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EMBO J. 1998 Dec 15;17(24):7505-13.

Molecular basis of double-stranded RNA-protein interactions: structure of a dsRNA-binding domain complexed with dsRNA.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0215, USA.


Protein interactions with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) are critical for many cell processes; however, in contrast to protein-dsDNA interactions, surprisingly little is known about the molecular basis of protein-dsRNA interactions. A large and diverse class of proteins that bind dsRNA do so by utilizing an approximately 70 amino acid motif referred to as the dsRNA-binding domain (dsRBD). We have determined a 1.9 A resolution crystal structure of the second dsRBD of Xenopus laevis RNA-binding protein A complexed with dsRNA. The structure shows that the protein spans 16 bp of dsRNA, interacting with two successive minor grooves and across the intervening major groove on one face of a primarily A-form RNA helix. The nature of these interactions explains dsRBD specificity for dsRNA (over ssRNA or dsDNA) and the apparent lack of sequence specificity. Interestingly, the dsRBD fold resembles a portion of the conserved core structure of a family of polynucleotidyl transferases that includes RuvC, MuA transposase, retroviral integrase and RNase H. Structural comparisons of the dsRBD-dsRNA complex and models proposed for polynucleotidyl transferase-nucleic acid complexes suggest that similarities in nucleic acid binding also exist between these families of proteins.

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