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Chem Biol. 1996 Dec;3(12):993-1009.

New loop-loop tertiary interactions in self-splicing introns of subgroup IC and ID: a complete 3D model of the Tetrahymena thermophila ribozyme.

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Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire du CNRS, UPR9002, 15 rue Descartes, 67084, Strasbourg, France.



Group I introns self-splice via two consecutive trans-esterification reactions in the presence of guanosine cofactor and magnesium ions. Comparative sequence analysis has established that a catalytic core of about 120 nucleotides is conserved in all known group I introns. This core is generally not sufficient for activity, however, and most self-splicing group I introns require non-conserved peripheral elements to stabilize the complete three-dimensional (3D) structure. The physico-chemical properties of group I introns make them excellent systems for unraveling the structural basis of the RNA-RNA interactions responsible for promoting the self-assembly of complex RNAs.


We present phylogenetic and experimental evidence for the existence of three additional tertiary base pairings between hairpin loops within peripheral components of subgroup IC1 and ID introns. Each of these new long range interactions, called P13, P14 and P16, involves a terminal loop located in domain 2. Although domains 2 of IC and ID introns share very strong sequence similarity, their terminal loops interact with domains 5 and 9 (subgroup IC1) and domain 6 (subgroup ID). Based on these tertiary contacts, comparative sequence analysis, and published experimental results such as Fe(II)-EDTA protection patterns, we propose 3D models for two entire group I introns, the subgroup IC1 intron in the large ribosomal precursor RNA of Tetrahymena thermophila and the SdCob.1 subgroup ID intron found in the cytochrome b gene of Saccharomyces douglasii.


Three-dimensional models of group I introns belonging to four different subgroups are now available. They all emphasize the modular and hierarchical organization of the architecture of group I introns and the widespread use of base-pairings between terminal hairpin loops for stabilizing the folded and active structures of large and complex RNA molecules.

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