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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1978 Aug;75(8):3593-7.

Complementary sequences 1700 nucleotides apart form a ribonuclease III cleavage site in Escherichia coli ribosomal precursor RNA.


The nucleotide sequence of Escherichia coli DNA at both ends of the gene for 16S rRNA has been determined for two rRNA operons, rrnD and rrnX. The 400 nucleotides we have examined exhibit only one base change between rrnD and rrnX. Within the 160 nucleotides that precede mature 16S rRNA sequences are cleavage sites for several E. coli endonucleases, including RNase III. A 240-nucleotide segment encompassing the 16S 3' end contains another RNase III site and the point of presumed RNase P scission at the 5' end of tRNA1Ile, the first tRNA appearing in the 16-23S spacer region of rrnD and rrnX. Most importantly, the DNA sequences predict that regions flanking the 16S gene in the rRNA primary transcript extensively base pair to form a double-helical structure whose hairpin loop includes the entire mature 16S molecule; within this structure is a 26-base-pair stem containing the two sequences at which RNase III action generates the 5' and 3' ends of a previously characterized precursor to 16S rRNA. Although our proposed secondary structure for this RNase III site is superficially dissimilar to previously described cleavage sites in the T7 early mRNA precursor, certain common features may constitute signals for RNase III recognition. The suggestion that distant portions of an RNA molecule can form a secondary structure within which specific endonucleolytic cleavages occur may have mechanistic implications for the joining of noncontiguous portions of gene sequences evident in several eukaryotic mRNAs.

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