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Formation of sheared G:A base pairs in an RNA duplex modelled after ribozymes, as revealed by NMR.

The thermal stability and structure of an RNA duplex, r(GGACGAGUCC)2, the base sequence of which was modelled after both a hammerhead ribozyme and a lead ribozyme, were studied by CD and NMR. We previously demonstrated that the corresponding DNA duplex, d(GGACGAGTCC)2, formed unique 'sheared' G:A base pairs, where an amino proton, instead of an imino proton, of G is involved in the hydrogen bonding, and G and A bases are arranged 'side by side' instead of 'head to head' (Nucleic Acids Res. (1993) 21, 5418-5424). CD melting profiles showed that the RNA duplex is thermally more stable than the corresponding DNA duplex. NMR studies revealed that sheared G:A base pairs are formed in the RNA duplex, too, although the overall structure of the RNA is the A form, which differs from the B form taken on by the corresponding DNA. A model building study confirmed that sheared G:A base pairs can be accommodated in the double helical structure of the A form. A difference between the RNA and DNA duplexes in the stacking interaction involving G:A mismatch bases is also suggested. The demonstration that sheared G:A base pairs can be formed not only in DNA but also in RNA suggests that this base pairing plays an important role regarding the RNA structure.