GGQ(Gly-Cys-Gln) -release factor, stop codon recognition

GGQ (Gly-Cys-Gln) Release Factor: Understanding Stop Codon Recognition

The genetic code is universal; all living organisms on earth use the same codons to specify the same amino acids during protein synthesis. However, in order to correctly build a protein, there must be a way to know when to start and stop the process. This is where release factors come in. Release factors are specific proteins that bind to the ribosome when a stop codon is encountered, leading to the release of the newly synthesized protein.

The Stop Codon

Stop codons are three of the 64 possible codons in the genetic code that signal to the ribosome that it should stop adding amino acids to the growing protein chain. There are three stop codons: UAA, UAG and UGA. Unlike most codons, they do not encode any amino acids, but rather signal to the ribosome that it should terminate the process of translation.

The Role of Release Factors

Release factors are specialized proteins that play a critical role in the termination of protein synthesis. The first release factor discovered was RF1, which is specific for the UAA and UAG stop codons. The second release factor discovered was RF2, which recognizes UAA and UGA stop codons.

RF1 and RF2 are homologous in sequence and have a conserved structural motif known as GGQ (Gly-Cys-Gln). The GGQ motif is crucial for the hydrolysis of the bond between the completed polypeptide chain and the tRNA at the P-site. Once this bond is cleaved, the newly synthesized protein chain is released from the ribosome.

Understanding Stop Codon Recognition

Interestingly, despite their similarities, RF1 and RF2 have distinct preferences for stop codons. RF1 binds with high affinity to the UAA codon and with slightly lower affinity to the UAG codon, while RF2 recognizes both UAA and UGA codons with similar efficiency.

The structural basis for RF1 and RF2’s recognition of stop codons has been studied through crystallographic analyses. The GGQ motif has been found to play a crucial role in fine-tuning the specificity of release factor binding. Ultimately, the specificity of release factors for stop codons is essential for the accuracy and fidelity of protein synthesis.


Release factors are a critical component of the protein synthesis machinery, ensuring that the proper sequence of amino acids is incorporated into nascent polypeptide chains. Understanding the structural and mechanistic basis of stop codon recognition by release factors is essential for understanding the complexity of the genetic code. The GGQ motif of release factors is a key feature that plays a central role in ensuring the accurate recognition and termination of protein synthesis at the stop codon.