Spectinomycin interacts specifically with the residues G1064 and C1192 in 16S rRNA, thereby potentially freezing this molecule into an inactive conformation

Nucleic Acids Res. 1994 Feb 11;22(3):325-31. doi: 10.1093/nar/22.3.325.


The upper stem of helix 34, consisting of the base-paired sequences C1063G1064U1065 and A1191C1192G1193, is suggested to be involved in the binding of spectinomycin. In E. coli 16S rRNA, each of the three mutations at position C1192 confers resistance to spectinomycin. In chloroplast ribosomes from tobacco plants and algae, resistance is conferred by single mutations at positions 1064, 1191, and 1193 (E. coli numbering). Since each of these mutations disrupt any of the three basepairs in the upper stem of helix 34, it has been postulated that spectinomycin can bind to this region and inhibit protein synthesis, only if its nucleotides are basepaired. We have tested this hypothesis by introducing disruptive and compensatory mutations that alter the basepair G1064-C1192. Using the specialized ribosome system, the translational activity of such mutants was determined, in the absence and presence of spectinomycin. We show that any of the three disruptive mutations A1064, C1064, and U1064 confer resistance, in accordance with the model for spectinomycin binding. Compensatory mutations A1064U1192, C1064G1192, and U1064A1192, however, maintained the resistance. This indicates that a basepaired conformation as such is not sufficient for spectinomycin binding, but rather that a G-C pair at positions 1064 and 1192 is required. In addition, we find that the translational activity of specialized ribosomes containing the mutations C1064G1192 is 5-fold lower compared to that of ribosomes containing any of the other mutations introduced, regardless whether spectinomycin is present or not. Since the introduction of C1064G1192 is expected to increase the stability of the upper stem of helix 34, we suggest that these mutations impair ribosome function by preventing the (transient) disruption of the upper stem. By analogy, we speculate that spectinomycin blocks protein synthesis by stabilizing the upper stem. In both cases, the 30S subunit would be frozen into an inactive conformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Polyribosomes / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry*
  • Ribosomes / drug effects
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*
  • Ribosomes / ultrastructure
  • Spectinomycin / chemistry*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Spectinomycin