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Nucleic Acids Res. 2002 Feb 15;30(4):921-30.

RNomics in Archaea reveals a further link between splicing of archaeal introns and rRNA processing.

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  • 1Institut für Experimentelle Pathologie/Molekulare Neurobiologie (ZMBE), Universität Münster, D-48149 Münster, Germany.


The bulge-helix-bulge (BHB) motif recognised by the archaeal splicing endonuclease is also found in the long processing stems of archaeal rRNA precursors in which it is cleaved to generate pre-16S and pre-23S rRNAs. We show that in two species, Archaeoglobus fulgidus and Sulfolobus solfataricus, representatives from the two major archaeal kingdoms Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota, respectively, the pre-rRNA spacers cleaved at the BHB motifs surrounding pre-16S and pre-23S rRNAs subsequently become ligated. In addition, we present evidence that this is accompanied by circularization of ribosomal pre-16S and pre-23S rRNAs in both species. These data reveal a further link between intron splicing and pre-rRNA processing in Archaea, which might reflect a common evolutionary origin of the two processes. One spliced RNA species designated 16S-D RNA, resulting from religation at the BHB motif of 16S pre-rRNA, is a highly abundant and stable RNA which folds into a three-stem structure interrupted by two single-stranded regions as assessed by chemical probing. It spans a region of the pre-rRNA 5' external transcribed spacer exhibiting a highly conserved folding pattern in Archaea. Surprisingly, 16S-D RNA contains structural motifs found in archaeal C/D box small RNAs and binds to the L7Ae protein, a core component of archaeal C/D box RNPs. This supports the notion that it might have an important but still unknown role in pre-rRNA biogenesis or might even target RNA molecules other than rRNA.

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