Background: The ribosomal protein L22 is one of five proteins necessary for the formation of an early folding intermediate of the 23S rRNA. L22 has been found on the cytoplasmic side of the 50S ribosomal subunit. It can also be labeled by an erythromycin derivative bound close to the peptidyl-transfer center at the interface side of the 50S subunit, and the amino acid sequence of an erythromycin-resistant mutant is known. Knowing the structure of the protein may resolve this apparent conflict regarding the location of L22 on the ribosome. Results: The structure of Thermus thermophilus L22 was solved using X-ray crystallography. L22 consists of a small α+β domain and a protruding β hairpin that is 30 Å long. A large part of the surface area of the protein has the potential to be involved in interactions with rRNA. A structural similarity to other RNA-binding proteins is found, possibly indicating a common evolutionary origin. Conclusions: The extensive surface area of L22 has the characteristics of an RNA-binding protein, consistent with its role in the folding of the 23S rRNA. The erythromycin resistance conferring mutation is located in the protruding β hairpin that is postulated to be important in L22-rRNA interactions. This region of the protein might be at the erythromycin-binding site close to the peptidyl transferase center, whereas the opposite end may be exposed to the cytoplasm.
Unge, J., Åberg, A., Al-Kharadaghi, S., Nikulin, A., Nikonov, S., Davydova, N. L., … Liljas, A. (1998). The crystal structure of ribosomal protein L22 from Thermus thermophilus: Insights into the mechanism of erythromycin resistance. Structure, 6(12), 1577–1586. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0969-2126(98)00155-5