We determined the high-resolution structures of large and small ribosomal subunits from mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria and compared them with those of the thermophilic ribosome and the halophilic large subunit. We confirmed that the elements involved in intersubunit contacts and in substrate binding are inherently flexible and that a common ribosomal strategy is to utilize this conformational variability for optimizing its functional efficiency and minimizing nonproductive interactions. Under close-to-physiological conditions, these elements maintain well-ordered characteristic conformations. In unbound subunits, the features creating intersubunit bridges within associated ribosomes lie on the interface surface, and the features that bind factors and substrates reach toward the binding site only when conditions are ripe.


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