We have used chemical modification to examine the conformation of 23 S rRNA in Escherichia coli ribosomes bearing erythromycin resistance mutations in ribosomal proteins L22 and L4. Changes in reactivity to chemical probes were observed at several nucleotide positions scattered throughout 23 S rRNA. The L4 mutation affects the reactivity of G799 and U1255 in domain II and that of A2572 in domain V. The L22 mutation influences modification in domain II at positions m5U747, G748, and A1268, as well as at A1614 in domain III and G2351 in domain V. The reactivity of A789 is weakly enhanced by both the L22 and L4 mutations. None of these nucleotide positions has previously been associated with macrolide antibiotic resistance. Interestingly, neither of the ribosomal protein mutations produces any detectable effects at or within the vicinity of A2058 in domain V, the site most frequently shown to confer macrolide resistance when altered by methylation or mutation. Thus, while L22 and L4 bind primarily to domain I of 23 S rRNA, erythromycin resistance mutations in these ribosomal proteins perturb the conformation of residues in domains II, III and V and affect the action of antibiotics known to interact with nucleotide residues in the peptidyl transferase center of domain V. These results support the hypothesis that ribosomal proteins interact with rRNA at multiple sites to establish its functionally active three-dimensional structure, and suggest that these antibiotic resistance mutations act by perturbing the conformation of rRNA.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.