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Nature. 2001 Jan 25;409(6819):539-42.

Arrangement of RNA and proteins in the spliceosomal U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle.

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Institut für Molekularbiologie und Tumorforschung, Marburg, Germany.


In eukaryotic cells, freshly synthesized messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) contains stretches of non-coding RNA that must be excised before the RNA can be translated into protein. Their removal is catalysed by the spliceosome, a large complex formed when a number of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles (snRNPs) bind sequentially to the pre-mRNA. The first snRNP to bind is called U1; other snRNPs (U2, U4/U6 and U5) follow. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of human U1 snRNP, determined by single-particle electron cryomicroscopy at 10 A resolution. The reconstruction reveals a doughnut-shaped central element that accommodates the seven Sm proteins common to all snRNPs, supporting a proposed model of circular Sm protein arrangement. By taking earlier biochemical results into account, we were able to assign the remaining density of the map to the other known components of U1 snRNP, deriving a structural model that describes the three-dimensional arrangement of proteins and RNA in U1 snRNP.

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