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Biochemistry. 1998 Jul 14;37(28):10118-25.

Unusual metal ion catalysis in an acyl-transferase ribozyme.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Most studies of the roles of catalytic metal ions in ribozymes have focused on inner-sphere coordination of the divalent metal ions to the substrate or ribozyme. However, divalent metal ions are strongly hydrated in water, and some proteinenzymes, such as Escherichia coli RNase H and exonuclease III, are known to use metal cofactors in their fully hydrated form [Duffy, T. H., and Nowak, T. (1985) Biochemistry 24, 1152-1160; Jou, R., and Cowan, J. A. (1991) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 113, 6685-6686]. It is therefore important to consider the possibility of outer-sphere coordination of catalytic metal ions in ribozymes. We have used an exchange-inert metal complex, cobalt hexaammine, to show that the catalytic metal ion in an acyl-transferase ribozyme acts through outer-sphere coordination. Our studies provide an example of a fully hydrated Mg2+ ion that plays an essential role in ribozyme catalysis. Kinetic studies of wild-type and mutant ribozymes suggest that a pair of tandem G:U wobble base pairs adjacent to the reactive center constitute the metal-binding site. This result is consistent with recent crystallographic studies [Cate, J. H., and Doudna, J. A. (1996) Structure 4, 1221-1229; Cate, J. H., Gooding, A. R., Podell, E., Zhou, K., Golden, B. L., Kundrot, C. E., Cech, T. R., and Doudna, J. A. (1996) Science 273, 1678-1685; Cate, J. H., Hanna, R. L., and Doudna, J. A. (1997) Nat. Struct. Biol. 4, 553-558] showing that tandem wobble base pairs are good binding sites for metal hexaammines. We propose a model in which the catalytic metal ion is bound in the major groove of the tandem wobble base pairs, is precisely positioned by the ribozyme within the active site, and stabilizes the developing oxyanion in the transition state. Our results may have significant implications for understanding the mechanism of protein synthesis [Noller, H. F., Hoffarth, V., and Zimniak, L. (1992) Science 256, 1416-1419].

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