Structure and functional reselection of the Mango-III fluorogenic RNA aptamer

Nat Chem Biol. 2019 May;15(5):472-479. doi: 10.1038/s41589-019-0267-9. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


Several turn-on RNA aptamers that activate small-molecule fluorophores have been selected in vitro. Among these, the ~30 nucleotide Mango-III is notable because it binds the thiazole orange derivative TO1-Biotin with high affinity and fluoresces brightly (quantum yield 0.55). Uniquely among related aptamers, Mango-III exhibits biphasic thermal melting, characteristic of molecules with tertiary structure. We report crystal structures of TO1-Biotin complexes of Mango-III, a structure-guided mutant Mango-III(A10U), and a functionally reselected mutant iMango-III. The structures reveal a globular architecture arising from an unprecedented pseudoknot-like connectivity between a G-quadruplex and an embedded non-canonical duplex. The fluorophore is restrained into a planar conformation by the G-quadruplex, a lone, long-range trans Watson-Crick pair (whose A10U mutation increases quantum yield to 0.66), and a pyrimidine perpendicular to the nucleobase planes of those motifs. The improved iMango-III and Mango-III(A10U) fluoresce ~50% brighter than enhanced green fluorescent protein, making them suitable tags for live cell RNA visualization.

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*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation


  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Fluorescent Dyes