The ribosome, the protein synthesis machinery of the cell, has also been implicated in protein folding. This activity resides within the domain V of the main RNA component of the large subunit of the ribosome. It has been shown that two antiprion drugs 6-aminophenanthridine (6AP) and Guanabenz (GA) bind to the ribosomal RNA and inhibit specifically the protein folding activity of the ribosome. Here, we have characterized with biochemical experiments, the mode of inhibition of these two drugs using ribosomes or ribosomal components active in protein folding (referred to as ’ribosomal folding modulators’ or RFMs) from both bacteria Escherichia coli and yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and human carbonic anhydrase (HCA) as a sample protein. Our results indicate that 6AP and GA inhibit the protein folding activity of the ribosome by competition with the unfolded protein for binding to the ribosome. As a result, the yield of the refolded protein decreases, but the rate of its refolding remains unaffected. Further, 6AP- and GA mediated inhibition of RFM mediated refolding can be reversed by the addition of RFMs in excess. We also demonstrate with delayed addition of the ribosome and the antiprion drugs that there is a short time-span in the range of seconds within which the ribosome interacts with the unfolded protein. Thus we conclude that the protein folding activity of the ribosome is conserved from bacteria to eukaryotes and most likely the substrate for RFMs is an early refolding state of the target protein.
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