Chemical modulators of ribosome biogenesis as biological probes
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Small-molecule inhibitors of protein biosynthesis have been instrumental in the dissection of the complexities of ribosome structure and function. Ribosome biogenesis, on the other hand, is a complex and largely enigmatic process for which there is a paucity of chemical probes. Indeed, ribosome biogenesis has been studied almost exclusively using genetic and biochemical approaches without the benefit of small-molecule inhibitors of this process. Here, we provide a perspective on the promise of chemical inhibitors of ribosome assembly for future research. We explore key obstacles that complicate the interpretation of studies aimed at perturbing ribosome biogenesis in vivo using genetic methods, and we argue that chemical inhibitors are especially powerful because they can be used to induce perturbations in a manner that obviates these difficulties. Thus, in combination with leading-edge biochemical and structural methods, chemical probes offer unique advantages toward elucidating the molecular events that define the assembly of ribosomes.
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