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Biochimie. 1991 Jan;73(1):17-28.

A phylogenetic study of U4 snRNA reveals the existence of an evolutionarily conserved secondary structure corresponding to 'free' U4 snRNA.

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Laboratoire d'Enzymologie et de Génie Génétique, Université de Nancy I, URA CNRS 457, France.


The nucleotide sequence of Physarum polycephalum U4 snRNA*** was determined and compared to published U4 snRNA sequences. The primary structure of P polycephalum U4 snRNA is closer to that of plants and animals than to that of fungi. But, both fungi and P polycephalum U4 snRNAs are missing the 3' terminal hairpin and this may be a common feature of lower eucaryote U4 snRNAs. We found that the secondary structure model we previously proposed for 'free' U4 snRNA is compatible with the various U4 snRNA sequences published. The possibility to form this tetrahelix structure is preserved by several compensatory base substitutions and by compensatory nucleotide insertions and deletions. According to this finding, association between U4 and U6 snRNAs implies the disruption of 2 internal helical structures of U4 snRNA. One has a very low free energy, but the other, which represents one-half of the helical region of the 5' hairpin, requires 4 to 5 kcal to be open. The remaining part of the 5' hairpin is maintained in the U4/U6 complex and we observed the conservation, in all U4 snRNAs studied, of a U bulge residue at the limit between the helical region which has to be melted and that which is maintained. The 3' domain of U4 snRNA is less conserved in both size and primary structure than the 5' domain; its structure is also more compact in the RNA in solution. In this domain, only the Sm binding site and the presence of a bulge nucleotide in the hairpin on the 5' side of the Sm site are conserved throughout evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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