Wartell, Roger M.

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    Conversion of Stable RNA Hairpin to a Metastable Dimer in Frozen Solution
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007-12) Sun, Xueguang ; Li, J. Michael ; Wartell, Roger M.
    Previous studies employing a 79-nucleotide (nt) RNA indicated that this RNA could form two bands in a native polyacrylamide gel while one band was observed in a denaturing gel. This report describes an investigation on the nature of the two corresponding structures and the segment responsible for forming the slower mobility band. Sedimentation equilibrium of the 79-nt RNA was consistent with the two gel bands corresponding to monomer and dimer forms. The portion of the RNA required for dimer formation was explored using a secondary structure prediction algorithm of two 79-nt RNAs linked in a head-to-tail fashion. The predicted structure suggested that the first 21-nt at the 59 end of each RNA formed a self complementary duplex. A ribonuclease H assay carried out with RNA prepared as monomer (M), or a mixture of monomer and dimer (M/D), gave results consistent with the predicted M and D structures. Gel mobility experiments on 59 and 39 segments of the 79-nt RNA also indicated that dimer formation was due to the 21-nt 59 end. Studies on the 21-nt RNA molecule and sequence variants showed that this sequence can form a hairpin and a dimer complex. Unexpectedly, the hairpin to dimer conversion was shown to occur at high efficiency in frozen solution, although little or no conversion was observed above 0°C. The results indicate that a freezing environment can promote formation of intermolecular RNA complexes from stable RNA hairpins, supporting the notion that this environment could have played a role in the evolution of RNA complexity.
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    Predicted structure and phyletic distribution of the RNA-binding protein Hfq
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2002) Sun, Xueguang ; Zhulin, Igor ; Wartell, Roger M.
    Hfq, a bacterial RNA-binding protein, was recently shown to contain the Sm1 motif, a characteristic of Sm and LSm proteins that function in RNA processing events in archaea and eukaryotes. In this report, comparative structural modeling was used to predict a three-dimensional structure of the Hfq core sequence. The predicted structure aligns with most major features of the Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum LSm protein structure. Conserved residues in Hfq are positioned at the same structural locations responsible for subunit assembly and RNA interaction in Sm proteins. A highly conserved portion of Hfq assumes a structural fold similar to the Sm2 motif of Sm proteins. The evolution of the Hfq protein was explored by conducting a BLAST search of microbial genomes followed by phylogenetic analysis. Approximately half of the 140 complete or nearly complete genomes examined contain at least one gene coding for Hfq. The presence or absence of Hfq closely followed major bacterial clades. It is absent from high-level clades and present in the ancient Thermotogales-Aquificales clade and all proteobacteria except for those that have undergone major reduction in genome size. Residues at three positions in Hfq form signatures for the beta/gamma proteobacteria, alpha proteobacteria and low GC Gram-positive bacteria groups.