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EMBO J. 1993 Jun;12(6):2567-73.

Essential nucleotide sequences and secondary structure elements of the hairpin ribozyme.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Markey Center for Molecular Genetics, University of Vermont, Burlington 05405.


In vitro selection experiments have been used to isolate active variants of the 50 nt hairpin catalytic RNA motif following randomization of individual ribozyme domains and intensive mutagenesis of the ribozyme-substrate complex. Active and inactive variants were characterized by sequencing, analysis of RNA cleavage activity in cis and in trans, and by substrate binding studies. Results precisely define base-pairing requirements for ribozyme helices 3 and 4, and identify eight essential nucleotides (G8, A9, A10, G21, A22, A23, A24 and C25) within the catalytic core of the ribozyme. Activity and substrate binding assays show that point mutations at these eight sites eliminate cleavage activity but do not significantly decrease substrate binding, demonstrating that these bases contribute to catalytic function. The mutation U39C has been isolated from different selection experiments as a second-site suppressor of the down mutants G21U and A43G. Assays of the U39C mutation in the wild-type ribozyme and in a variety of mutant backgrounds show that this variant is a general up mutation. Results from selection experiments involving populations totaling more than 10(10) variants are summarized, and consensus sequences including 16 essential nucleotides and a secondary structure model of four short helices, encompassing 18 bp for the ribozyme-substrate complex are derived.

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