EPR spectroscopic analysis of U7 hammerhead ribozyme dynamics during metal ion induced folding

Thomas E. Edwards, Snorri Th Sigurdsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy was used to examine changes in internal structure and dynamics of the hammerhead ribozyme upon metal ion induced folding, changes in pH, and the presence and absence of ribozyme inhibitors. A nitroxide spin-label was attached to nucleotide U7 of the HH16 catalytic core, and this modified ribozyme was observed to retain catalytic activity. U7 was shown by EPR spectroscopy to be more mobile in the ribozyme-product complex than in either the unfolded ribozyme or the ribozyme-substrate complex. A two-step divalent metal ion dependent folding pathway was observed for the ribozyme-substrate complex with a weak first transition observed at 0.25 mM Mg2+ and a strong second transition observed around 10 mM Mg2+, in agreement with studies using other biophysical and biochemical techniques. Previously, ribozyme activity was observed in the absence of divalent metal ions and the presence of high concentrations of monovalent metal ions, although the activity was less than that observed in the presence of divalent metal ions. Here, we observed similar dynamics for U7 in the presence of 4 M Na+ or Li+, which were distinctively different than that observed in the presence of 10 mM Mg 2+, indicating that U7 of the catalytic core forms a different microenvironment under monovalent versus divalent metal ion conditions. Interestingly, the catalytically efficient microenvironment of U7 was similar to that observed in a solution containing 1 M Na+ upon addition of one divalent metal ion per ribozyme. In summary, these results demonstrate that changes in local dynamics, as detected by EPR spectroscopy, can be used to study conformational changes associated with RNA folding and function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12870-12878
Number of pages9
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2005


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