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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Sep 3;99(18):11676-81. Epub 2002 Aug 20.

Specificity of RNA-RNA helix recognition.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Functional RNAs often form compact structures characterized by closely packed helices. Crystallographic analysis of several large RNAs revealed a prevalent interaction in which unpaired adenosine residues dock into the minor groove of a receptor helix. This A-minor motif, potentially the most important element responsible for global RNA architecture, has also been suggested to contribute to the fidelity of protein synthesis by discriminating against near-cognate tRNAs on the ribosome. The specificity of A-minor interactions is fundamental to RNA tertiary structure formation, as well as to their proposed role in translational accuracy. To investigate A-minor motif specificity, we analyzed mutations in an A-minor interaction within the Tetrahymena group I self-splicing intron. Thermodynamic and x-ray crystallographic results show that the A-minor interaction strongly prefers canonical base pairs over base mismatches in the receptor helix, enabling RNA interhelical packing through specific recognition of Watson-Crick minor groove geometry.

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