Connecting the kinetics and energy landscape of tRNA translocation on the ribosome

PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(3):e1003003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003003. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Functional rearrangements in biomolecular assemblies result from diffusion across an underlying energy landscape. While bulk kinetic measurements rely on discrete state-like approximations to the energy landscape, single-molecule methods can project the free energy onto specific coordinates. With measures of the diffusion, one may establish a quantitative bridge between state-like kinetic measurements and the continuous energy landscape. We used an all-atom molecular dynamics simulation of the 70S ribosome (2.1 million atoms; 1.3 microseconds) to provide this bridge for specific conformational events associated with the process of tRNA translocation. Starting from a pre-translocation configuration, we identified sets of residues that collectively undergo rotary rearrangements implicated in ribosome function. Estimates of the diffusion coefficients along these collective coordinates for translocation were then used to interconvert between experimental rates and measures of the energy landscape. This analysis, in conjunction with previously reported experimental rates of translocation, provides an upper-bound estimate of the free-energy barriers associated with translocation. While this analysis was performed for a particular kinetic scheme of translocation, the quantitative framework is general and may be applied to energetic and kinetic descriptions that include any number of intermediates and transition states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology
  • Diffusion
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Ribosomes / chemistry*
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics


  • RNA, Transfer