Translation termination is promoted by class 1 and class 2 release factors in all domains of life. While the role of the bacterial class 1 factors, RF1 and RF2, in translation termination is well understood, the precise contribution of the bacterial class 2 release factor, RF3, to this process remains less clear. Here, we use a combination of binding assays and pre-steady state kinetics to provide a kinetic and thermodynamic framework for understanding the role of the translational GTPase RF3 in bacterial translation termination. First, we find that GDP and GTP have similar affinities for RF3 and that, on average, the t1/2 for nucleotide dissociation from the protein is 1-2 min. We further show that RF3:GDPNP, but not RF3:GDP, tightly associates with the ribosome pre- and post-termination complexes. Finally, we use stopped-flow fluorescence to demonstrate that RF3:GTP enhances RF1 dissociation rates by over 500-fold, providing the first direct observation of this step. Importantly, catalytically inactive variants of RF1 are not rapidly dissociated from the ribosome by RF3:GTP, arguing that a rotated state of the ribosome must be sampled for this step to efficiently occur. Together, these data define a more precise role for RF3 in translation termination and provide insights into the function of this family of translational GTPases.
Keywords: RF3; ribosome; translation termination; translational GTPase.