While the major architectural features and active-site components of group II introns have been known for almost a decade, information on the individual stages of splicing has been lacking. Recent advances in crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have provided major new insights into the structure of intact lariat introns. Conformational changes that mediate the steps of splicing and retrotransposition are being elucidated, revealing the dynamic, highly coordinated motions that are required for group II intron activity. Finally, these ribozymes can now be viewed in their larger, more natural context as components of holoenzymes that include encoded maturase proteins. These studies expand our understanding of group II intron structural diversity and evolution, while setting the stage for rigorous mechanistic analysis of RNA splicing machines.
Keywords: Group II intron; RNA structure; maturase; retrotransposition; ribozyme; spliceosome.
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