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J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Oct 15;130(41):13639-48. doi: 10.1021/ja803336y. Epub 2008 Sep 20.

Fluorine substituted adenosines as probes of nucleobase protonation in functional RNAs.

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


Ionized nucleobases are required for folding, conformational switching, or catalysis in a number of functional RNAs. A common strategy to study these sites employs nucleoside analogues with perturbed pKa, but the interpretation of these studies is often complicated by the chemical modification introduced, in particular modifications that add, remove, or translocate hydrogen bonding groups in addition to perturbing pKa values. In the present study we present a series of fluorine substituted adenosine analogues that produce large changes in N1 pKa values with minimal structural perturbation. These analogues include fluorine for hydrogen substitutions in the adenine ring of adenosine and 7-deaza-adenosine with resulting N1 pKa values spanning more than 4 pKa units. To demonstrate the utility of these analogues we have conducted a nucleotide analogue interference mapping (NAIM) study on a self-ligating construct of the Varkud Satellite (VS) ribozyme. We find that each of the analogues is readily incorporated by T7 RNA polymerase and produces fully active transcripts when substituted at the majority of sites. Strong interferences are observed for three sites known to be critical for VS ribozyme function, most notably A756. Substitutions at A756 lead to slight enhancements in activity for elevated pKa analogues and dramatic interferences in activity for reduced pKa analogues, supporting the proposed catalytic role for this base. The structural similarity of these analogues, combined with their even incorporation and selective interference, provides an improved method for identifying sites of adenosine protonation in a variety of systems.

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