Structural features that give rise to the unusual stability of RNA hairpins containing GNRA loops

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Science  12 Jul 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5016, pp. 191-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.1712983


The most frequently occurring RNA hairpins in 16S and 23S ribosomal RNA contain a tetranucleotide loop that has a GNRA consensus sequence. The solution structures of the GCAA and GAAA hairpins have been determined by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Both loops contain an unusual G-A base pair between the first and last residue in the loop, a hydrogen bond between a G base and a phosphate, extensive base stacking, and a hydrogen bond between a sugar 2'-end OH and a base. These interactions explain the high stability of these hairpins and the sequence requirements for the variant and invariant nucleotides in the GNRA tetranucleotide loop family.