Nucleotides That Are Essential but Not Conserved; A Sufficient L-tryptophan Site in RNA

RNA. 2010 Oct;16(10):1915-24. doi: 10.1261/rna.2220210. Epub 2010 Aug 10.

Abstract

Conservation is often used to define essential sequences within RNA sites. However, conservation finds only invariant sequence elements that are necessary for function, rather than finding a set of sequence elements sufficient for function. Biochemical studies in several systems-including the hammerhead ribozyme and the purine riboswitch-find additional elements, such as loop-loop interactions, required for function yet not phylogenetically conserved. Here we define a critical test of sufficiency: We embed a minimal, apparently sufficient motif for binding the amino acid tryptophan in a random-sequence background and ask whether we obtain functional molecules. After a negative result, we use a combination of three-dimensional structural modeling, selection, designed mutations, high-throughput sequencing, and bioinformatics to explore functional insufficiency. This reveals an essential unpaired G in a diverse structural context, varied sequence, and flexible distance from the invariant internal loop binding site identified previously. Addition of the new element yields a sufficient binding site by the insertion criterion, binding tryptophan in 22 out of 23 tries. Random insertion testing for site sufficiency seems likely to be broadly revealing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / chemistry
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / genetics
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Computational Biology
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • SELEX Aptamer Technique
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Tryptophan / metabolism*

Substances

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • RNA
  • Tryptophan