A labile phosphodiester bond at the ligation junction in a circular intervening sequence RNA

Science  11 May 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4649, pp. 574-578
DOI: 10.1126/science.6200938


The excised intervening sequence of the Tetrahymena ribosomal RNA precursor mediates its own covalent cyclization in the absence of any protein. The circular molecule undergoes slow reopening at a single phosphodiester bond, the one that was formed during cyclization. The resulting linear molecule has 5'-phosphate and 3'-hydroxyl termini; these are unusual products for RNA hydrolysis but are typical of the other reactions mediated by this molecule. The reopened circle retains cleavage-ligation activity, as evidenced by its ability to undergo another round of cyclization and reopening. The finding that an RNA molecule can be folded so that a specific phosphate can be strained or activated helps to explain how the activation energy is lowered for RNA self-splicing. The proposed mechanisms may be relevant to several other RNA cleavage reactions that are RNA-mediated.

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