Raman crystallography is the application of Raman spectroscopy to single crystals. This technique has been applied to a variety of protein molecules where it has provided unique information about biopolymer folding, substrate binding, and catalysis. Here, we describe the application of Raman crystallography to functional RNA molecules. RNA represents unique opportunities and challenges for Raman crystallography. One issue that confounds studies of RNA is its tendency to adopt multiple non-functional folds. Raman crystallography has the advantage that it isolates a single state of the RNA within the crystal and can evaluate its fold, metal ion binding properties (ligand identity, stoichiometry, and affinity), proton binding properties (identity, stoichiometry, and affinity), and catalytic potential. In particular, base-specific stretches can be identified and then associated with the binding of metal ions and protons. Because measurements are carried out in the hanging drop at ambient, rather than cryo, conditions and because RNA crystals tend to be approximately 70% solvent, RNA dynamics and conformational changes become experimentally accessible. This review focuses on experimental setup and procedures, acquisition and interpretation of Raman data, and determination of physicochemical properties of the RNA. Raman crystallographic and solution biochemical experiments on the HDV RNA enzyme are summarized and found to be in excellent agreement. Remarkably, characterization of the crystalline state has proven to help rather than hinder functional characterization of functional RNA, most likely because the tendency of RNA to fold heterogeneously is limited in a crystalline environment. Future applications of Raman crystallography to RNA are briefly discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)