Ribosome assembly is an essential and conserved process that is regulated at each step by specific factors. Using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), we visualize the formation of the conserved peptidyl transferase center (PTC) of the human mitochondrial ribosome. The conserved GTPase GTPBP7 regulates the correct folding of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) helices and ensures 2'-O-methylation of the PTC base U3039. GTPBP7 binds the RNA methyltransferase NSUN4 and MTERF4, which sequester H68-71 of the 16S rRNA and allow biogenesis factors to access the maturing PTC. Mutations that disrupt binding of their Caenorhabditis elegans orthologs to the large subunit potently activate mitochondrial stress and cause viability, development, and sterility defects. Next-generation RNA sequencing reveals widespread gene expression changes in these mutant animals that are indicative of mitochondrial stress response activation. We also answer the long-standing question of why NSUN4, but not its enzymatic activity, is indispensable for mitochondrial protein synthesis.
Keywords: C. elegans; RNA modifications; biochemistry; chemical biology; cryo-EM; human; mitochondrial ribosome; molecular biophysics; peptidyl transferase center; structural biology.
© 2021, Chandrasekaran et al.