Eukaryotic ribosomes are significantly larger and more complex than their prokaryotic counterparts. This parallels the increased complexity of the associated cellular machinery responsible for translation initiation, ribosome assembly, and the regulation of protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells. The recently determined crystal structures of the small (40S) and large (60S) ribosomal subunits and the 80S ribosome now provide an atomic description of this essential molecular machine and reveal its eukaryote-specific features. In this review, we discuss the common structural principles underlying the evolution of both ribosomal subunits. The recently obtained structural information provides a framework for further genetic, biochemical and structural studies of eukaryotic ribosomes. At the same time, it facilitates a direct comparison between prokaryotic and eukaryotic ribosomal features.
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