Translation Initiation Rate Determines the Impact of Ribosome Stalling on Bacterial Protein Synthesis [Microbiology]

August 22nd, 2014 by Hersch, S. J., Elgamal, S., Katz, A., Ibba, M., Navarre, W. W.

Ribosome stalling during translation can be caused by a number of characterized mechanisms. However, the impact of elongation stalls on protein levels is variable and the reasons for this are often unclear. To investigate this relationship we examined the bacterial translation elongation factor P (EF-P), which plays a critical role in rescuing ribosomes stalled at specific amino acid sequences including polyproline motifs. In previous proteomic analyses of both Salmonella and E. coli efp mutants, it was evident that not all proteins containing a polyproline motif were dependent on EF-P for efficient expression in vivo. The α- and β-subunits of ATP synthase, AtpA and AtpD, are translated from the same mRNA transcript and both contain a PPG motif, however proteomic analysis revealed that AtpD levels are strongly dependent on EF-P whereas AtpA levels are independent of EF-P. Using these model proteins we systematically determined that EF-P dependence is strongly influenced by elements in the 5' untranslated region of the mRNA. By mutating either the Shine-Dalgarno sequence or start codon we find that EF-P dependence correlates directly with the rate of translation initiation where strongly expressed proteins show the greatest dependence on EF-P. Our findings demonstrate that polyproline induced stalls exert a net effect on protein levels only if they limit translation significantly more than initiation. This model can be generalized to explain why sequences that induce pauses in translation elongation to, for example, facilitate folding do not necessarily exact a penalty on the overall production of the protein.