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Modeling RNA tertiary structure motifs by graph-grammars.

St-Onge K, Thibault P, Hamel S, Major F

Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Université de Montréal, PO Box 6128, Downtown station, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada.

A new approach, graph-grammars, to encode RNA tertiary structure patterns is introduced and exemplified with the classical sarcin-ricin motif. The sarcin-ricin motif is found in the stem of the crucial ribosomal loop E (also referred to as the sarcin-ricin loop), which is sensitive to the alpha-sarcin and ricin toxins. Here, we generate a graph-grammar for the sarcin-ricin motif and apply it to derive putative sequences that would fold in this motif. The biological relevance of the derived sequences is confirmed by a comparison with those found in known sarcin-ricin sites in an alignment of over 800 bacterial 23S ribosomal RNAs. The comparison raised alternative alignments in few sarcin-ricin sites, which were assessed using tertiary structure predictions and 3D modeling. The sarcin-ricin motif graph-grammar was built with indivisible nucleotide interaction cycles that were recently observed in structured RNAs. A comparison of the sequences and 3D structures of each cycle that constitute the sarcin-ricin motif gave us additional insights about RNA sequence-structure relationships. In particular, this analysis revealed the sequence space of an RNA motif depends on a structural context that goes beyond the single base pairing and base-stacking interactions.

Nucleic Acids Res. 2007;35(5):1726-36.

Pubmed ID: 17317683

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