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J Mol Biol. 2008 Nov 14;383(3):475-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.08.043. Epub 2008 Aug 26.

The GANC tetraloop: a novel motif in the group IIC intron structure.

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Interdepartmental Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


Tetraloops are a common building block for RNA tertiary structure, and most tetraloops fall into one of three well-characterized classes: GNRA, UNCG, and CUYG. Here, we present the sequence and structure of a fourth highly conserved class of tetraloop that occurs only within the zeta-zeta' interaction of group IIC introns. This GANC tetraloop was identified, along with an unusual cognate receptor, in the crystal structure of the group IIC intron and through phylogenetic analysis of intron RNA sequence alignments. Unlike conventional tetraloop-receptor interactions, which are stabilized by extensive hydrogen-bonding interactions, the GANC-receptor interaction is limited to a single base stack between the conserved adenosine of the tetraloop and a single purine of the receptor, which consists of a one- to three-nucleotide bulge and does not contain an A-platform. Unlike GNRA tetraloops, the GANC tetraloop forms a sharp angle relative to the adjacent helix, bending by approximately 45 degrees toward the major groove side of the helix. These structural attributes allow GANC tetraloops to fit precisely within the group IIC intron core, thereby demonstrating that structural motifs can adapt to function in a specific niche.

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