New Haven, Conn. – Scientists in the department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale revealed the crystal structure of the first described enzymatic RNA - what it looks like and how it reacts - in the journal Nature.
Scott Strobel, professor and principal investigator of the study and his research team at Yale, used X-ray crystallography to image the self-splicing group-I intron and the associations it makes as it reacts. The image shows an interaction with metal ions and the alignment of the RNA molecule segments.
"The structure reveals how RNA, which is chemically very different from protein, is able to use metal ions to achieve a very similar reaction mechanism," said Scott Strobel, "This argues for an evolutionarily ancient mechanism."
Over twenty years ago scientists discovered that RNA, and not just protein, could act like an enzyme. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989 was awarded to Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado and Sidney Altman at Yale at for this revolutionary discovery.
"This is the first RNA splicing complex to be visualized in molecular detail," said Strobel. "Now we can finally see what it looks like and how it reacts."
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