Genome sequencing has revolutionized biology by providing unprecedented insight into the molecular basis of life. However, it has also established new research challenges. One critical challenge is the elucidation of the function of uncharacterized protein families, because at least half of the proteins encoded in any genome lack reliably described biochemical functions. We have attempted to develop systematic approaches to tackle this problem by combining the tools of structural biology with those of genomics. Using this approach, we recently elucidated the biochemical function of one of four E. coli proteins belonging to the ?ABC-F? sequence family, which has multiple representatives encoded in all eukaryotic and almost all eubacterial genomes. No other ABC-F protein had previously had its function characterized in detail, even though published studies using genome-scale profiling methods have identified the three human paralogs as contributing to a variety of different diseases. Furthermore, several of the ~30 eubacterial ABC-F paralog groups have been implicated in mediating microbial antibiotic resistance. Our recently published studies of the E. coli YjjK protein, which we renamed EttA (Energy-dependent Translational Throttle A), demonstrated that this ABC-F family member is a regulatory translation factor that mediates hibernation of ribosome initiation complexes dependent on ADP/ATP ratio. We determined a cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of EttA trapped in an ATP-bound state bound to a 70S ribosome, which established that its unprecedented translational control activity is mediated by binding to a novel factor-binding site between the exit (E) and peptidyl-tRNA-binding (P) tRNA- binding sites on the ribosome. These studies, together with previous research from the Hunt lab on the mechanochemistry of homologous ATPases in the ABC Transporter superfamily, suggested that EttA uses a novel molecular mechanism to sense ADP/ATP ratio, which is a critical monitor of cellular energy status. The research proposed in this application will harness a wide variety of biochemical, biophysical, and structural methods to critically evaluate our hypothesis explaining this novel activity while also characterizing the range of biochemical functions performed by the four ABC-F paralogs expressed by E. coli. These studies will provide a foundation to understand the biochemical functions of the microbial ABC-F paralogs that confer antibiotic resistance and the three human ABC-F paralogs, which is critical for understanding their roles in disease.

Public Health Relevance

The vast majority of genes function through the proteins they encode, making mRNA translation into protein a critical point of biological control. We recently demonstrated a novel mode of regulation of this process by a protein family that contributes to a variety of human disease processes via unknown mechanisms. The proposed research will deepen understanding of the range of biological activities and the molecular mechanisms of the proteins in this family, providing further insight into their role in human disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Macromolecular Structure and Function C Study Section (MSFC)
Program Officer
Flicker, Paula F
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Columbia University (N.Y.)
Graduate Schools
New York
United States
Zip Code