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RNA folds: insights from recent crystal structures.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


An RNA fold is the result of packing together two or more coaxial helical stacks. To date, four RNA folds have been determined at near-atomic resolution by X-ray crystallography: transfer RNA, the hammerhead ribozyme, the P4-P6 domain of the Tetrahymena group I intron, and the hepatitis delta virus ribozyme. All four folds result in RNAs that are considerably more compact than isolated A-form duplexes. These structures illustrate, to varying degrees, three modes of fold stabilization: association of complementary molecular surfaces, stabilization of close RNA packing by binding of cations, and stabilization through pseudoknotting.

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