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Effects of Noncanonical Base Pairing on RNA Folding: Structural Context and Spatial Arrangements of G·A Pairs

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journal contribution
posted on 22.04.2019, 00:00 by Wilma K. Olson, Shuxiang Li, Thomas Kaukonen, Andrew V. Colasanti, Yurong Xin, Xiang-Jun Lu
Noncanonical base pairs play important roles in assembling the three-dimensional structures critical to the diverse functions of RNA. These associations contribute to the looped segments that intersperse the canonical double-helical elements within folded, globular RNA molecules. They stitch together various structural elements, serve as recognition elements for other molecules, and act as sites of intrinsic stiffness or deformability. This work takes advantage of new software (DSSR) designed to streamline the analysis and annotation of RNA three-dimensional structures. The multiscale structural information gathered for individual molecules, combined with the growing number of unique, well-resolved RNA structures, makes it possible to examine the collective features deeply and to uncover previously unrecognized patterns of chain organization. Here we focus on a subset of noncanonical base pairs involving guanine and adenine and the links between their modes of association, secondary structural context, and contributions to tertiary folding. The rigorous descriptions of base-pair geometry that we employ facilitate characterization of recurrent geometric motifs and the structural settings in which these arrangements occur. Moreover, the numerical parameters hint at the natural motions of the interacting bases and the pathways likely to connect different spatial forms. We draw attention to higher-order multiplexes involving two or more G·A pairs and the roles these associations appear to play in bridging different secondary structural units. The collective data reveal pairing propensities in base organization, secondary structural context, and deformability and serve as a starting point for further multiscale investigations and/or simulations of RNA folding.