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Widespread Occurrence of Self-Cleaving Ribozymes

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Science  13 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5955, pp. 953
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178084

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Abstract

Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) and cytoplasmic polyadenylation element–binding protein 3 (CPEB3) ribozymes form a family of self-cleaving RNAs characterized by a conserved nested double-pseudoknot and minimal sequence conservation. Secondary structure–based searches were used to identify sequences capable of forming this fold, and their self-cleavage activity was confirmed in vitro. Active sequences were uncovered in several marine organisms, two nematodes, an arthropod, a bacterium, and an insect virus, often in multiple sequence families and copies. Sequence searches based on identified ribozymes showed that plants, fungi, and a unicellular eukaryote also harbor the ribozymes. In Anopheles gambiae, the ribozymes were found differentially expressed and self-cleaved at basic developmental stages. Our results indicate that HDV-like ribozymes are abundant in nature and suggest that self-cleaving RNAs may play a variety of biological roles.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

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