An antimicrobial peptide that inhibits translation by trapping release factors on the ribosome
Many antibiotics stop bacterial growth by inhibiting different steps of protein synthesis. However, no specific inhibitors of translation termination are known. Proline-rich antimicrobial peptides, a component of the antibacterial defense system of multicellular organisms, interfere with bacterial growth by inhibiting translation. Here we show that Api137, a derivative of the insect-produced antimicrobial peptide apidaecin, arrests terminating ribosomes using a unique mechanism of action. Api137 binds to the Escherichia coli ribosome and traps release factor (RF) RF1 or RF2 subsequent to the release of the nascent polypeptide chain. A high-resolution cryo-EM structure of the ribosome complexed with RF1 and Api137 reveals the molecular interactions that lead to RF trapping. Api137-mediated depletion of the cellular pool of free release factors causes the majority of ribosomes to stall at stop codons before polypeptide release, thereby resulting in a global shutdown of translation termination.