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Q Rev Biophys. 2005 Aug;38(3):221-43. Epub 2006 Jul 3.

RNA structural motifs: building blocks of a modular biomolecule.

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  • 1Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.


RNAs are modular biomolecules, composed largely of conserved structural subunits, or motifs. These structural motifs comprise the secondary structure of RNA and are knit together via tertiary interactions into a compact, functional, three-dimensional structure and are to be distinguished from motifs defined by sequence or function. A relatively small number of structural motifs are found repeatedly in RNA hairpin and internal loops, and are observed to be composed of a limited number of common 'structural elements'. In addition to secondary and tertiary structure motifs, there are functional motifs specific for certain biological roles and binding motifs that serve to complex metals or other ligands. Research is continuing into the identification and classification of RNA structural motifs and is being initiated to predict motifs from sequence, to trace their phylogenetic relationships and to use them as building blocks in RNA engineering.

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