Coaxially stacked RNA helices in the catalytic center of the Tetrahymena ribozyme

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Science  16 Sep 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5179, pp. 1709-1712
DOI: 10.1126/science.8085157


Coaxial stacking of helical elements is a determinant of three-dimensional structure in RNA. In the catalytic center of the Tetrahymena group I intron, helices P4 and P6 are part of a tertiary structural domain that folds independently of the remainder of the intron. When P4 and P6 were fused with a phosphodiester linkage, the resulting RNA retained the detailed tertiary interactions characteristic of the native P4-P6 domain and even required lower magnesium ion concentrations for folding. These results indicate that P4 and P6 are coaxial in the P4-P6 domain and, therefore, in the native ribozyme. Helix fusion could provide a general method for identifying pairs of coaxially stacked helices in biological RNA molecules.