Minor groove recognition of the conserved G.U pair at the Tetrahymena ribozyme reaction site

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Science  03 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5198, pp. 675-679
DOI: 10.1126/science.7839142


The guanine-uracil (G.U) base pair that helps to define the 5'-splice site of group I introns is phylogenetically highly conserved. In such a wobble base pair, G makes two hydrogen bonds with U in a geometry shifted from that of a canonical Watson-Crick pair. The contribution made by individual functional groups of the G.U pair in the context of the Tetrahymena ribozyme was examined by replacement of the G.U pair with synthetic base pairs that maintain a wobble configuration, but that systematically alter functional groups in the major and minor grooves of the duplex. The substitutions demonstrate that the exocyclic amine of G, when presented on the minor groove surface by the wobble base pair conformation, contributes substantially (2 kilocalories.mole-1) to binding by making a tertiary interaction with the ribozyme active site. It contributes additionally to transition state stabilization. The ribozyme active site also makes tertiary contacts with a tripod of 2'-hydroxyls on the minor groove surface of the splice site helix. This suggests that the ribozyme binds the duplex primarily in the minor groove. The alanyl aminoacyl transfer RNA (tRNA) synthetase recognizes the exocyclic amine of an invariant G.U pair and contacts a similar array of 2'-hydroxyls when binding the tRNA(Ala) acceptor stem, providing an unanticipated parallel between protein-RNA and RNA-RNA interactions.