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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kenneth E. Rudd

Second Committee Member

Chaitanya Jain

Third Committee Member

Arun Malhotra

Fourth Committee Member

Murray P. Deutscher

Fifth Committee Member

Kurt Schesser


Upon termination of translation, the fate of ribosomes is determined largely by the rate at which cells are growing. During periods of exponential growth, ribosomes are rapidly recycled, translation is re-initiated, and the ribosomes are extremely stable. However, when nutrient sources become limiting, and ribosomes are not actively translating, they may become substrates for degradation. While this phenomenon is well known, details of how the process is initiated and what are the signals for degradation have, until now, remained elusive. Here, I present in vitro and in vivo data showing that free ribosome subunits are the targets of degradative enzymes, whereas 70S particles that remain associated are protected from such degradation. Conditions that increase the formation of subunits both in vitro and in vivo lead to enhanced degradation. Thus, the simple presence of free 50S and 30S subunits is sufficient to serve as the mechanism that initiates ribosome degradation. In order to identify RNases involved in ribosome degradation, both in vitro and in vivo assays were developed. Together, they have provided evidence for a multi-step degradation process involving both endo- and exoribonucleases. Examination of extracts from strains deficient in known RNases revealed that the endoribonucleases, RNase E and RNase G, may be involved in the initial cleavages. The resulting fragments, some of which are small enough oligoribonucleotides that they remain part of the acid-soluble fraction are degraded to mononucleotides primarily by the 3'-5' exoribonucleases, RNase R and polynucleotide phosphorylase.


PNPase; Polynucleotide Phosphorylase; RNase R; Endoribonuclease; Exoribonuclease; Degradation Of RRNA; Ribosomes