Electrostatic Interactions Govern Extreme Nascent Protein Ejection Times from Ribosomes and Can Delay Ribosome Recycling

Daniel A. Nissley, Quyen V. Vu, Fabio Trovato, Nabeel Ahmed, Yang Jiang, Mai Suan Li, Edward P. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The ejection of nascent proteins out of the ribosome exit tunnel, after their covalent bond to transfer-RNA has been broken, has not been experimentally studied due to challenges in sample preparation. Here, we investigate this process using a combination of multiscale modeling, ribosome profiling, and gene ontology analyses. Simulating the ejection of a representative set of 122 E. coli proteins we find a greater than 1000-fold variation in ejection times. Nascent proteins enriched in negatively charged residues near their C-terminus eject the fastest, while nascent chains enriched in positively charged residues tend to eject much more slowly. More work is required to pull slowly ejecting proteins out of the exit tunnel than quickly ejecting proteins, according to all-atom simulations. An energetic decomposition reveals, for slowly ejecting proteins, that this is due to the strong attractive electrostatic interactions between the nascent chain and the negatively charged ribosomal-RNA lining the exit tunnel, and for quickly ejecting proteins, it is due to their repulsive electrostatic interactions with the exit tunnel. Ribosome profiling data from E. coli reveals that the presence of slowly ejecting sequences correlates with ribosomes spending more time at stop codons, indicating that the ejection process might delay ribosome recycling. Proteins that have the highest positive charge density at their C-terminus are overwhelmingly ribosomal proteins, suggesting the possibility that this sequence feature may aid in the cotranslational assembly of ribosomes by delaying the release of nascent ribosomal proteins into the cytosol. Thus, nascent chain ejection times from the ribosome can vary greatly between proteins due to differential electrostatic interactions, can influence ribosome recycling, and could be particularly relevant to the synthesis and cotranslational behavior of some proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6103-6110
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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