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Nucleic Acids Res. 2003 Jul 15;31(14):3946-53.

Importance of the reverse Hoogsteen base pair 54-58 for tRNA function.

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Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada.


To elucidate the general constraints imposed on the structure of the D- and T-loops in functional tRNAs, active suppressor tRNAs were selected in vivo from a combinatorial tRNA gene library in which several nucleotide positions of these loops were randomized. Analysis of the nucleotide sequences of the selected clones demonstrates that among the randomized nucleotides, the most conservative are nucleotides 54 and 58 in the T-loop. In most cases, they make the combination U54-A58, which allows the formation of the normal reverse Hoogsteen base pair. Surprisingly, other clones have either the combination G54-A58 or G54-G58. However, molecular modeling shows that these purine-purine base pairs can very closely mimic the reverse Hoogsteen base pair U-A and thus can replace it in the T-loop of a functional tRNA. This places the reverse Hoogsteen base pair 54-58 as one of the most important structural aspects of tRNA functionality. We suggest that the major role of this base pair is to preserve the conformation of dinucleotide 59-60 and, through this, to maintain the general architecture of the tRNA L-form.

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