The crystal structure of elongation factor EF-Tu from Thermus aquaticus in the GTP conformation

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Background: Elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) is a GTP-binding protein that is crucial for protein biosynthesis. In the GTP form of the molecule, EF-Tu binds tightly to aminoacyl-tRNA, forming a ternary complex that interacts with the ribosomal acceptor site. During this interaction, GTP is hydrolyzed, and EF-Tu·GDP is ejected. Results: The crystal structure of EF-Tu from Thermus aquaticus, complexed to the GTP analogue GDPNP, has been determined at 2.5 Å resolution and compared to the structure of Escherichia coli EF-Tu·GDP. During the transition from the GDP (inactive) to the GTP (active) form, domain 1, containing the GTP-binding site, undergoes internal conformational changes similar to those observed in ras-p21. In addition, a dramatic rearrangement of domains is observed, corresponding to a rotation of 90.8° of domain 1 relative to domains 2 and 3. Residues that are affected in the binding of aminoacyl-tRNA are found in or near the cleft formed by the domain interface. Conclusion: GTP binding by EF-Tu leads to dramatic conformational changes which expose the tRNA binding site. It appears that tRNA binding to EF-Tu induces a further conformational change, which may affect the GTPase activity. © 1993.




Kjeldgaard, M., Nissen, P., Thirup, S., & Nyborg, J. (1993). The crystal structure of elongation factor EF-Tu from Thermus aquaticus in the GTP conformation. Structure, 1(1), 35–50.

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