Decoding of genetic information occurs upon interaction of an mRNA codon-tRNA anticodon complex with the small subunit of the ribosome. The ribosomal decoding region is associated with highly conserved sequences near the 3' end of 16 S rRNA. The decoding process is perturbed by the aminoglycoside antibiotics, which also interact with this region of rRNA. Mutations of certain nucleotides in rRNA reduce aminoglycoside binding affinity, as previously demonstrated using a model RNA oligonucleotide system. Here, predictions from the oligonucleotide system were tested in the ribosome by mutation of universally conserved nucleotides at 1406 to 1408 and 1494 to 1495 in the decoding region of plasmid-encoded bacterial 16 S rRNA. Phenotypic changes range from the benign effect of U1406-->A or A1408-->G substitutions, to the highly deleterious 1406G and 1495 mutations that assemble into 30 S subunits but are defective in forming functional ribosomes. Changes in the local conformation of the decoding region caused by these mutations were identified by chemical probing of isolated 30 S subunits. Ribosomes containing 16 S rRNA with mutations at positions 1408, 1407+1494, or 1495 had reduced affinity for the aminoglycoside paromomycin, whereas no discernible reduction in affinity was observed with 1406 mutant ribosomes. These data are consistent with prior NMR structural determination of aminoglycoside interaction with the decoding region, and further our understanding of how aminoglycoside resistance can be conferred.
Journal of Molecular Biology, 1999, Vol 286, Issue 1, p. 33-43