Marcus Fislage, Jingji Zhang, Zuben Patrick Brown, Chandra Sekhar Mandava, Suparna Sanya,
Mans Ehrenberg and Joachim Frank
The GTPase EF-Tu in ternary complex with GTP and aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) promotes rapid and accurate delivery of cognate aa-tRNAs to the ribosomal A site. Here we used cryo-EM to study the molecular origins of the accuracy of ribosome-aided recognition of a cognate ternary complex and the accuracy-amplifying role of the monitoring bases A1492, A1493 and G530 of the 16S rRNA. We used the GTPase-deficient EF-Tu variant H84A with native GTP, rather than non-cleavable GTP analogues, to trap a near-cognate ternary complex in high-resolution ribosomal complexes of varying codon-recognition accuracy. We found that ribosome complexes trapped by GTPase-deficicent ternary complex due to the presence of EF-TuH84A or non-cleavable GTP analogues have very similar structures. We further discuss speed and accuracy of initial aa-tRNA selection in terms of conformational changes of aa-tRNA and stepwise activation of the monitoring bases at the decoding center of the ribosome.