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J Mol Biol. 1996 Jun 21;259(4):645-54.

Functional base-pairing interaction between highly conserved elements of U3 small nucleolar RNA and the small ribosomal subunit RNA.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Liverpool, UK.


The U3 nucleolar RNA has a remarkably wide phyletic distribution extending from the Eukarya to the Archaea. It functions in maturation of the small subunit (SSU) rRNA through a mechanism which is as yet unknown but which involves base-pairing with pre-rRNA. The most conserved part of U3 is within 30 nucleotides of the 5' end, but as yet no function for this domain has been proposed. Elements within this domain are complementary to highly conserved sequences in the SSU rRNA which, in the mature form, fold into a universally conserved pseudoknot. The nature of the complementarity suggests a novel mechanism for U3 function whereby U3 facilitates correct folding of the pseudoknot. Wide phylogenetic comparison provides compelling evidence in support of the interaction in that significant complementary changes have taken place, particularly in the archaeon Sulfolobus, which maintain the base-pairing. Base-substitution mutations in yeast U3 designed to disrupt the base-pairing indicate that the interaction is probably essential. These include cold-sensitivity mutations which exhibit phenotypes similar to U3-depletion, but without impairment of the AO processing step, which occurs within the 5' ETS. These phenotypes are consistent with the destabilization of SSU precursors and partial impairment of the processing steps A1, at the 5' ETS/18 S boundary, and A2, within the ITS1.

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