Ribosomal RNA precursor processing by a eukaryotic U3 small nucleolar RNA-like molecule in an archaeon

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Science  19 May 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5213, pp. 1056-1060
DOI: 10.1126/science.7538698


An RNA-containing endonuclease that catalyzes the excision and maturation of the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) from the rRNA primary transcript (pre-rRNA) in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius has been characterized. The ribonucleoprotein was inactivated by micrococcal nuclease treatment and inactivation was reversed by reconstitution with bulk RNA. A 159-nucleotide RNA with sequence and structural similarity to U3 small nucleolar RNAs of eukaryotes copurified with the endonuclease activity. Oligonucleotide-targeted ribonuclease H inactivation of the U3-like RNA component also abolished processing activity. A motif within the U3 homolog is complementary to the region around the three cleavage sites in the pre-RNA substrate. Thus, U3-mediated processing of pre-rRNA is not specific to eukaryotes; its origin predates the divergence of archaea and eukaryotes.