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RNA. 2009 Feb;15(2):294-307. doi: 10.1261/rna.1360709.

Comparison and functional implications of the 3D architectures of viral tRNA-like structures.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, 80045, USA.


RNA viruses co-opt the host cell's biological machinery, and their infection strategies often depend on specific structures in the viral genomic RNA. Examples are tRNA-like structures (TLSs), found at the 3' end of certain plant viral RNAs, which can use the cell's aminoacyl tRNA-synthetases (AARSs) to drive addition of an amino acid to the 3' end of the viral RNA. TLSs are multifunctional RNAs involved in processes such as viral replication, translation, and viral RNA stability; these functions depend on their fold. Experimental result-based structural models of TLSs have been published. In this study, we further examine these structures using a combination of biophysical and biochemical approaches to explore the three-dimensional (3D) architectures of TLSs from the turnip yellow mosaic virus (TYMV), tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), and brome mosaic virus (BMV). We find that despite similar function, these RNAs are biophysically diverse: the TYMV TLS adopts a characteristic tRNA-like L shape, the BMV TLS has a large compact globular domain with several helical extensions, and the TMV TLS aggregates in solution. Both the TYMV and BMV TLS RNAs adopt structures with tight backbone packing and also with dynamic structural elements, suggesting complexities and subtleties that cannot be explained by simple tRNA mimicry. These results confirm some aspects of existing models and also indicate how these models can be improved. The biophysical characteristics of these TLSs show how these multifunctional RNAs might regulate various viral processes, including negative strand synthesis, and also allow comparison with other structured RNAs.

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