Hairpins are the most common elements of RNA secondary structure, playing important roles in RNA tertiary architecture and forming protein binding sites. Triloops are common in a variety of naturally occurring RNA hairpins, but little is known about their thermodynamic stability. Reported here are the sequences and thermodynamic parameters for a variety of stable and unstable triloop hairpins. Temperature gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) can be used to separate a simple RNA combinatorial library based on thermal stability [Bevilacqua, J. M., and Bevilacqua, P. C. (1998) Biochemistry 45, 15877-15884]. Here we introduce the application of TGGE to separating and analyzing a complex RNA combinatorial library based on thermal stability, using an RNA triloop library. Several rounds of in vitro selection of an RNA triloop library were carried out using TGGE, and preferences for exceptionally stable and unstable closing base pairs and loop sequences were identified. For stable hairpins, the most common closing base pair is CG, and U-rich loop sequences are preferred. Closing base pairs of GC and UA result in moderately stable hairpins when combined with a stable loop sequence. For unstable hairpins, the most common closing base pairs are AU and UG, and U- rich loop sequences are no longer preferred. In general, the contributions of the closing base pair and loop sequence to overall hairpin stability appear to be additive. Thermodynamic parameters for individual hairpins determined by UV melting are generally consistent with outcomes from selection experiments, with hairpins containing a CG closing base pair having a ΔΔG°37 2.1-2.5 kcal/mol more favorable than hairpins with other closing base pairs. Sequences and thermodynamic rules for triloop hairpins should aid in RNA structure prediction and determination of whether naturally occurring triloop hairpins are thermodynamically stable.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes