The self-cleaving ribozyme of the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is the only catalytic RNA known to be required for the viability of a human pathogen. We obtained crystals of a 72-nucleotide, self-cleaved form of the genomic HDV ribozyme that diffract X-rays to 2.3 A resolution by engineering the RNA to bind a small, basic protein without affecting ribozyme activity. The co-crystal structure shows that the compact catalytic core comprises five helical segments connected as an intricate nested double pseudoknot. The 5'-hydroxyl leaving group resulting from the self-scission reaction is buried deep within an active-site cleft produced by juxtaposition of the helices and five strand-crossovers, and is surrounded by biochemically important backbone and base functional groups in a manner reminiscent of protein enzymes.
Crystal structure of a hepatitis delta virus ribozyme.,Ferre-D'Amare AR, Zhou K, Doudna JA Nature. 1998 Oct 8;395(6702):567-74. PMID:9783582
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