Moore:Ribosome Purification

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Revision as of 15:51, 3 July 2008



Ribosomes are large aggregates of RNA and protein. Usually, when you harvest E. coli to get them, most of the ribosomes are in the process of making a protein, so what you end up with are ribosomes with some tRNA, mRNA, and translation factors on them. For some studies, you'll want to find a way to remove these components, see (protocol). In general, they're pretty robust, but you can ruin them if you make some mistakes:

  • Removing the magnesium, either by dilution or using a chelator, will perma-break them.
  • Letting RNAse chew on them. As mentioned below, use a strain lacking RNase I (rna).
  • Heating them over 50 °C, up to and including 50 is fine if the solution is properly buffered.
  • Letting the pH move far away from ~7.5. High pH causes RNA hydrolysis, especially when metal is present.
  • Metal-induced RNA cleavage. Keep iron chelated with a small amount of EDTA.


Medium, Growth, and Harvest

  • Early protocols call for growing E. coli in a high-phosphate medium. I usually use LB with 0.2% glucose, they seem to be fine.
  • Rapidly chill the cells on ice when they are in early- to mid-log phase. If you let let the cells cool slowly (like in a cold room or centrifuge) they will cold-adapt and synthesize proteins that shut down translation (not good) (cite). If you want to be serious, you can add ice directly to the culture. Don't use ice from tap water, generally, a frozen buffer of some sort is used, about = volume to the culture. Keep all of your stuff on ice until lysis.
  • Harvest the cells in a 4 °C centrifuge, and resuspend in a washing buffer, re-harvest, then resuspend in a lysis buffer. Make the cells concentrated, resuspending a liter of log-phase bugs in 3-5 mls of lysis buffer works pretty well.

Lysis and Removing Cell Debris

  • You can use a pressure cell to shear the cells open. Works fine for huge preps, but is rather impractical for most volumes.
  • I either use (1) hen egg white lysozyme, or (2) phage λ lysozyme. See: Sauer:Lysing_E._coli_with_Lysozymes. I generally grow the cells, and initiate lysis, divide the lysate into micro-fuge tubes after the DNase reduces the viscocity, and spin out most of the cell debris (~10 min, full speed), pipette the supernatants to clean tubes, then freeze the aliquots at -80 °C.
  • It is a good idea to spin a few times before pelleting the ribosomes in the ultracentrifuge: there will be chunks of membranes that contaminate your ribosome pellet. So, the day you plan to pellet the ribosomes, thaw the lysate aliquots and spin them again, or two more times, each time removing the sup to a clean tube. Keep your stuff on ice.

Making "Crude" Ribosomes by Pelleting Them

Here, the goal is to separate te ribosomes from the majority of other, smaller things in the cell. The lysates are layered onto buffer solutions in centrifuge tubes containing 10% sucrose to make it dense. The lysate will float on the sucrose, but when you spin the solutions under high g-forces, the ribosomes out-run most of the other stuff to the bottom of the tube.

How long do I spin them?

This depends on what centrifuge/buckets you're using, how thick your sucrose layer is, what temp the solution is, and how fast you plan to spin them. You can calculate or look-up the "k-factor" for your rotor (a convenient term from Beckman-Coulter that relates spin time to what you want to pellet).

If you don't know or can't find the k-factor:

k = ln(max/min)/w2 x 10-13/3600

if you know a k-factor, but don't want to spin at speed for which it was calculated:

knew = kcurrent x (speedcurrent/speednew)^2

if you have a k-factor and want to know how long to spin:

t (in hours) = k/S

E. coli ribosomes are 70S, the subunits are 30S and 50S. If you want all of the material to pellet, calculate to pellet 30S.

  • Note: You are spinning through sucrose at 4 °C. This is more viscous than water (for which the k-factor is calculated). You have to increase the spin time because the material moves quite a bit slower through the sucrose. 8% sucrose is about twice as viscous as water (I forget where I read that, I'm getting old). I double the time needed to pellet 30S, or calculate the time needed to pellet 15S (same thing). This does pretty well, most rRNA is in the pellet and most tRNAs and SsrA is in the solution.

The first few times you pellet ribosomes in whatever rotor you choose, check where the material distributes by purifying RNA from each phase and running a gel examples of E. coli RNAs.

Resuspending the Ribosomes

  • After your spin, you will, in most cases, want to discard the supernatant. Aspiration works well, draw from the meniscus and follow the solution down to the pellet. Suck it dry. If you did a good job of pre-clearing your lysates, the ribosome pellet will be a crystal clear "lense" that has the consistency of wax.
  • Add a buffered solution containing magnesium to the pellet. Don't touch the pellet with your pipette tip, it is really sticky. I usually resuspend pellets in ~200 l of buffer. Place the tubes in a rack and shake then at 4 until the ribosomes are in solution.


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