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Reversible Unfolding of Single RNA Molecules by Mechanical Force

Science  27 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5517, pp. 733-737
DOI: 10.1126/science.1058498

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Abstract

Here we use mechanical force to induce the unfolding and refolding of single RNA molecules: a simple RNA hairpin, a molecule containing a three-helix junction, and the P5abc domain of theTetrahymena thermophila ribozyme. All three molecules (P5abc only in the absence of Mg2+) can be mechanically unfolded at equilibrium, and when kept at constant force within a critical force range, are bi-stable and hop between folded and unfolded states. We determine the force-dependent equilibrium constants for folding/unfolding these single RNA molecules and the positions of their transition states along the reaction coordinate.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: carlos{at}alice.berkeley.edu

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jliphard{at}alice.berkeley.gov or JTLiphardt{at}lbl.gov

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