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The human U1A RNA-binding domain (RBD1) adopts one of the most common protein folds, the RNA-recognition motif, and is a paradigm for understanding RNA–protein interactions. A 2.8 Å resolution structure of the unbound RBD1 has previously been determined [Nagai et al. (1990). Nature (London), 348, 515–520] and revealed a well defined α/β core with disordered termini. Using a longer construct, a 1.8 Å resolution structure of the unbound domain was determined that reveals an ordered C-terminal helix. The presence of this helix is consistent with a solution structure of the free domain [Avis et al. (1996). J. Mol. Biol. 257, 398–411]; however, in the solution structure the helix occludes the RNA-binding surface. In the present structure, the helix occupies a position similar to that seen in a 1.9 Å resolution RNA–RBD1 complex structure [Oubridge et al. (1994). Nature (London), 372, 432–438]. The crystals in this study were grown from 2.2 M sodium malonate. It is possible that the high salt concentration helps to orient the C-terminal helix in the RNA-bound conformation by strengthening hydrophobic interactions between the buried face of the helix and the α/β core of the protein. Alternatively, the malonate (several molecules of which are bound in the vicinity of the RNA-binding surface) may mimic RNA.

Supporting information

PDB reference: U1A RNA-binding domain, 1nu4, r1nu4sf

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