Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Eric D Brown




Ribosome biogenesis is a major metabolic expense of bacteria and a promising target for antibacterial drug discovery. Trans-acting proteins, called ribosome biogenesis factors, aid this complex and cooperative process. EngA (YfgK, Der) is a widely distributed bacterial GTPase that is shown here to be important for normal ribosome biogenesis. EngA is an attractive antibacterial target because it is essential for viability in bacteria but is absent in humans.

The GTPase activity and cellular function of EngA was investigated in Escherichia coli. Depletion of EngA caused accumulation of 30S and 50S ribosomal subunits at the expense of 70S ribosomes, showing for the first time that EngA is important for normal ribosome biogenesis. Mutation of either of the tandem GTPase domains of EngA led to abnormal ribosome profiles, cell death and loss of GTPase activity, revealing that the two GTPase domains act cooperatively to carry out an essential function. EngA bound the 50S subunit of the ribosome in cells and in vitro. Depletion of EngA resulted in sensitization to aminoglycoside antibiotics, which bind at the aminoacyl-tRNA binding site of ribosomes. To search for an inhibitor of ribosome biogenesis, a high-throughput screen of the GTPase activity of EngA was developed. A specific inhibitor was not identified, however, this robust screen can be extended to other compound libraries. Thus, we showed that the GTPase domains of EngA have a cooperative function in ribosome biogenesis, probably in maturation of the 50S subunit, and that EngA is an amenable target for further inhibitor screens.

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Biochemistry Commons