Transition state stabilization by a catalytic RNA

Science. 2002 Nov 15;298(5597):1421-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1076093. Epub 2002 Oct 10.


The hairpin ribozyme catalyzes sequence-specific cleavage of RNA through transesterification of the scissile phosphate. Vanadate has previously been used as a transition state mimic of protein enzymes that catalyze the same reaction. Comparison of the 2.2 angstrom resolution structure of a vanadate-hairpin ribozyme complex with structures of precursor and product complexes reveals a rigid active site that makes more hydrogen bonds to the transition state than to the precursor or product. Because of the paucity of RNA functional groups capable of general acid-base or electrostatic catalysis, transition state stabilization is likely to be an important catalytic strategy for ribozymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • RNA, Catalytic / chemistry*
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism*
  • Vanadates / chemistry
  • Vanadates / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • RNA, Catalytic
  • Vanadates
  • Oxygen

Associated data

  • PDB/1M5K
  • PDB/1M5O
  • PDB/1M5P
  • PDB/1M5V