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Science. 1994 Sep 16;265(5179):1709-12.

Coaxially stacked RNA helices in the catalytic center of the Tetrahymena ribozyme.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309.


Coaxial stacking of helical elements is a determinant of three-dimensional structure in RNA. In the catalytic center of the Tetrahymena group I intron, helices P4 and P6 are part of a tertiary structural domain that folds independently of the remainder of the intron. When P4 and P6 were fused with a phosphodiester linkage, the resulting RNA retained the detailed tertiary interactions characteristic of the native P4-P6 domain and even required lower magnesium ion concentrations for folding. These results indicate that P4 and P6 are coaxial in the P4-P6 domain and, therefore, in the native ribozyme. Helix fusion could provide a general method for identifying pairs of coaxially stacked helices in biological RNA molecules.

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