Sequence specificity of a group II intron ribozyme: multiple mechanisms for promoting unusually high discrimination against mismatched targets

Biochemistry. 1998 Mar 17;37(11):3839-49. doi: 10.1021/bi972661n.


Group II intron ai5 gamma was reconstructed into a multiple-turnover ribozyme that efficiently cleaves small oligonucleotide substrates in-trans. This construct makes it possible to investigate sequence specificity, since second-order rate constants (kcat/K(m), or the specificity constant) can be obtained and compared with values for mutant substrates and with other ribozymes. The ribozyme used in this study consists of intron domains 1 and 3 connected in-cis, together with domain 5 as a separate catalytic cofactor. This ribozyme has mechanistic features similar to the first step of reverse-splicing, in which a lariat intron attacks exogenous RNA and DNA substrates, and it therefore serves as a model for the sequence specificity of group II intron mobility. To quantitatively evaluate the sequence specificity of this ribozyme, the WT kcat/Km value was compared to individual kcat/Km values for a series of mutant substrates and ribozymes containing single base changes, which were designed to create mismatches at varying positions along the two ribozyme-substrate recognition helices. These mismatches had remarkably large effects on the discrimination index (1/relative kcat/K(m)), resulting in values > 10,000 in several cases. The delta delta G++ for mismatches ranged from 2 to 6 kcal/mol depending on the mismatch and its position. The high specificity of the ribozyme is attributable to effects on duplex stabilization (1-3 kcal/mol) and unexpectedly large effects on the chemical step of reaction (0.5-2.5 kcal/mol). In addition, substrate association is accompanied by an energetic penalty that lowers the overall binding energy between ribozyme and substrate, thereby causing the off-rate to be faster than the rate of catalysis and resulting in high specificity for the cleavage of long target sequences (> or = 13 nucleotides).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Energy Transfer / genetics
  • Introns / genetics*
  • Kinetics
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • RNA, Catalytic / genetics*
  • Substrate Specificity / genetics


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA, Catalytic