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Adaptation to genome decay in the structure of the smallest eukaryotic ribosome

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marco Salamina, Dr Johan PanekORCiD, Karla Helena Bueno, Charlotte Brown, Professor Robert HirtORCiD, Dr Sergey MelnikovORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2022. The Author(s). The evolution of microbial parasites involves the counterplay between natural selection forcing parasites to improve and genetic drifts forcing parasites to lose genes and accumulate deleterious mutations. Here, to understand how this counterplay occurs at the scale of individual macromolecules, we describe cryo-EM structure of ribosomes from Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a eukaryote with one of the smallest genomes in nature. The extreme rRNA reduction in E. cuniculi ribosomes is accompanied with unparalleled structural changes, such as the evolution of previously unknown molten rRNA linkers and bulgeless rRNA. Furthermore, E. cuniculi ribosomes withstand the loss of rRNA and protein segments by evolving an ability to use small molecules as structural mimics of degenerated rRNA and protein segments. Overall, we show that the molecular structures long viewed as reduced, degenerated, and suffering from debilitating mutations possess an array of compensatory mechanisms that allow them to remain active despite the extreme molecular reduction.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nicholson D, Salamina M, Panek J, Helena-Bueno K, Brown CR, Hirt RP, Ranson NA, Melnikov SV

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature communications

Year: 2022

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 01/02/2022

Acceptance date: 14/01/2022

Date deposited: 22/02/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28281-0

PubMed id: 35105900


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Funder referenceFunder name
MR/ N009738/1