Protein synthesis by the ribosome is coordinated by an intricate series of large-scale conformational rearrangements. Structural studies can provide information about long-lived states, however biological kinetics are controlled by the intervening free-energy barriers. While there has been progress describing the energy landscapes of bacterial ribosomes, very little is known about the energetics of large-scale rearrangements in eukaryotic systems. To address this topic, we constructed an all-atom model with simplified energetics and performed simulations of subunit rotation in the yeast ribosome. In these simulations, the small subunit (SSU; ∼1 MDa) undergoes spontaneous and reversible rotation events (∼8
). By enabling the simulation of this rearrangement under equilibrium conditions, these calculations provide initial insights into the molecular factors that control dynamics in eukaryotic ribosomes. Through this, we are able to identify specific inter-subunit interactions that have a pronounced influence on the rate-limiting free-energy barrier. We also show that, as a result of changes in molecular flexibility, the thermodynamic balance between the rotated and unrotated states is temperature-dependent. This effect may be interpreted in terms of differential molecular flexibility within the rotated and unrotated states. Together, these calculations provide a foundation, upon which the field may begin to dissect the energetics of these complex molecular machines.
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