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Gene Expr. 1994;4(1-2):29-41.

Capping signals correspond to the 5' end in four eukaryotic small RNAs containing gamma-monomethylphosphate cap structure.

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Department of Pharmacology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030.


In eukaryotic cells, the gamma-monomethylphosphate cap structure has been identified in four small RNAs, namely, U6, 7SK, B2, and plant U3 RNAs. In this study, we show that in the case of 7SK and B2, as well as in plant U3 RNAs, the 5' stem-loop followed by a short single-stranded region serves as the capping signal. We previously showed that the nucleotides 1-25 of mouse U6 snRNA, also comprised of a stem-loop followed by a short single-stranded region, function as the capping signal. These data show that capping signals in all four RNAs have common features. The length of the stem-loop among these capped RNAs varied from 20 to 108 nucleotides, with no significant variation in the capping efficiency. In addition to the capping signal, we also observed a minimum RNA length requirement of about 15-25 nucleotides following the stem-loop for efficient capping in vitro. The capping signal in plant U3 snRNA corresponds to the additional 5' stem-loop found in U3 RNAs from plants and lower eukaryotes but absent in U3 RNA from higher animals. Consistent with this observation, the human U3 RNA that lacks the additional 5' stem-loop was not a suitable substrate for capping when compared to U6 snRNA.

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