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J Biol Chem. 1994 Sep 16;269(37):23074-8.

The determinants of RNA-binding specificity of the heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein C proteins.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


The hnRNP C proteins (C1/C2) are tenacious nuclear pre-mRNA-binding proteins that belong to the large RNP motif family of RNA-binding proteins. This motif identifies an RNA-binding domain (RBD) that consists of a four-stranded antiparallel beta-sheet packed against two alpha-helices. Despite considerable information on the structure of the hnRNP C RBD, little is known about its RNA-binding properties. To address this we used in vitro selection/amplification from pools of random sequence RNA to determine the RNA-binding specificity of hnRNP C1. After 8 rounds of selection/amplification nearly all RNAs contained contiguous stretches of at least 5 U residues, and filter-binding assays demonstrated that this sequence constitutes a high-affinity (Kd = 170 nM) binding site for hnRNP C1. The highest affinity we measured for hnRNP C1 was for r(U)14 (Kd = 14 nM). An RBD-containing peptide fragment of hnRNP C1 (amino acids 2-94) bound oligoribonucleotides containing an hnRNP C1 high-affinity binding site with nearly equal affinity to that of hnRNP C1. Unlike hnRNP C1, however, this peptide also bound oligoribonucleotides that do not contain high-affinity hnRNP C1-binding sites. We identified a region of 10 amino acids, immediately COOH-terminal to the RNP motif (amino acids 95-104), that prevents the minimal RBD from binding nonspecific RNA ligands. We propose that the highly conserved beta alpha beta beta alpha beta core structure of the RNP motif RBD confers a general RNA binding activity to RNP motif RBDs and that the determinants of RNA-binding specificity reside in the most variable regions, the loops connecting the beta-strands and/or the contiguous NH2 and COOH termini of the RBD.

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