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Science. 1996 Sep 20;273(5282):1678-85.

Crystal structure of a group I ribozyme domain: principles of RNA packing.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. doudna@csb.yale.edu


Group I self-splicing introns catalyze their own excision from precursor RNAs by way of a two-step transesterification reaction. The catalytic core of these ribozymes is formed by two structural domains. The 2.8-angstrom crystal structure of one of these, the P4-P6 domain of the Tetrahymena thermophila intron, is described. In the 160-nucleotide domain, a sharp bend allows stacked helices of the conserved core to pack alongside helices of an adjacent region. Two specific long-range interactions clamp the two halves of the domain together: a two-Mg2+-coordinated adenosine-rich corkscrew plugs into the minor groove of a helix, and a GAAA hairpin loop binds to a conserved 11-nucleotide internal loop. Metal- and ribose-mediated backbone contacts further stabilize the close side-by-side helical packing. The structure indicates the extent of RNA packing required for the function of large ribozymes, the spliceosome, and the ribosome.

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