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EMBO J. 1995 Jul 3;14(13):3247-51.

Enhancement of Neurospora VS ribozyme cleavage by tuberactinomycin antibiotics.

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  • 1Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Program in Evolutionary Biology, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, University of Toronto, Ontario.


Several examples of inhibition of the function of a ribozyme or RNA-protein complex have shown that certain antibiotics can interact specifically with RNA. There are, however, few examples of antibiotics that have a positive, rather than a negative, effect on the function of an RNA. We have found that micromolar concentrations of viomycin, a basic, cyclic peptide antibiotic of the tuberactinomycin group, enhance the cleavage of a ribozyme derived from Neurospora VS RNA. Viomycin decreases by an order of magnitude the concentration of magnesium required for cleavage. It also stimulates an otherwise insignificant transcleavage reaction by enhancing interactions between RNA molecules. The ability of viomycin to enhance some RNA-mediated reactions but inhibit others, including translation and Group I intron splicing, demonstrates the potential for natural selection by small molecules during evolution in the 'RNA world' and may have broader implications with respect to ribozyme expression and activity in contemporary cells.

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