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Nucleic Acids Res. 1988 Feb 25;16(4):1577-91.

Accurate in vitro cleavage by RNase III of phosphorothioate-substituted RNA processing signals in bacteriophage T7 early mRNA.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202.


To test the ability of an RNA processing enzyme to cleave chemically-modified RNA substrates, RNA transcripts containing RNase III cleavage sites were enzymatically synthesized in vitro to contain specific phosphorothioate diester internucleotide linkages. One transcript (R1.1 RNA) was generated using phage T7 RNA polymerase and a cloned segment of phage T7 DNA containing the R1.1 RNase III processing site. The second transcript was the phage T7 polycistronic early mRNA precursor, which was synthesized using E. coli RNA polymerase and T7 genomic DNA. The RNA transcripts contained phosphorothioate diester groups at positions including the scissile bonds. The modified RNAs were stable to incubation in Mg2+-containing buffer, and were specifically cleaved by RNase III. RNA oligonucleotide sequence analysis showed that the modified R1.1 RNA processing site was the same as the canonical site and contained a phosphorothioate bond. Furthermore, RNase III cleaved the phosphorothioate internucleotide bond with 5' polarity. RNase III cleavage of phosphorothioate substituted T7 polycistronic early mRNA precursor produced the same gel electrophoretic pattern as that obtained with the control transcript. Thus, RNase III cleavage specificity is not altered by phosphorothioate internucleotide linkages.

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