Ribosomes catalyze protein synthesis using transfer RNAs and auxiliary proteins. Historically, ribosomes have been considered nonspecific translational machines, having no regulatory functions. However, a new class of regulatory mechanisms has been discovered that is based on interactions occurring within the ribosomal peptide exit tunnel that result in ribosome stalling during translation of an appropriate mRNA segment. These discoveries reveal an unexpectedly dynamic role ribosomes play in regulating their own activity. By using nascent leader peptides in combination with bound specific amino acids or antibiotics, ribosome functions can be altered significantly resulting in regulated expression of downstream coding regions. This review summarizes relevant findings in recent articles and outlines our current understanding of nascent peptide-induced ribosome stalling in regulating gene expression.
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