SF-2015-Climbing the Everest beyond the Everest: Resistance to Antibiotics and Origin of Life

Prof. Ada Yonath
Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS), Rehovot, Israe

Striving to understand the fundamental process of the translation of the genetic code, a basic and most important process of life, we developed innovating methodologies and determined the structure and deciphered its mode of function of the ribosome, the universal cellular “factory” that performed the formation of the proteins (the cell workers) according to the genetic code. 

Owing to their vital role in cell life, the ribosomes are paralyzed by many antibiotics. Consequently, once we understood the basic issues in ribosome function, we focused on the inhibitory actions and synergism pathways of almost all ribosomal antibiotics. The results of these studies indicated the principles of differentiation between patients and disease carrying bacteria, suggested mechanisms leading to bacterial resistance and paved ways for improvement of existing antibiotics as well as for the design of advanced therapeutics capable of minimizing antibiotics resistance. 

All ribosomes possess spectacular architecture accompanied by inherent mobility, facilitating their smooth performance as polymerases. The site for peptide bond formation is located within a universal internal symmetrical region. The high conservation of this region implies its existence irrespective of environmental conditions and indicates that it may represent an ancient RNA machine. Thus, suggesting that a vestige of a prebiotic RNA apparatus is still functioning within the contemporary ribosome and leading to proposed mechanism for the emergence of the genetic code.

Ada Yonath received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009.