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Transition State Stabilization by a Catalytic RNA

Science  15 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5597, pp. 1421-1424
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076093

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Abstract

The hairpin ribozyme catalyzes sequence-specific cleavage of RNA through transesterification of the scissile phosphate. Vanadate has previously been used as a transition state mimic of protein enzymes that catalyze the same reaction. Comparison of the 2.2 angstrom resolution structure of a vanadate–hairpin ribozyme complex with structures of precursor and product complexes reveals a rigid active site that makes more hydrogen bonds to the transition state than to the precursor or product. Because of the paucity of RNA functional groups capable of general acid-base or electrostatic catalysis, transition state stabilization is likely to be an important catalytic strategy for ribozymes.

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