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Ribosomal RNA

Harry F. Noller


Ribosomes and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) are interesting, not only to investigators in the field of translation, but also to many who are working in other areas of RNA research. Methods that were developed for the study of ribosomes have found applications in the study of other ribonucleoprotein systems. Extensive knowledge of rRNA secondary structure and of protein-rRNA interactions provides many concrete examples that serve as a background for thinking about other RNA systems. For example, the discovery of tetraloops, originally identified in rRNA (Woese et al. 1990), has had a widespread influence on the RNA field in general. Because of the ancient biological origins of ribosomes, studies on rRNA have helped to stimulate thinking about the role of RNA in early molecular evolution. In this chapter, I give a brief overview of the rRNA field which is intended for researchers in other branches of the RNA world. The focus is on two basic ribosomal functions: (1) binding of the tRNA to the small subunit P site and peptidyl transferase and (2) their rRNA structural contexts. For a more comprehensive treatment, see several volumes of collected reviews on various aspects of ribosomes and rRNA (Hardesty and Kramer 1986; Hill et al. 1990; Nierhaus et al. 1993; Matheson et al. 1995; Zimmermann and Dahlberg 1996). Apologies are due to colleagues whose work has not been cited or has been mentioned only briefly because of space limitations.

In the 1960s, emergence of the Central Dogma made it clear that the flow of genetic...

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