Visualizing translation dynamics at atomic detail inside a bacterial cell

Read the full article


Translation is the fundamental process of protein synthesis and is catalysed by the ribosome in all living cells. Here, we use cryo-electron tomography and sub-tomogram analysis to visualize the dynamics of translation inside the prokaryote Mycoplasma pneumoniae . We first obtain an in-cell atomic model for the M. pneumoniae ribosome that reveals distinct extensions of ribosomal proteins. Classification then resolves thirteen ribosome states that differ in conformation and composition and reflect intermediates during translation. Based on these states, we animate translation elongation and demonstrate how antibiotics reshape the translation landscape inside cells. During translation elongation, ribosomes often arrange in a defined manner to form polysomes. By mapping the intracellular three-dimensional organization of translating ribosomes, we show that their association into polysomes exerts a local coordination mechanism that is mediated by the ribosomal protein L9. Our work demonstrates the feasibility of visualizing molecular processes at atomic detail inside cells.

Article activity feed