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Biochemistry. 2006 Jun 27;45(25):7861-71.

Evidence for preorganization of the glmS ribozyme ligand binding pocket.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, 95 Carrigan Drive, 222 Stafford Hall, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA. khampel@uvm.edu


We have examined the tertiary structure of the ligand-activated glmS ribozyme by a combination of methods with the aim of evaluating the magnitude of RNA conformational change induced by binding of the cofactor, glucosamine 6-phosphate (GlcN6P). Hydroxyl radical footprinting of a trans-acting ribozyme complex identifies several sites of solvent protection upon incubation of the RNA in Mg(2+)-containing solutions, providing initial evidence of the tertiary fold of the ribozyme. Under these folding conditions and at GlcN6P concentrations that saturate the ligand-induced cleavage reaction, we do not observe changes to this pattern. Cross-linking with short-wave UV light of the complex yielded similar overall results. In addition, ribozyme-substrate complexes cross-linked in the absence of GlcN6P could be gel purified and then activated in the presence of ligand. One of these active cross-linked species links the base immediately 3' of the cleavage site to a highly conserved region of the ribozyme core and could be catalytically activated by ligand. Combined with recent studies that argue that GlcN6P acts as a coenzyme in the reaction, our data point to a riboswitch mechanism in which ligand binds to a prefolded active site pocket and assists in catalysis via a direct participation in the reaction chemistry, the local influence on the geometry of the active site constituents, or a combination of both mechanisms. This mode of action is different from that observed for other riboswitches characterized to date, which act by inducing secondary and tertiary structure changes.

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