Structures, Properties, and Possible Biologic Functions of Polyadenylic Acid



Our original interest in preparing this review lay in the fact that no one had presented a thorough examination of the topic, with particular attention to the several possible biological functions of polyadenylic acid [poly(A)]. However, as we scrutinized the literature, one point cropped up repeatedly: those engaged in research efforts aimed at clarifying the physiological significance of poly(A) did not make full use of the current body of knowledge concerning the chemical properties of the homopolymer. Similarly, results of experiments that clarify aspects of the physical nature of poly(A) were never interpreted in terms of intracellular functions. Thus, two vast bodies of literature exist in roughly equal proportions, one concerning the biochemistry of poly(A), the other dealing with more physically oriented considerations, and the amount that either group draws on the knowledge or experience gained by the other is small. It was therefore obvious to us that a deficit was present in the field of polyadenylic acid research: no source of knowledge concerning all facets of the biology and chemistry of poly(A) existed. Consequences of the lack of discussion between chemists and molecular biologists engaged in work involving poly(A) were manifest. Experimental results based on quantitation of poly(A) · polyuridylic acid (poly(U)] hybrids prepared under conditions wherein the triplex [poly(A) · 2 poly(U)] may exist is one example. Another is the attitude with which the structure of poly(A) is approached by most biologists. Few papers dealing with the molecular biology of poly(A) give consideration to the different structural forms that the polymer may assume. Despite overwhelming evidence from chemical and physical studies that this polymer is unique in many respects and that an alteration in experimental conditions may induce a radical change in polymeric structure, little consideration is given to this information. As a final example, the researchers attempting to define the nature of the poly(A)-binding proteins appear to be unaware of classes of enzymes that interact with poly(A) and are not cognizant of the consequences of the partially stacked structure of the polymer relevant to amino acid and protein binding. Thus, the knowledge regarding the many aspects of poly(A) chemistry and biochemistry are, in our opinion, in need of organization and presentation in one place. We feel that such an effort will be of importance to both the biochemist and the chemist, since no review of the chemical and physical properties of poly(A) has been published in more than a decade, and the last ten years have seen the most significant advances in knowledge concerning the structure of poly(A) and its interactions with cations, low-molecular-weight organic compounds, and macromolecules. Accordingly, we have divided our manuscript approximately in two; the first part deals with the biochemical and subcellular aspects of poly(A), and because of the biochemical importance of the structure of poly(A), the second half concentrates on this topic—but includes, as well, sections on metals, complementary monomers, and polymers that interact with poly(A).


Adenylic Acid Messenger Ribonucleic Acid Adenine Residue Polynucleotide Phosphorylase Polyadenylic Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



circular dichroism


complementary DNA






electron spin resonance


nuclear heterogeneous RNA


messenger RNA


ribonucleoprotein complex


nuclear magnetic resonance


oligodeoxythymidylic acid


optical rotatory dispersion


polyadenylic acid


polycytidylic acid


polydeoxythymidylic acid


polyguanylic acid


polyuridylic acid


ribosomal RNA


sodium dodecyl sulfate


transfer RNA


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Baltimore Cancer Research CenterDCT, NCI, NIHBaltimoreUSA

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