Role of conserved nucleotides in building the 16 S rRNA binding site for ribosomal protein S15.J Mol Biol. 2001 Jan 26; 305(4):785-803.JM
Ribosomal protein S15 recognizes a highly conserved target on 16 S rRNA, which consists of two distinct binding regions. Here, we used extensive site-directed mutagenesis on a Escherichia coli 16 S rRNA fragment containing the S15 binding site, to investigate the role of conserved nucleotides in protein recognition and to evaluate the relative contribution of the two sites. The effect of mutations on S15 recognition was studied by measuring the relative binding affinity, RNA probing and footprinting. The crystallographic structure of the Thermus thermophilus complex allowed molecular modelling of the E. coli complex and facilitated interpretation of biochemical data. Binding is essentially driven by site 1, which includes a three-way junction constrained by a conserved base triple and cross-strand stacking. Recognition is based mainly on shape complementarity, and the role of conserved nucleotides is to maintain a unique backbone geometry. The wild-type base triple is absolutely required for protein interaction, while changes in the conserved surrounding nucleotides are partially tolerated. Site 2, which provides functional groups in a conserved G-U/G-C motif, contributes only modestly to the stability of the interaction. Binding to this motif is dependent on binding at site 1 and is allowed only if the two sites are in the correct relative orientation. Non-conserved bulged nucleotides as well as a conserved purine interior loop, although not directly involved in recognition, are used to provide an appropriate flexibility between the two sites. In addition, correct binding at the two sites triggers conformational adjustments in the purine interior loop and in a distal region, which are known to be involved for subsequent binding of proteins S6 and S18. Thus, the role of site 1 is to anchor S15 to the rRNA, while binding at site 2 is aimed to induce a cascade of events required for subunit assembly.