Specific contacts between protein S4 and ribosomal RNA are required at multiple stages of ribosome assembly

Megan Mayerle, Sarah A. Woodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Assembly of bacterial 30S ribosomal subunits requires structural rearrangements to both its 16S rRNA and ribosomal protein components. Ribosomal protein S4 nucleates 30S assembly and associates rapidly with the 5' domain of the 16S rRNA. In vitro, transformation of initial S4-rRNA complexes to long-lived, mature complexes involves refolding of 16S helix 18, which forms part of the decoding center. Here we use targeted mutagenesis of Geobacillus stearothermophilus S4 to show that remodeling of S4-rRNA complexes is perturbed by ram alleles associated with reduced translational accuracy. Gel mobility shift assays, SHAPE chemical probing, and in vivo complementation show that the S4 N-terminal extension is required for RNA binding and viability. Alanine substitutions in Y47 and L51 that interact with 16S helix 18 decrease S4 affinity and destabilize the helix 18 pseudoknot. These changes to the protein-RNA interface correlate with no growth (L51A) or cold-sensitive growth, 30S assembly defects, and accumulation of 17S pre-rRNA (Y47A). A third mutation, R200A, over-stabilizes the helix 18 pseudoknot yet results in temperature-sensitive growth, indicating that complex stability is finely tuned by natural selection. Our results show that early S4-RNA interactions guide rRNA folding and impact late steps of 30S assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-585
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Pseudoknot
  • RNA-protein interaction
  • Ribosomal protein S4
  • Ribosome assembly
  • α-operon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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