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RNA (New York, N.Y.)

Loop-loop interaction in an adenine-sensing riboswitch: a molecular dynamics study.


PMID 23716711

Abstract

Riboswitches are mRNA-based molecules capable of controlling the expression of genes. They undergo conformational changes upon ligand binding, and as a result, they inhibit or promote the expression of the associated gene. The close connection between structural rearrangement and function makes a detailed knowledge of the molecular interactions an important step to understand the riboswitch mechanism and efficiency. We have performed all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of the adenine-sensing add A-riboswitch to study the breaking of the kissing loop, one key tertiary element in the aptamer structure. We investigated the aptamer domain of the add A-riboswitch in complex with its cognate ligand and in the absence of the ligand. The opening of the hairpins was simulated using umbrella sampling using the distance between two loops as the reaction coordinate. A two-step process was observed in all the simulated systems. First, a general loss of stacking and hydrogen bond interactions is seen. The last interactions that break are the two base pairs G37-C61 and G38-C60, but the break does not affect the energy profile, indicating their pivotal role in the tertiary structure formation but not in the structure stabilization. The junction area is partially organized before the kissing loop formation and residue A24 anchors together the loop helices. Moreover, when the distance between the loops is increased, one of the hairpins showed more flexibility by changing its orientation in the structure, while the other conserved its coaxial arrangement with the rest of the structure.

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