Background: Although most RNA-binding proteins recognize a complex set of structural motifs in their RNA target, the double-stranded (ds) RNA-binding proteins are limited to interactions with double helices. Recently, it has been discovered that some dsRNA-binding proteins share regions of amino-acid similarity known as dsRNA-binding motifs.
Results: A Xenopus ovary cDNA expression library was screened with radiolabeled dsRNA to identify previously uncharacterized dsRNA-binding proteins. The analysis of an incomplete cDNA identified during the screen led to the discovery of two longer cDNAs of related sequence. The proteins encoded by these cDNAs each contained two dsRNA-binding motifs, in glycine. The nucleic-acid-binding properties of a fusion protein containing the two dsRNA-binding motifs and the auxiliary domain were analyzed using a gel mobility shift assay. The fusion protein bound dsRNA of a variety of different sequences, and exhibited a preference for binding to dsRNA and RNA-DNA hybrids over other nucleic acids. Appropriate mRNAs, corresponding to each cDNA, were detected in polyadenylated RNA isolated from Xenopus stage VI oocytes, but translation of one of the mRNAs appeared to be masked until meiotic maturation.
Conclusion: dsRNA-binding motifs are often found in proteins that bind dsRNA, and our results show that they can be associated with auxiliary domains rich in arginine and glycine. These motifs can confer very tight binding to dsRNA. Binding can also occur to RNA-DNA hybrids, suggesting recognition of some aspect of the A-form helical structure that is adopted by both dsRNA and RNA-DNA hybrids.