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Ribosomes have a characteristic protuberance termed the stalk, which is indispensable for ribosomal function. The ribosomal stalk has long been believed to be a pentameric protein complex composed of two sets of protein dimers, L12-L12, bound to a single anchor protein, although ribosomes carrying three L12 dimers were recently discovered in a few thermophilic bacteria. Here we have characterized the stalk complex from Pyrococcus horikoshii, a thermophilic species of Archaea. This complex is known to be composed of proteins homologous to eukaryotic counterparts rather than bacterial ones. In truncation experiments of the C-terminal regions of the anchor protein Ph-P0, we surprisingly observed three Ph-L12 dimers bound to the C-terminal half of Ph-P0, and the binding site for the third dimer was unique to the archaeal homologs. The stoichiometry of the heptameric complex Ph-P0(Ph-L12)(2)(Ph-L12)(2)(Ph-L12)(2) was confirmed by mass spectrometry of the intact complex. In functional tests, ribosomes carrying a single Ph-L12 dimer had significant activity, but the addition of the second and third dimers increased the activity. A bioinformatics analysis revealed the evidence that ribosomes from all archaeal and also from many bacterial organisms may contain a heptameric complex at the stalk, whereas eukaryotic ribosomes seem to contain exclusively a pentameric stalk complex, thus modifying our view of the stalk structure significantly.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





32827 - 32833


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Archaeal Proteins, Conserved Sequence, Dimerization, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny, Protein Binding, Pyrococcus horikoshii, RNA, Ribosomal, Ribosomes, Sequence Alignment, Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization