An Alternative Helix in the 26S rRNA Promotes Excision and Integration of the Tetrahymena Intervening Sequence

Sarah A. Woodson, Victoria L. Emerick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


A highly conserved ribosomal stem-loop immediately upstream of the Tetrahymena splice junction can inhibit both forward and reverse self-splicing by competing with base pairing between the 5′ exon and the guide sequence of the intervening sequence. Formation of this unproductive hairpin is preferred in precursor RNAs with short exons and results in a lower rate of splicing. Inhibition of self-splicing is not observed in longer precursors, suggesting that additional interactions in the extended exons can influence the equilibrium between the productive and unproductive hairpins at the 5′ splice site. An alternative pairing upstream of the 5′ splice site has been identified and is proposed to stabilize the active conformer of the pre-rRNA. Nucleotide changes that alter the ability to form this additional helix were made, and the self-splicing rates were compared. Precursors in which the proposed stem is stabilized splice more rapidly than the wild type, whereas RNAs that contain a base mismatch splice more slowly. The ability of DNA oligomers to bind the RNA, as detected by RNase H digestion, correlates with the predicted secondary structure of the RNA. We also show that a 236-nucleotide RNA containing the natural splice junction is a substrate for intervening sequence integration. As in the forward reaction, reverse splicing is enhanced in ligated exon substrates in which the alternative rRNA pairing is more stable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1145
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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