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EMBO J. 1987 Nov;6(11):3471-7.

Evidence for an extended 7SL RNA structure in the signal recognition particle.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The signal recognition particle (SRP) functions in conjunction with the SRP receptor to target nascent ectoplasmic proteins to the protein translocation machinery of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. SRP is a ribonucleoprotein consisting of six distinct polypeptides and one molecule of 7SL RNA 300 nucleotides long. SRP has previously been visualized by a variety of electron microscopic techniques as a rod-shaped particle 24 nm long and 6 nm wide. We report here microanalysis by electron spectroscopic imaging which localizes the RNA molecule in SRP to primarily the two ends of the particle. These results suggest that the single 7SL RNA molecule spans the length of the particle. Micrographs from a scanning transmission electron microscope permit visualization of unstained SRP with low electron exposure, as well as the direct measurement of the mol. wt of the particle. These micrographs confirm our earlier suggestion that SRP is divided into three structural domains and allow discrimination of the two ends of the structure. The results of both techniques have been combined in a model for the structure of SRP in which we propose the basic orientation of the 7SL RNA. The structure proposed is consistent with the secondary structure predicted for the RNA and with biochemical data.

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