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Biochemistry. 1999 Mar 9;38(10):3157-67.

Unexpected metal ion requirements specific for catalysis of the branching reaction in a group II intron.

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  • 1Laboratoire du Métabolisme des ARN, CNRS (URA 1300), Département des Biotechnologies, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The splicing process catalyzed by group II intron ribozymes follows the same two-step pathway as nuclear pre-mRNA splicing. In vivo, the first splicing step of wild-type introns is a transesterification reaction giving rise to a branched lariat intron-3'-exon intermediate characteristic of this splicing mode. In the wild-type introns, the ribozyme core and the substrate intron-exon junctions are carried by the same precursor molecule, making it difficult to distinguish between RNA folding and catalysis under normal splicing reactions. To characterize the catalytic step of the first transesterification reaction, we studied the reversal of this reaction, reverse branching. In this reverse reaction, the excised lariat intron and the substrate 5'-exon can be preincubated and folded separately, allowing the measure of the catalytic rate of the reaction. To measure the catalytic rate of the second splicing step, purified lariat intron-3'-exon intermediate molecules were preincubated and folded prior to the addition of 5'-exon. Conditions could be found where chemistry appeared rate limiting for both catalytic steps. Study of the metal ion requirements under these conditions resulted in the unexpected finding that, for the intron studied, substitution of magnesium ions by manganese ions enhanced the rate of the first transesterification reaction by two orders of magnitude but had virtually no effect on the second transesterification reaction or the 5' splice site cleavage by hydrolysis. Finally, the catalytic rates measured under optimal conditions for both splicing steps were faster by three orders of magnitude in the branching pathway than in the hydrolytic pathway.

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