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Mol Cell. 1998 Feb;1(3):433-41.

Ribozyme catalysis from the major groove of group II intron domain 5.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The most highly conserved nucleotides in D5, an essential active site component of group II introns, consist of an AGC triad, of which the G is invariant. To understand how this G participates in catalysis, the mechanistic contribution of its functional groups was examined. We observed that the exocyclic amine of G participates in ground state interactions that stabilize D5 binding from the minor groove. In contrast, each major groove heteroatom of the critical G (specifically N7 or O6) is essential for chemistry. Thus, major groove atoms in an RNA helix can participate in catalysis, despite their presumed inaccessibility. N7 or O6 of the critical G could engage in critical tertiary interactions with the rest of the intron or they could, together with phosphate oxygens, serve as a binding site for catalytic metal ions.

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