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Structure. 2006 Mar;14(3):487-95.

Structural basis of RNA binding discrimination between bacteriophages Qbeta and MS2.

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  • 1Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom.


Sequence-specific interactions between RNA stem-loops and coat protein (CP) subunits play vital roles in the life cycles of the RNA bacteriophages, e.g., by allowing translational repression of their replicase cistrons and tagging their own RNA genomes for encapsidation. The CPs of bacteriophages Qbeta and MS2 each discriminate in favor of their cognate translational operators, even in the presence of closely related operators from other phages in vivo. Discrete mutations within the MS2 CP have been shown to relax this discrimination in vitro. We have determined the structures of eight complexes between such mutants and both MS2 and Qbeta stem-loops with X-ray crystallography. In conjunction with previously determined in vivo repression data, the structures enable us to propose the molecular basis for the discrimination mechanism.

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