A small ribozyme with dual-site kinase activity
Phosphoryl transfer onto backbone hydroxyls is a recognized catalytic activity of nucleic acids. We find that kinase ribozyme K28 possesses an unusually complex active site that promotes (thio)phosphorylation of two residues widely separated in primary sequence. After allowing the ribozyme to radiolabel itself by phosphoryl transfer from [γ-32P]GTP, DNAzyme-mediated cleavage yielded two radiolabeled cleavage fragments, indicating phosphorylation sites within each of the two cleavage fragments. These sites were mapped by alkaline digestion and primer extension pausing. Enzymatic digestion and mutational analysis identified nucleotides important for activity and established the active structure as being a constrained pseudoknot with unusual connectivity that may juxtapose the two reactive sites. Nuclease sensitivities for nucleotides near the pseudoknot core were altered in the presence of GTPγS, indicating donor-induced folding. The 5′ target site was more strongly favored in full-length ribozyme K28 (128 nt) than in truncated RNAs (58 nt). Electrophoretic mobilities of self-thiophosphorylated products on organomercurial gels are distinct from the 5′ mono-thiophosphorylated product produced by reaction with polynucleotide kinase, potentially indicating simultaneous labeling of both sites within individual RNA strands. Our evidence supports a single, compact structure with local dynamics, rather than global rearrangement, as being responsible for dual-site phosphorylation.