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To provide a bridge between in vivo and in vitro studies of eukaryotic translation initiation, we have developed a reconstituted translation initiation system using components from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We have purified a minimal set of initiation factors (elFs) that, together with yeast 80S ribosomes, GTP, and initiator methionyl-tRNA, are sufficient to assemble active initiation complexes on a minimal mRNA template. The kinetics of various steps in the pathway of initiation complex assembly and the formation of the first peptide bond in vitro have been explored. The formation of active initiation complexes in this system is dependent on ribosomes, mRNA, Met-tRNA i , GTP hydrolysis, elF1, elF1A, elF2, elF5, and elF5B. Our data indicate that elF1 and elF1A both facilitate the binding of the elF2•GTP•Met-tRNA i complex to the 40S ribosomal subunit to form the 43S complex. elF5 stimulates a step after 43S complex formation, consistent with its proposed role in activating GTP hydrolysis by elF2 upon initiation codon recognition. The presence of elF5B is required for the joining of the 40S and 60S subunits to form the 80S initiation complex. The step at which each of these factors acts in this reconstituted system is in agreement with previous data from in vivo studies and work using reconstituted mammalian systems, indicating that the system recapitulates fundamental events in translation initiation in eukaryotic cells. This system should allow us to couple powerful yeast genetic and molecular biological experiments with in vitro kinetic and biophysical experiments, yielding a better understanding of the molecular mechanics of this central, complex process.


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