Background: Phosphoramidate oligonucleotide analogs containing N3'-P5' linkages share many structural properties with natural nucleic acids and can be recognized by some RNA-binding proteins. Therefore, if the N-P bond is resistant to nucleolytic cleavage, these analogs may be effective substrate analog inhibitors of certain enzymes that hydrolyze RNA. We have explored the ability of the Tetrahymena group I intron ribozyme to bind and cleave DNA and RNA phosphoramidate analogs.
Results: The Tetrahymena group I ribozyme efficiently binds to phosphoramidate oligonucleotides but is unable to cleave the N3'-P5' bond. Although it adopts an A-form helical structure, the deoxyribo-phosphoramidate analog, like DNA, does not dock efficiently into the ribozyme catalytic core. In contrast, the ribo-phosphoramidate analog docks similarly to the native RNA substrate, and behaves as a competitive inhibitor of the group I intron 5' splicing reaction.
Conclusions: Ribo-N3'-P5' phosphoramidate oligonucleotides are useful tools for structural and functional studies of ribozymes as well as protein-RNA interactions.