and cryo-electron microscopy, these investigations will reveal the order and timing of structural events in translation machinery and how they contribute to driving directional and high-fidelity protein synthesis. The long-term goal is to establish a quantitative framework that relates the microscopic rate constants of conformational events in the ribosome to global protein synthesis. This will shed new light on the rate-determining structural events in the process as well as the molecular basis of translation fidelity, and will provide insights critical to understanding cellular mechanisms of ribosome regulation and the action of clinically-relevant small molecule effectors of translation. A synthesis of the results obtained will provide novel information about precisely focused, dynamic structural processes underpinning the translation mechanism and a platform for exploring how specific events that occur during the reaction coordinate may be targeted for therapeutic purpose.

Public Health Relevance

The focus of the proposed research is to apply state-of-the-art imaging technologies to the study of translational control of gene expression. This multistep and highly regulated process is central to growth, differentiation and tumorigenesis and compounds targeting translation are central components of the arsenal of therapies for the treatment of disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Macromolecular Structure and Function B Study Section (MSFB)
Program Officer
Lewis, Catherine D
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
Zip Code
Prokhorova, Irina; Altman, Roger B; Djumagulov, Muminjon et al. (2017) Aminoglycoside interactions and impacts on the eukaryotic ribosome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:E10899-E10908
Alejo, Jose L; Blanchard, Scott C (2017) Miscoding-induced stalling of substrate translocation on the bacterial ribosome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 114:E8603-E8610
Kurylo, Chad M; Alexander, Noah; Dass, Randall A et al. (2016) Genome Sequence and Analysis of Escherichia coli MRE600, a Colicinogenic, Nonmotile Strain that Lacks RNase I and the Type I Methyltransferase, EcoKI. Genome Biol Evol 8:742-52
Arenz, Stefan; Juette, Manuel F; Graf, Michael et al. (2016) Structures of the orthosomycin antibiotics avilamycin and evernimicin in complex with the bacterial 70S ribosome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:7527-32
Cocozaki, Alexis I; Altman, Roger B; Huang, Jian et al. (2016) Resistance mutations generate divergent antibiotic susceptibility profiles against translation inhibitors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:8188-93
Kong, Rui; Xu, Kai; Zhou, Tongqing et al. (2016) Fusion peptide of HIV-1 as a site of vulnerability to neutralizing antibody. Science 352:828-33
Juette, Manuel F; Terry, Daniel S; Wasserman, Michael R et al. (2016) Single-molecule imaging of non-equilibrium molecular ensembles on the millisecond timescale. Nat Methods 13:341-4
Wasserman, Michael R; Alejo, Jose L; Altman, Roger B et al. (2016) Multiperspective smFRET reveals rate-determining late intermediates of ribosomal translocation. Nat Struct Mol Biol 23:333-41
Wasserman, Michael R; Pulk, Arto; Zhou, Zhou et al. (2015) Chemically related 4,5-linked aminoglycoside antibiotics drive subunit rotation in opposite directions. Nat Commun 6:7896
Ferguson, Angelica; Wang, Leyi; Altman, Roger B et al. (2015) Functional Dynamics within the Human Ribosome Regulate the Rate of Active Protein Synthesis. Mol Cell 60:475-86

Showing the most recent 10 out of 45 publications