School of Medicine; College of Engineering; College of Science
Bioengineering; Biology; Human Genetics
Gesteland, Raymond F.; Atkins, John F.; Baranov, Pavel V.
P-site tRNA is a crucial initiator of ribosomal frameshifting
The expression of some genes requires a high proportion of ribosomes to shift at a specific site into one of the two alternative frames. This utilized frameshifting provides a unique tool for studying reading frame control. Peptidyl-tRNA slippage has been invoked to explain many cases of programmed frameshifting. The present work extends this to other cases. When the A-site is unoccupied, the P-site tRNA can be repositioned forward with respect to mRNA (although repositioning in the minus direction is also possible). A kinetic model is presented for the influence of both, the cognate tRNAs competing for overlapping codons in A-site, and the stabilities of P-site tRNA:mRNA complexes in the initial and new frames. When the A-site is occupied, the P-site tRNA can be repositioned backward. Whether frameshifting will happen depends on the ability of the A-site tRNA to subsequently be repositioned to maintain physical proximity of the tRNAs. This model offers an alternative explanation to previously published mechanisms of programmed frameshifting, such as out-of-frame tRNA binding, and a different perspective on simultaneous tandem tRNA slippage.