Structural domains of transfer RNA molecules

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Science  19 Nov 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4267, pp. 796-806
DOI: 10.1126/science.790568


In this article, we have described various detailed features of the conformation of yeast tRNA(Phe) revealed by recent refinement analysis of x-ray diffraction data at 2.5 A resolution. The gross features of the molecule observed in the unrefined version have been largely confirmed and a number of new features found. The unique role of the ribose 2' hydroxyl groups in maintaining a series of nonhelical conformations in this RNA molecule has become apparent. Many of these features are a direct consequence of the geometry of the ribose phosphate backbone of RNA molecules, and these may also be found in structured regions of other RNA species as well. Special attention has been directed toward two conformational motifs revealed by this analysis. These include the striking similarity between the TpsiC and anticodon hairpin turns in the polynucleotide chain, which are stabilized by the participation of uridine in the U turn. In addition, there is frequent occurrence of an arch conformation in the polynucleotide chian which is stabilized by hydrogen bonds from 2' hydroxyl residues to phosphate groups across the base of the arch. The importance of the 2' hydroxyl interactions in defining tertiary structure is illustrated by the fact that, in the nonhelical regions, almost half of the ribose residues are involved in O2' hydrogen-bonding interactions which stabilize the conformation of the molecule.