© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.
At equilibrium, empty ribosomes freely transit between the rotated and un-rotated states. In the cell, the binding of two translation elongation factors to the same general region of the ribosome stabilizes one state over the other. These stabilized states are resolved by expenditure of energy in the form of GTP hydrolysis. A prior study employing mutants of a late assembling peripheral ribosomal protein suggested that ribosome rotational status determines its affinity for elongation factors, and hence translational fidelity and gene expression. Here, mutants of the early assembling integral ribosomal protein uL2 are used to test the generality of this hypothesis. rRNA structure probing analyses reveal that mutations in the uL2 B7b bridge region shift the equilibrium toward the rotated state, propagating rRNA structural changes to all of the functional centers of ribosome. Structural disequilibrium unbalances ribosome biochemically: rotated ribosomes favor binding of the eEF2 translocase and disfavor that of the elongation ternary complex. This manifests as specific translational fidelity defects, impacting the expression of genes involved in telomere maintenance. A model is presented describing how cyclic intersubunit rotation ensures the unidirectionality of translational elongation, and how perturbation of rotational equilibrium affects specific aspects of translational fidelity and cellular gene expression.