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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Apr 1;89(7):2723-6.

Specific binding of arginine to TAR RNA.

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Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02142.


A single arginine residue within the basic region of the human immunodeficiency virus Tat protein mediates specific binding of Tat peptides to a three-nucleotide bulge in TAR RNA. It has been proposed that arginine recognizes TAR by forming a network of hydrogen bonds with two structurally distinct phosphates, an interaction termed the "arginine fork." Here it is shown that L-arginine blocks the Tat peptide/TAR interaction, whereas L-lysine and analogs of arginine that remove specific hydrogen bond donors do not. Experiments using an L-arginine affinity column demonstrate that arginine and the Tat peptides bind to the same site in TAR. Modification of two phosphates located at the junction of the double-stranded stem and bulge and modification of two adenine N7 groups in base-paired regions of TAR interfere with specific arginine binding. The results emphasize the importance of RNA structure in RNA-protein recognition and provide methods to identify arginine-binding sites in RNAs.

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