MOTIVATION: Ribosome profiling is a new technique that allows monitoring locations of translating ribosomes on mRNA at a whole transcriptome level. A recent ribosome profiling study demonstrated that internal Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequences have a major global effect on translation rates in bacteria: ribosomes pause at SD sites in mRNA. Therefore, it is important to understand how SD sites effect mRNA movement through the ribosome and generation of ribosome footprints.<br /><br />RESULTS: Here, we provide evidence that in addition to pausing effect, internal SD sequences induce a caterpillar-like movement of mRNA through the ribosome cavity. Once an SD site binds to the ribosome, it remains attached to it while the ribosome decodes a few subsequent codons. This leads to asymmetric progressive elongation of ribosome footprints at the 3'-end. It is likely that internal SD sequences induce a pause not on a single, but on several adjacent codons. This finding is important for our understanding of mRNA movement through the ribosome and also should facilitate interpretation of ribosome profiling data.
O’Connor, P. B. F., Li, G. W., Weissman, J. S., Atkins, J. F., & Baranov, P. V. (2013). RRNA:mRNA pairing alters the length and the symmetry of mRNA-protected fragments in ribosome profiling experiments. Bioinformatics, 29(12), 1488–1491. https://doi.org/10.1093/bioinformatics/btt184