Assessment of disparate structural features in three models of the hepatitis delta virus ribozyme.
Three models for the secondary structure of the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) antigenomic self-cleaving RNA element were tested by site-directed mutagenesis. Two models in which bases 5' to the cleavage site are paired with sequence at the 3' end of the element were both inconsistent with the data from the mutagenesis. Specifically, mutations in the 3' sequence which decrease self-cleavage activity could not be compensated by base changes in the 5' sequence as predicted by these models. The evidence was consistent with a third model in which the 3' end pairs with a portion of a loop within the ribozyme sequence to generate a pseudoknot structure. This same pairing was also required to generate higher rates of cleavage in trans with a 15-mer ribozyme, thus ruling out a proposed hammerhead-like 'axehead' model for the HDV ribozyme.
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