A Watson-Crick base-pair-disrupting methyl group (m1A9) is sufficient for cloverleaf folding of human mitochondrial tRNALys

Biochemistry. 1999 Oct 5;38(40):13338-46. doi: 10.1021/bi991061g.


We have previously shown by chemical and enzymatic structure probing that, opposite to the native human mitochondrial tRNA(Lys), the corresponding in vitro transcript does not fold into the expected tRNA-specific cloverleaf structure. This RNA folds into a bulged hairpin, including an extended amino acid acceptor stem, an extra large loop instead of the T-stem and loop, and an anticodon-like domain. Hence, one or several of the six modified nucleotides present in the native tRNA are required and responsible for its cloverleaf structure. Phylogenetic comparisons as well as structural analysis of variant transcripts had pointed to m(1)A9 as the most likely important modified nucleotide in the folding process. Here we describe the synthesis of a chimeric tRNA(Lys) with m(1)A9 as the sole modified base and its structural analysis by chemical and enzymatic probing. Comparison of this structure to that of the unmodified RNA, the fully modified native tRNA, and a variant designed to mimic the effect of m(1)A9 demonstrates that the chimeric RNA folds indeed into a cloverleaf structure that resembles that of the native tRNA. Thus, due to Watson-Crick base-pair disruption, a single methyl group is sufficient to induce the cloverleaf folding of this unusual tRNA. This is the first direct evidence of the role of a modified nucleotide in RNA folding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / chemistry
  • Base Pairing* / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / chemistry*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / chemical synthesis
  • Placenta
  • RNA / chemical synthesis
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys / chemical synthesis
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys / genetics
  • Solutions


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Transfer, Lys
  • Solutions
  • RNA
  • Adenine