The function of SRP was discovered by the study of processed and unprocessed secretory proteins, particularly immunoglobulin light chains; and bovine preprolactin. Newly synthesized proteins in eukaryotes carry N-terminal hydrophobic signal sequences, which are bound by SRP when they emerge from the ribosome.
In eukaryotes there are three domains between SRP and its receptor that function in guanosine triphosphate (GTP) binding and hydrolysis. These are located in two related subunits in the SRP receptor (SRα and SRβ) and the SRP protein SRP54 (known as Ffh in bacteria). The coordinated binding of GTP by SRP and the SRP receptor has been shown to be a prerequisite for the successful targeting of SRP to the SRP receptor.
Upon docking, the nascent peptide chain is inserted into the translocon channel where it enters into the ER. Protein synthesis resumes as SRP is released from the ribosome. The SRP-SRP receptor complex dissociates via GTP hydrolysis and the cycle of SRP-mediated protein translocation continues.
Once inside the ER, the signal sequence is cleaved from the core protein by signal peptidase. Signal sequences are therefore not a part of mature proteins.
Despite SRP function being analogous in all organisms, its composition varies greatly. The SRP54-SRP RNA core with GTPase activity is shared in all cellular life, but some subunit polypeptides are specific to eukaryotes.
SRP Subunits in three domains of life
Crystallographic structures of representative SRPs
^Kuglstatter A, Oubridge C, Nagai K (October 2002). "Induced structural changes of 7SL RNA during the assembly of human signal recognition particle". Nature Structural Biology. 9 (10): 740–4. doi:10.1038/nsb843. PMID12244299. S2CID9543041.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1999, "for the discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell" to Günter Blobel, USA. Press Release, Illustrated Presentation, Presentation Speech