The secondary structure of the 7SL RNA in the signal recognition particle was determined by applying both a theoretical and an experimental approach. The compensatory base change approach was taken comparing the published sequences of human, Drosophila and Xenopus 7SL RNA′s. The deduced secondary structure was confirmed by post-labeling of an RNase V1-nicked dog SRP with P32-pCp and RNA-ligase and analysis of the labeled RNA-fragments by non-denaturing/denaturing 2D polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Two interesting features in the secondary structure were revealed: Firstly, bases at positions 122 to 127 of the human 7SL RNA are not only able to pair with bases at positions 167 to 170, but also with a single-stranded region of the bases at positions 223 to 228, suggesting an alternative base pairing scheme for the 7SL RNA in all three organisms. In agreement with this finding, four different conformations were identified after transcription of the 7SL RNA from the genomic human clone. The involvement of the particular basepairing interaction postulated was confirmed by the analysis of a 7SL RNA deletion mutant (Sma 1-409). Secondly, a significant sequence homolgy of the paired bases at positions 236 to 255 and 104 to 109 in 7SL RNA with bases in 5S ribosomal RNA at the positions 84 to 110 was noticed, suggesting that 5S ribosomal and 7SL RNA interact with the same target during protein biosynthesis.These findings are summarized by proposing a mechanism for the translational arrest of protein synthesis by the signal recognition particle using specific sequences and an alternative configuration in the 7SL RNA.
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