Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 547–555 | Cite as

Non-Watson Crick base pairs might stabilize RNA structural motifs in ribozymes — a comparative study of group-I intron structures



In recent decades studies on RNA structure and function have gained significance due to discoveries on diversified functions of RNA. A common element for RNA secondary structure formed by series of non-Watson/Watson Crick base pairs, internal loops and pseudoknots have been the highlighting feature of recent structural determination of RNAs. The recent crystal structure of group-I introns has demonstrated that these might constitute RNA structural motifs in ribozymes, playing a crucial role in their enzymatic activity. To understand the functional significance of these non-canonical base pairs in catalytic RNA, we analysed the sequences of group-I introns from nuclear genes. The results suggest that they might form the building blocks of folded RNA motifs which are crucial to the catalytic activity of the ribozyme. The conservation of these, as observed from divergent organisms, argues for the presence of non-canonical base pairs as an important requisite for the structure and enzymatic property of ribozymes by enabling them to carry out functions such as replication, polymerase activity etc. in primordial conditions in the absence of proteins.


Group-I intron non-canonical base pair ribozyme RNA structure Tetrahymena thermophila wobble base pair 

Abbreviations used








internal guide sequences










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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetics Dr ALM PG Institute of Basic Medical SciencesUniversity of MadrasChennaiIndia

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