A Pneumocystis carinii group I intron ribozyme that does not require 2' OH groups on its 5' exon mimic for binding to the catalytic core

Stephen M. Testa, Constantine G. Haidaris, Francis Gigliotti, Douglas H. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The recent increase in the population of immunocompromised patients has led to an insurgence of opportunistic human fungal infections. The lack of effective treatments against some of these pathogens makes it important to develop new therapeutic strategies. One such strategy is to target key RNAs with antisense compounds. We report the development of a model system for studying the potential for antisense targeting of group I self-splicing introns in fungal pathogens. The group I intron from the large ribosomal subunit RNA of mouse-derived Pneumocystis carinii has been isolated and characterized. This intron self-splices in vitro. A catalytically active ribozyme, P-8/4x, has been constructed from this intron to allow measurement of dissociation constants for potential antisense agents. At 37 °C, in 50 mM Hepes (25 mM Na+), 15 mM MgCl2, and 135 mM KCl at pH 7.5, the exogenous 5' exon mimic r(AUGACU) binds about 60 000 times more tightly to this ribozyme than to r(GGUCAU), a mimic of its complementary binding site on the ribozyme. This enhanced binding is due to tertiary interactions. This tertiary stabilization is increased by single deoxynucleotide substitutions in the exon mimic at every position except for the internal A, which is essentially unchanged. Thus 2' OH groups of the 5' exon mimic do not form stabilizing tertiary interactions with the P-8/4x ribozyme, in contrast to the Tetrahymena L-21 ScaI ribozyme. Furthermore, at 37 °C, the exogenous 5' exon mimic d(ATGACT) binds nearly 32 000 times more tightly to the P-8/4x ribozyme than to r(GGUCAU). Therefore, oligonucleotides without 2' OH groups can exploit tertiary stabilization to bind dramatically more tightly and with more specificity than possible from base pairing. These results suggest a new paradigm for antisense targeting: targeting the tertiary interactions of structural RNAs with short antisense oligonucleotides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15303-15314
Number of pages12
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 9 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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