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J Mol Biol. 2007 Jun 8;369(3):771-83. Epub 2007 Mar 24.

Exploration of pairing constraints identifies a 9 base-pair core within box C/D snoRNA-rRNA duplexes.

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Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of the Ministry of Education, State Key Laboratory for Biocontrol, Zhongshan University, Guangzhou, 510275, People's Republic of China.


2'-O-ribose methylation of eukaryotic ribosomal RNAs is guided by RNA duplexes consisting of rRNA and box C/D small nucleolar (sno)RNA sequences, the methylated sites invariably mapping five positions apart from the D box. Here we have analyzed the RNA duplex pairing constraints by investigating the features of 415 duplexes from the fungus, plant and animal kingdoms, and the evolution of those duplexes within the 124 sets they group into. The D-box upstream 1st and >or=15th positions consist of Watson-Crick base-pairs, G:U base-pairs and mismatched bases with ratios close to random assortments; these positions display single base differences in >60% of the RNA duplex sets. The D-box upstream 2nd to 11th positions have >90% Watson-Crick base-pairs; they display single base mutations with a U-shaped distribution of lower values of 0% and 1.6% at the methylated site 5th and 4th positions, and double compensatory mutations leading to new Watson-Crick base-pairs with an inverted U-shaped distribution of higher values at the 8th to 11th positions. Half of the single mutations at the 3rd to 11th positions resulted in G:U base-pairing, mainly through A-->G mutations in the rRNA strands and C-->T mutations in the snoRNA strands. Double compensatory mutations at the 3rd to 11th positions are extremely frequent, representing 36% of all mutations; they frequently arose from an A-->G mutation in the rRNA strands followed by a T-->C mutation in the snoRNA strands. Differences in the mutational pathways through which the rRNA and snoRNA strand evolved must be related to differences in the rRNA and snoRNA copy number and gene organization. Altogether these data identify the D-box upstream 3rd to 11th positions as box C/D snoRNA-rRNA duplex cores. The impact of the pairing constraints on the evolution of the 9 base-pair RNA duplex cores is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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