Ribosome, prokaryotic, l9, der, efp


The process of decoding is the most crucial determinant of the quality of protein synthesis. Ribosomal protein L9 was first implicated in decoding fidelity when a mutant version of L9 was found to increase the translation of a T4 phage gene. Later studies confirmed that the absence of L9 leads to increased translational bypassing, frameshifting, and stop codon readthrough. L9 is part of the large subunit of the prokaryotic ribosome and is located more than 90 Å from the site of decoding, making it difficult to envision how it might affect decoding and reading frame maintenance. Twenty years after the identification of L9's putative function, there is no mechanism for how a remotely located L9 improves translation fidelity. This mystery makes our picture of translation incomplete. Despite the high conservation of L9 in eubacteria, E.coli lacking L9 does not exhibit any obvious growth defects. Thus, the evolutionary advantage conferred by L9 in bacteria is masked under laboratory conditions. In order to uncover unique L9-dependent conditions, a library of E. coli mutants was screened to isolate those that rely on L9 for fitness. Interestingly, factors found to be synergistic with L9 had no known role in fidelity. Six independent mutants were isolated, each exhibiting a severe growth defect that is partially suppressed in the presence of L9. One class of L9-dependent mutations was present in an essential ribosome biogenesis factor, Der. Der's established function is in the maturation of the large ribosomal subunit. The identified mutations severely impaired the GTPase activity of Der. Interestingly, L9 did not directly compensate for the defective GTPase activity of mutant Der. The second class of L9-dependent mutations was present in EpmA and EpmB, factors required to post-translationally modify elongation factor, EF-P. EF-P's established function is in the translation of poly-proline containing proteins. EF-P deficient cells were nearly inviable in the absence of L9; however, L9 did not directly influence poly-proline translation. Therefore, in each case, L9 improved cell health without altering the activity of either Der or EF-P. Remarkably, the der mutants required only the N domain of L9, whereas the absence of active EF-P required full-length, wild-type L9 for growth complementation. Thus, each mutant class needed a different aspect of L9's unique architecture. In cells lacking either active EF-P or Der, there was a severe deficiency of 70S ribosomes and the indication of small subunit maturation defects, both of which worsened upon L9 depletion. These results strongly suggest that L9 plays a role in improving ribosome quality and abundance under certain conditions. Overall, the genetic screen lead to the discovery that bacteria need L9 when either of two important translation factors (Der or EF-P) is inactivated. This work has characterized the physiological requirement for L9 in each case and offers a new insight into L9's assigned role in translation fidelity.


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Graduation Date





Moore, Sean


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences








Release Date

May 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)