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BMC Evol Biol. 2003 Dec 19;3:26.

The tyranny of adenosine recognition among RNA aptamers to coenzyme A.

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Department of Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7102, USA.



Understanding the diversity of interactions between RNA aptamers and nucleotide cofactors promises both to facilitate the design of new RNA enzymes that utilize these cofactors and to constrain models of RNA World evolution. In previous work, we isolated six pools of high affinity RNA aptamers to coenzyme A (CoA), the principle cofactor in biological acyltransfer reactions. Interpretation of the evolutionary significance of those results was made difficult by the fact that the affinity resin attachment strongly influenced the outcome of those selections. Here we describe the selection of four new pools isolated on a disulfide-linked CoA affinity matrix to minimize context-dependent recognition imposed by the attachment to the solid support.


The four new aptamer libraries show no sequence or structural relation to a previously dominant CoA-binding species, even though they were isolated from the same initial random libraries. Recognition appears to be limited to the adenosine portion of the CoA--in particular the Höogsteen edge--for most isolates surveyed, even when a counter selection was employed to remove such RNAs. Two of the recovered isolates are eluted with intact CoA more efficiently than with AMP alone suggesting a possible pantotheine interaction. However, a detailed examination of recognition specificity revealed that the 3' phosphate of CoA, and not the pantotheine arm, determined recognition by these two isolates.


Most aptamers that have been targeted towards cofactors containing adenosine recognize only the adenosine portion of the cofactor. They do not distinguish substituents on the 5' carbon, even when those substituents have offered hydrogen bonding opportunities and the selection conditions discouraged adenosine recognition. Beyond hydrogen bonding, additional factors that guide the selection towards adenosine recognition include aromatic stacking interactions and relatively few rotational degrees of freedom. In the present work, a sterically accessible, disulfide-linked CoA affinity resin afforded the selection of a more diverse aptamer collection then previous work with a N6 linked CoA resin.

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