Ribozyme activity in the genomic and antigenomic RNA strands of hepatitis delta virus.
In the hepatitis delta virus, ribozymes are encoded in both the genomic strand RNA and its complement, the antigenomic strand. The two ribozymes are similar in sequence and structure, are most active in the presence of divalent cation and catalyze RNA cleavage reactions which generate a 5'-hydroxyl group and a 2',3'-cyclic phosphate group. Recent progress has been made in understanding the catalytic mechanism. One key was a crystal structure of the genomic ribozyme that revealed a specific cytosine positioned to act as a general acid-base catalyst. The folding of the ribozyme in the context of the longer viral RNA is another area of interest. The biology requires that each ribozyme act only once, and mechanisms proposed for regulation of ribozyme activity sometimes invoke alternative RNA structures. Likewise, interference of ribozyme function by polyadenylation of the antigenomic RNA strand could be controlled through alternative structures, and a model for such control is proposed.
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