Ricin inhibits protein synthesis by depurinating the α-sarcin/ricin loop (SRL). Ricin holotoxin does not inhibit translation unless the disulfide bond between the A (RTA) and B (RTB) subunits is reduced. Ricin holotoxin did not bind ribosomes or depurinate them but could depurinate free RNA. When RTA is separated from RTB, arginine residues located at the interface are exposed to the solvent. Because this positively charged region, but not the active site, is blocked by RTB, we mutated arginine residues at or near the interface of RTB to determine if they are critical for ribosome binding. These variants were structurally similar to wild type RTA but could not bind ribosomes. Their K(m) values and catalytic rates (k(cat)) for an SRL mimic RNA were similar to those of wild type, indicating that their activity was not altered. However, they showed an up to 5-fold increase in K(m) and up to 38-fold decrease in kcat toward ribosomes. These results suggest that the stalk binding stimulates the catalysis of ribosome depurination by RTA. The mutated arginines have side chains behind the active site cleft, indicating that the ribosome binding surface of RTA is on the opposite side of the surface that interacts with the SRL. We propose that stalk binding stimulates the catalysis of ribosome depurination by orienting the active site of RTA toward the SRL and thereby allows docking of the target adenine into the active site. This model may apply to the translation factors that interact with the stalk.
Keywords: Protein Synthesis; RIP; Ribosomal RNA (rRNA); Ribosome-inactivating Protein; Ribosomes; Ricin; Toxins.