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Biochemistry. 2003 Apr 15;42(14):4265-76.

Ionization of a critical adenosine residue in the neurospora Varkud Satellite ribozyme active site.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, P.O. Box 208114, 260 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8114, USA.


The Varkud Satellite (VS) ribozyme catalyzes a site-specific self-cleavage reaction that generates 5'-OH and 2',3'-cyclic phosphate products. Other ribozymes that perform an equivalent reaction appear to employ ionization of an active site residue, either to neutralize the negatively charged transition state or to act as a general acid-base catalyst. To test for important base ionization events in the VS ribozyme ligation reaction, we performed nucleotide analogue interference mapping (NAIM) with a series of ionization-sensitive adenosine and cytidine analogues. A756, a catalytically critical residue located within the VS active site, was the only nucleotide throughout the VS ribozyme that displayed the pH-dependent interference pattern characteristic of functional base ionization. We observed unique rescue of 8-azaadenosine (pK(a) 2.2) and purine riboside (pK(a) 2.1) interference at A756 at reduced reaction pH, suggestive of an ionization-specific effect. These results are consistent with protonation and/or deprotonation of A756 playing a direct role in the VS ribozyme reaction mechanism. In addition, NAIM experiments identified several functional groups within the RNA that play important roles in ribozyme folding and/or catalysis. These include residues in helix II, helix VI (730 loop), the II-III-VI and III-IV-V helix junctions, and loop V.

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