Programmable formation of catalytic RNA triangles and squares by assembling modular RNA enzymes

J Biochem. 2017 May 1;161(5):451-462. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvw093.


RNA is a biopolymer that is attractive for constructing nano-scale objects with complex structures. Three-dimensional (3D) structures of naturally occurring RNAs often have modular architectures. The 3D structure of a group I (GI) ribozyme from Tetrahymena has a typical modular architecture, which can be separated into two structural modules (ΔP5 and P5abc). The fully active ribozyme can be reconstructed by assembling the two separately prepared modules through highly specific and strong assembly between ΔP5 ribozyme and P5abc RNA. Such non-covalent assembly of the two modules allows the design of polygonal RNA nano-structures. Through rational redesign of the parent GI ribozyme, we constructed variant GI ribozymes as unit RNAs for polygonal-shaped (closed) oligomers with catalytic activity. Programmed trimerization and tetramerization of the unit RNAs afforded catalytically active nano-sized RNA triangles and squares, the structures of which were directly observed by atomic force microscopy (AFM).

Keywords: RNA nanostructure; RNA nanotechnology; catalytic RNA; group I intron; ribozyme.

MeSH terms

  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA, Catalytic / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Catalytic / chemistry*
  • RNA, Catalytic / metabolism*
  • Tetrahymena / enzymology*


  • RNA, Catalytic
  • RNA