Mg2+-induced tRNA folding

Biochemistry. 2001 Jun 5;40(22):6688-98. doi: 10.1021/bi002241p.


Mg(2+)-induced folding of yeast tRNA(Phe) was examined at low ionic strength in steady-state and kinetic experiments. By using fluorescent labels attached to tRNA, four conformational transitions were revealed when the Mg(2+) concentration was gradually increased. The last two transitions were not accompanied by changes in the number of base pairs. The observed transitions were attributed to Mg(2+) binding to four distinct types of sites. The first two types are strong sites with K(diss) of 4 and 16 microM. The sites of the third and fourth types are weak with a K(diss) of 2 and 20 mM. Accordingly, the Mg(2+)-binding sites previously classified as "strong" and "weak" can be further subdivided into two subtypes each. Fluorescent transition I is likely to correspond to Mg(2+) binding to a unique strong site selective for Mg(2+); binding to this site causes only minor A(260) change. The transition at 2 mM Mg(2+) is accompanied by substantial conformational changes revealed by probing with ribonucleases T1 and V1 and likely enhances stacking of the tRNA bases. Fast and slow kinetic phases of tRNA refolding were observed. Time-resolved monitoring of Mg(2+) binding to tRNA suggested that the slow kinetic phase was caused by a misfolded tRNA structure formed in the absence of Mg(2+). Our results suggest that, similarly to large RNAs, Mg(2+)-induced tRNA folding exhibits parallel folding pathways and the existence of kinetically trapped intermediates stabilized by Mg(2+). A multistep scheme for Mg(2+)-induced tRNA folding is discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Diethyl Pyrocarbonate / metabolism
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Magnesium / chemistry*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Nucleic Acid Renaturation
  • RNA, Fungal / chemistry*
  • RNA, Fungal / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe / chemistry*
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe / metabolism
  • Ribonuclease T1 / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • RNA, Fungal
  • RNA, Transfer, Phe
  • Endoribonucleases
  • ribonuclease V(1)
  • Ribonuclease T1
  • Magnesium
  • Diethyl Pyrocarbonate