According to the traditional view, GTPases act as molecular switches, which cycle between distinct ‘on’ and ‘off’ conformations bound to GTP and GDP, respectively. Translation elongation factor EF-Tu is a GTPase essential for prokaryotic protein synthesis. In its GTP-bound form, EF-Tu delivers aminoacylated tRNAs to the ribosome as a ternary complex. GTP hydrolysis is thought to cause the release of EF-Tu from aminoacyl-tRNA and the ribosome due to a dramatic conformational change following Pi release. Here, the crystal structure of Escherichia coli EF-Tu in complex with a non-hydrolysable GTP analogue (GDPNP) has been determined. Remarkably, the overall conformation of EF-Tu·GDPNP displays the classical, open GDP-bound conformation. This is in accordance with an emerging view that the identity of the bound guanine nucleotide is not ‘locking’ the GTPase in a fixed conformation. Using a single molecule approach, the conformational dynamics of various ligand-bound forms of EF-Tu were probed in solution by fluorescence resonance energy transfer. The results suggest that EF-Tu, free in solution, may sample a wider set of conformations than the structurally well-defined GTP- and GDP-forms known from previous X-ray crystallographic studies. Only upon binding, as a ternary complex, to the mRNA programmed ribosome, is the well-known, closed GTP-bound conformation, observed.
Nucleic Acids Research
Oxford University Press
Johansen, J. S., Kavaliauskas, D., Pfeil, S. H., Blaise, M., Cooperman, B. C., Goldman, Y. E., Thirup, S. S., & Knudsen, C. R. (2018). E. coli elongation factor Tu bound to a GTP analogue displays an open conformation equivalent to the GDP-bound form. Nucleic Acids Research, 46(16), 8641-8650. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nar/gky697