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Rescuing ribosomes and bewildering bear hugs: inside a critical biological process

Research Highlights

A group of scientists from the University of Leeds and the University of Dundee have discovered new knowledge in how ribosomes – the key machinery that makes proteins for our cells - are rescued.

The researchers used an imaging technique called cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualise the 3D structure of UREL bound to the ribosome with high-resolution detail.

This uncovered that UREL modifies malfunctioning ribosomes by wrapping itself around a ribosome – in a way similar to that of a bear hug. UREL then attaches a small protein, called UFM1, onto the ribosome which helps release the stalled ribosomes from the Endoplasmic Reticulum membrane (ER membrane), a part of the cell which produces proteins for the rest of the cell to function.

By releasing the malfunctioning ribosome, the cell prevents a toxic build-up of materials that can lead to various diseases such as neurodevelopmental disorders and skeletal abnormalities.

Read the full press release on the Faculty of Biological Sciences website

Read The UFM1 E3 ligase recognizes and releases 60S ribosomes from ER translocons on the Nature website.