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Structure. 2012 Jun 6;20(6):1097-106. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2012.03.022. Epub 2012 May 10.

A unique spatial arrangement of the snRNPs within the native spliceosome emerges from in silico studies.

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Department of Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


The spliceosome is a mega-Dalton ribonucleoprotein (RNP) assembly that processes primary RNA transcripts, producing functional mRNA. The electron microscopy structures of the native spliceosome and of several spliceosomal subcomplexes are available; however, the spatial arrangement of the latter within the native spliceosome is not known. We designed a computational procedure to efficiently fit thousands of conformers into the spliceosome envelope. Despite the low resolution limitations, we obtained only one model that complies with the available biochemical data. Our model localizes the five small nuclear RNPs (snRNPs) mostly within the large subunit of the native spliceosome, requiring only minor conformation changes. The remaining free volume presumably accommodates additional spliceosomal components. The constituents of the active core of the spliceosome are juxtaposed, forming a continuous surface deep within the large spliceosomal cavity, which provides a sheltered environment for the splicing reaction.

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