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Structure-Guided Engineering of the Regioselectivity of RNA Ligase Ribozymes

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journal contribution
posted on 18.03.2009, 00:00 by Jason N. Pitt, Adrian R. Ferré-D’Amaré
Ribozyme-catalyzed RNA synthesis is central to the RNA world hypothesis. No natural RNA polymerase ribozymes have been discovered. However, ribozymes that catalyze the requisite chemistry, generating a new phosphodiester through attack of a terminal hydroxyl of an RNA on the α-phosphate of a triphosphate-activated oligonucleotide, have been isolated by in vitro selection. These experiments often yield ribozymes that generate 2′−5′ phosphodiesters rather than conventional 3′−5′ linkages. We have determined crystal structures of the duplex formed by the template segment of a representative 2′−5′ RNA ligase ribozyme, the class II ligase, and its ligation product. The structures reveal a product−template duplex with a G·A pair at the ligation junction. This sheared pair is flanked on one side by a minor groove-broadening wedge comprised of two unpaired nucleotides. The reported structure of an independently isolated 3′−5′ ligase ribozyme, the L1 ligase, shows a product−template duplex that shares the G·A pair with the class II ligase. However, this G·A pair is flanked by G·U wobbles, rather than an unpaired wedge. We demonstrate that these structural differences of the substrate−template duplexes are largely responsible for the divergent regioselectivity of the two ribozymes, independent of their catalytic moieties, by constructing chimeras. The L1 ligase with a class II substrate−template duplex shows a 30-fold increase in 2′−5′ bond synthesis, while the class II ligase with an L1 substrate−template duplex produces 3′−5′ bonds exclusively. These results demonstrate how local geometry inherent to the substrate−template duplexes controls the regioselectivity of ribozyme-catalyzed RNA ligation reactions.