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Biochemistry. 1997 Aug 12;36(32):9726-34.

In vitro selection of dopamine RNA ligands.

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  • 1Institute of Cell Biology, CNR, Rome, Italy.


RNA aptamers that specifically bind dopamine have been isolated by in vitro selection from a pool of 3.4 x 10(14) different RNA molecules. One aptamer (dopa2), which dominated the selected pool, has been characterized and binds to the dopamine affinity column with a dissociation constant of 2.8 microM. The specificity of binding has been determined by studying binding properties of a number of dopamine-related molecules, showing that the interaction with the RNA might be mediated by the hydroxyl group at position 3 and the proximal aliphatic chain in the dopamine molecule. The binding domain was initially localized by boundary experiments. Further definition of the dopamine binding site was obtained by secondary selection on a pool of sequences derived from a partial randomization of the dopa2 molecule. Sequence comparison of a large panel of selected variants revealed a structural consensus motif among the active aptamers. The dopamine binding pocket is built up by a tertiary interaction between two stem and loop motifs, creating a stable framework in which five invariant nucleotides are precisely arrayed. Minimal active sequence and key nucleotides have been confirmed by the design of small functional aptamers and mutational analysis. Enzymatic probing suggests that the RNA might undergo a conformational change upon ligand binding that stabilizes the proposed tertiary structure.

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