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Scientists Ratchet Up Understanding of Cellular Protein Factory

Theoretical biologists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have used a New Mexico supercomputer to aid an international research team in untangling another mystery related to ribosomes -- those enigmatic jumbles of molecules that are the protein factories of living cells. The research, published December 2 in the journal Nature, could aid in development of new antibiotics used to fight multidrug resistant superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections) found in many U.S. hospitals. The work may also be important for combating engineered strains of anthrax and plague.

In the context of synthetic biology, understanding the ribosome could be key to developing nanofactories that produce designer biomolecules and polymers.

In the paper, "Head swivel on the ribosome facilitates translocation via intra-subunit tRNA hybrid sites," Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Karissa Sanbonmatsu and Paul Whitford and José N. Onuchic at the University of California-San Diego join Christian Spahn, Andreas Ratje, and others from the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics, Berlin, Germany, to describe for the first time how a complicated swivel movement within a bacterial ribosome accommodates synthesis of proteins.
 
 

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