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Human Telomerase RNA Pseudoknot and Hairpin Thermal Stability with Glycine Betaine and Urea:  Preferential Interactions with RNA Secondary and Tertiary Structures

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journal contribution
posted on 07.08.2007, 00:00 by Jeffrey J. Schwinefus, Mikhail J. Kuprian, John W. Lamppa, Wolf E. Merker, Kristin N. Dorn, Gregory W. Muth
Thermal denaturation of the human telomerase RNA (hTR) ΔU177 pseudoknot and hTR p2b hairpin was investigated by dual UV-wavelength absorbance spectroscopy in aqueous glycine betaine and urea solutions. The hTR ΔU177 pseudoknot contains two helix−loop interactions that comprise the tertiary structure, as well as a GC-rich 6 bp stem (stem 1) and an AU-rich 9 bp stem (stem 2). The p2b hairpin also contains GC-rich stem 1 and a unique uridine-rich helix with a pentaloop. Glycine betaine stabilizes the pseudoknot tertiary structure in 135 mm NaCl and facilitates only a minor destabilization of tertiary structure in 40 mm NaCl. As with double-helical DNA, glycine betaine interacts more strongly with the surface area exposed upon unfolding of GC-rich stem 1 than either AU-rich stem 2 or the hairpin uridine-rich helix. Urea was shown to destabilize all RNA pseudoknot and hairpin secondary and tertiary structures but exhibits a stronger preferential interaction with AU-rich stem 2. Correlating these interactions with water-accessible surface area calculations indicates that the extent of interaction of glycine betaine with the surface area exposed upon RNA unfolding decreases as the nonpolar character of the unfolded RNA surface increases. As expected, the extent of interaction of urea with the surface area exposed for unfolding RNA increases as the fraction of amide functional groups increases. However, interaction of urea with amide functional groups alone cannot explain the stronger preferential interaction of urea with AU-rich stem 2. Interaction of urea with adenine relative to guanine and cytosine bases or sequence-dependent hydration is proposed for the stronger preferential interaction of urea with AU-rich duplexes.