Base-pairing potential identified by in vitro selection predicts the kinked RNA backbone observed in the crystal structure of the alfalfa mosaic virus RNA-coat protein complex.
The three-dimensional structure of the 3' terminus of alfalfa mosaic virus RNA in complex with an amino-terminal coat protein peptide revealed an unusual RNA fold with inter-AUGC basepairing stabilized by key arginine residues (Guogas, et al., 2004). To probe viral RNA interactions with the full-length coat protein, we have used in vitro genetic selection to characterize potential folding patterns among RNAs isolated from a complex randomized pool. Nitrocellulose filter retention, electrophoretic mobility bandshift analysis, and hydroxyl radical footprinting techniques were used to define binding affinities and to localize the potential RNA-protein interaction sites. Minimized binding sites were identified that included both the randomized domain and a portion of the constant regions of the selected RNAs. The selected RNAs, identified by their ability to bind full-length coat protein, have the potential to form the same unusual inter-AUGC Watson-Crick base pairs observed in the crystal structure, although the primary sequences diverge from the wild-type RNA. A constant feature of both the wild-type RNA and the selected RNAs is a G ribonucleotide in the third position of an AUGC-like repeat. Competitive binding assays showed that substituting adenosine for the constant guanosine in either the wild-type or selected RNAs impaired coat protein binding. These data suggest that the interactions observed in the RNA-peptide structure are likely recapitulated when the full-length protein binds. Further, the results underscore the power of in vitro genetic selection for probing RNA-protein structure and function.
Boyce, M; Scott, F; Guogas, LM; Gehrke, L
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