The molecular choreography of protein synthesis: translational control, regulation, and pathways

Q Rev Biophys. 2016 Jan:49:e11. doi: 10.1017/S0033583516000056. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


Translation of proteins by the ribosome regulates gene expression, with recent results underscoring the importance of translational control. Misregulation of translation underlies many diseases, including cancer and many genetic diseases. Decades of biochemical and structural studies have delineated many of the mechanistic details in prokaryotic translation, and sketched the outlines of eukaryotic translation. However, translation may not proceed linearly through a single mechanistic pathway, but likely involves multiple pathways and branchpoints. The stochastic nature of biological processes would allow different pathways to occur during translation that are biased by the interaction of the ribosome with other translation factors, with many of the steps kinetically controlled. These multiple pathways and branchpoints are potential regulatory nexus, allowing gene expression to be tuned at the translational level. As research focus shifts toward eukaryotic translation, certain themes will be echoed from studies on prokaryotic translation. This review provides a general overview of the dynamic data related to prokaryotic and eukaryotic translation, in particular recent findings with single-molecule methods, complemented by biochemical, kinetic, and structural findings. We will underscore the importance of viewing the process through the viewpoints of regulation, translational control, and heterogeneous pathways.