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Chemists produce first high-resolution RNA ‘nano square’

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Abstract

The three-dimensional structures of noncoding RNA molecules reveal recurring architectural motifs that have been exploited for the design of artificial RNA nanomaterials. Programmed assembly of RNA nanoobjects from autonomously folding tetraloop–receptor complexes as well as junction motifs has been achieved previously through sequence-directed hybridization of complex sets of long oligonucleotides. Due to size and complexity, structural characterization of artificial RNA nanoobjects has been limited to low-resolution microscopy studies. Here we present the design, construction, and crystal structure determination at 2.2 Å of the smallest yet square-shaped nanoobject made entirely of double-stranded RNA. The RNA square is comprised of 100 residues and self-assembles from four copies each of two oligonucleotides of 10 and 15 bases length. Despite the high symmetry on the level of secondary structure, the three-dimensional architecture of the square is asymmetric, with all four corners adopting distinct folding patterns. We demonstrate the programmed self-assembly of RNA squares from complex mixtures of corner units and establish a concept to exploit the RNA square as a combinatorial nanoscale platform.

 

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