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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Feb;40(4):1748-66. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr822. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

RNA self-cleavage activated by ultraviolet light-induced oxidation.

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Laboratory of RNA Archeology, Instituto de Parasitología y Biomedicina 'López-Neyra', CSIC, Armilla, 18100 Granada, Spain.


A novel UV-C-light-induced ribozyme activity was discovered within the highly structured 5'-genomic regions of both Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and the related Classic Swine Fever Virus (CSFV). Cleavage is mediated by exposure to UV-C light but not by exogenous oxygen radicals. It is also very selective, occurring at base positions HCV C(79) and CSFV A(45) in some molecules and at the immediately adjacent 5'-positions HCV U(78) and CSFV U(44) in others. Among other reaction products, the majority of biochemically active products detected contained 3'-phosphate and 5'-phosphate-end groups at the newly generated termini, along with a much lower amount of 3'-hydroxyl end group. While preservation of an E-loop RNA structure in the vicinity of the cleavage site was a requisite for HCV RNA self-cleavage, this was not the case for CSFV RNA. The short size of the reactive domains (~33 nt), which are compatible with primitive RNA motifs, and the lack of sequence homology, indicate that as-yet unidentified UV-activated ribozymes are likely to be found throughout structured RNAs, thereby providing clues to whether early RNA self-cleavage events were mediated by photosensitive RNA structures.

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