Autonomous synthesis and assembly of a ribosomal subunit on a chip

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Science Advances  15 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 16, eaaz6020
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz6020


Ribosome biogenesis is an efficient and complex assembly process that has not been reconstructed outside a living cell so far, yet is the most critical step for establishing a self-replicating artificial cell. We recreated the biogenesis of Escherichia coli’s small ribosomal subunit by synthesizing and capturing all its ribosomal proteins and RNA on a chip. Surface confinement provided favorable conditions for autonomous stepwise assembly of new subunits, spatially segregated from original intact ribosomes. Our real-time fluorescence measurements revealed hierarchal assembly, cooperative interactions, unstable intermediates, and specific binding to large ribosomal subunits. Using only synthetic genes, our methodology is a crucial step toward creation of a self-replicating artificial cell and a general strategy for the mechanistic investigation of diverse multicomponent macromolecular machines.

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