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Nucleic Acids Res. 1995 Jan 11;23(1):18-28.

Molecular dissection of the pseudoknot governing the translational regulation of Escherichia coli ribosomal protein S15.

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  • 1UPR 9002 du CNRS, Institut de Biologie MolĂ©culaire et Cellulaire, Strasbourg, France.


The ribosomal protein S15 controls its own translation by binding to a mRNA region overlapping the ribosome binding site. That region of the mRNA can fold in two mutually exclusive conformations that are in dynamic equilibrium: a structure with two hairpins and a pseudoknot. A mutational analysis provided evidence for the existence and requirement of the pseudoknot for translational control in vivo and S15 recognition in vitro. In this study, we used chemical probing to analyze the structural consequences of mutations and their effect on the stem-loop/pseudoknot equilibrium. Interactions between S15 and the pseudoknot structure were further investigated by footprinting experiments. These data, combined with computer modelling and the previously published data on S15 binding and in vivo control, provide important clues on pseudoknot formation and S15 recognition. An unexpected result is that the relevant control element, here the pseudoknot form, can exist in a variety of topologically equivalent structures recognizable and shapable by S15. S15 sits on the deep groove of the co-axial stack and makes contacts with both stems, shielding the bridging adenine. The only specific sequence determinants are found in the helix common to the pseudoknot and the hairpin structures.

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