Phosphorylation of elongation factor Tu prevents ternary complex formation


  • C. Alexander
  • N. Bilgin
  • C. Lindschau
  • J.R. Mesters
  • B. Kraal
  • R. Hilgenfeld
  • V.A. Erdmann
  • C. Lippmann


  • Journal of Biological Chemistry


  • J Biol Chem 270 (24): 14541-14547


  • The elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu) is a member of the GTP/GDP-binding proteins and interacts with various partners during the elongation cycle of protein biosynthesis thereby mediating the correct binding of amino-acylated transfer RNA (aa-tRNA) to the acceptor site (A-site) of the ribosome. After GTP hydrolysis EF-Tu is released in its GDP-bound state. In vivo, EF-Tu is post-translationally modified by phosphorylation. Here we report that the phosphorylation of EF-Tu by a ribosome associated kinase activity is drastically enhanced by EF-Ts. The antibiotic kirromycin, known to block EF-Tu function, inhibits the modification. This effect is specific, since kirromycin-resistant mutants do become phosphorylated in the presence of the antibiotic. On the other hand, phosphorylated wild-type EF-Tu does not bind kirromycin. Most interestingly, the phosphorylation of EF-Tu abolishes its ability to bind aa-tRNA. In the GTP conformation the site of modification is located at the interface between domains 1 and 3 and is involved in a strong interdomain hydrogen bond. Introduction of a charged phosphate group at this position will change the interaction between the domains, leading to an opening of the molecule reminiscent of the GDP conformation. A model for the function of EF-Tu phosphorylation in protein biosynthesis is presented.