Three different small deletions were produced at a single Pvu 2 restriction site in E. coli 23S rDNA of plasmid pKK 3535 using exonuclease Bal 31. The deletions were located around position 1760 in 23S rRNA and were characterized by DNA sequencing as well as by direct fingerprinting and S1-mapping of the rRNA. Two of the mutant plasmlds, Pvu 2-32 and Pvu 2-33, greatly reduced the growth rate of transformed cells while the third mutant, Pvu 2-14 grew as fast as cells containing the wild-type plasmid pKK 3535. All three mutant 23S rRNAs were incorporated into 50S-like particles and were even found in 70S ribosomes and polysomes in vivo. The conformation of mutant 23S rRNA in 50S subunits was probed with a double-strand specific RNase from cobra venom. These analyses revealed changes in the accessibility of cleavage sites near the deletions around position 1760 and in the area around position 800 in all three mutant rRNAs. We suggest, that an altered conformation of the rRNAs at the site of the deletion is responsible for the slow growth of cells containing mutant plasmids Pvu 2-32 and Pvu 2-33.
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