RNA (New York, N.Y.)

Solution structure of mRNA hairpins promoting selenocysteine incorporation in Escherichia coli and their base-specific interaction with special elongation factor SELB.

PMID 8634916


On the basis of chemical probing data, the solution structures of RNA hairpins within fdhF and fdnG mRNAs in Escherichia coli, which both promote selenocysteine incorporation at UGA codons, were derived with the help of computer modeling. We find that these mRNA hairpins contain two separate structural domains that possibly also exert two different functions. The first domain is comprised of the UGA codon, which is included within a complex and distorted double-stranded region. Thereby, release factor 2 might be prevented from binding to the UGA codon to terminate protein synthesis. The second domain is located within the apical loop of the mRNA hairpin structures. This loop region exhibits a defined tertiary structure in which no base is involved in Watson-Crick interactions. The structure of the loop is such that, following a sharp turn after G22 (A22 in fdnG mRNA), bases G23 and U24 are exposed to the solvent on the deep groove side of the supporting helix. Residues C25 and U26 close the loop with a possible single H-bonding interaction between the first and last residues of the loop, 04(U26) and N6(A21). The bulge residues U17 and U18 (in fdhF mRNA), or Ul7 only in fdnG mRNA, point their Watson-Crick positions in the same direction as loop residues G23 and U24 do, and at the same time open up the deep groove at the top of the hairpin helix. Chemical probing data demonstrate that bases G23 and U24 in both mRNA hairpins, as well as residues U17 and Ul7/U18 (for fdhF mRNA) located in a bulge 5' to the loop, are involved directly in binding to special elongation factor SELB in both mRNAs. Therefore, SELB recognizes identical bases within both mRNA hairpins despite differences in their primary sequence, consistent with the derived 3D models for these mRNAs, which exhibit similar tertiary structures. Binding of SELB to the fdhF mRNA hairpin was estimated to proceed with an apparent Kd of 30 nM.

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