The ribosome is a complex molecular machine, found within all living cells, that serves as the site of biological protein synthesis (translation). Ribosomes link amino acids together in the order specified by messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules. Ribosomes consist of two major components: the small ribosomal subunit, which reads the RNA, and the large subunit, which joins amino acids to form a polypeptide chain. Each subunit is composed of one or more ribosomal RNA (rRNA) molecules and a variety of ribosomal proteins.
The sequence of DNA, which encodes the sequence of the amino acids in a protein, is copied into a messenger RNA chain. It may be copied many times into RNA chains. Ribosomes can bind to a messenger RNA chain and use its sequence for determining the correct sequence of amino acids. Amino acids are selected, collected, and carried to the ribosome by transfer RNA (tRNA) molecules, which enter one part of the ribosome and bind to the messenger RNA chain. It is during this binding that the correct translation of nucleic acid sequence to amino acid sequence occurs. For each coding triplet in the messenger RNA there is a distinct transfer RNA that matches and which carries the correct amino acid for that coding triplet. The attached amino acids are then linked together by another part of the ribosome. Once the protein is produced, it can then fold to produce a specific functional three-dimensional structure although during synthesis some proteins start folding into their correct form.
A ribosome is made from complexes of RNAs and proteins and is therefore a ribonucleoprotein. Each ribosome is divided into two subunits: 1; a smaller subunit which binds to a larger subunit and the mRNA pattern, and 2; a larger subunit which binds to the tRNA, the amino acids, and the smaller subunit. When a ribosome finishes reading an mRNA molecule, these two subunits split apart. Ribosomes are ribozymes, because the catalytic peptidyltransferase activity that links amino acids together is performed by the ribosomal RNA. Ribosomes are often associated with the intracellular membranes that make up the rough endoplasmic reticulum.
Ribosomes from bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes in the three-domain system, resemble each other to a remarkable degree, evidence of a common origin. They differ in their size, sequence, structure, and the ratio of protein to RNA. The differences in structure allow some antibiotics to kill bacteria by inhibiting their ribosomes, while leaving human ribosomes unaffected. In bacteria and archaea, more than one ribosome may move along a single mRNA chain at one time, each "reading" its sequence and producing a corresponding protein molecule.
The ribosome is a cellular machine which is highly complex. It is largely made up of specialized RNA known as ribosomal RNA (rRNA) as well as dozens of distinct proteins (the exact number varies slightly between species). The ribosomal proteins and rRNAs are arranged into two distinct ribosomal pieces of different size, known generally as the large and small subunit of the ribosome. Ribosomes consist of two subunits that fit together and work as one to translate the mRNA into a polypeptide chain during protein synthesis. Because they are formed from two subunits of non-equal size, they are slightly longer in the axis than in diameter. Prokaryotic ribosomes are around 20 nm (200 Å) in diameter and are composed of 65% rRNA and 35% ribosomal proteins. Bacterial ribosomes are composed of one or two rRNA strands. Eukaryotic ribosomes contain one or three very large rRNA molecules and multiple smaller protein molecules. Crystallographic work has shown that there are no ribosomal proteins close to the reaction site for polypeptide synthesis. This proves that the protein components of ribosomes do not directly participate in peptide bond formation catalysis, but rather suggests that these proteins act as a scaffold that may enhance the ability of rRNA to synthesize protein.