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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Apr 24;98(9):4899-903. Epub 2001 Apr 10.

RNA tertiary interactions in the large ribosomal subunit: the A-minor motif.

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


Analysis of the 2.4-A resolution crystal structure of the large ribosomal subunit from Haloarcula marismortui reveals the existence of an abundant and ubiquitous structural motif that stabilizes RNA tertiary and quaternary structures. This motif is termed the A-minor motif, because it involves the insertion of the smooth, minor groove edges of adenines into the minor groove of neighboring helices, preferentially at C-G base pairs, where they form hydrogen bonds with one or both of the 2' OHs of those pairs. A-minor motifs stabilize contacts between RNA helices, interactions between loops and helices, and the conformations of junctions and tight turns. The interactions between the 3' terminal adenine of tRNAs bound in either the A site or the P site with 23S rRNA are examples of functionally significant A-minor interactions. The A-minor motif is by far the most abundant tertiary structure interaction in the large ribosomal subunit; 186 adenines in 23S and 5S rRNA participate, 68 of which are conserved. It may prove to be the universally most important long-range interaction in large RNA structures.

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