Evolutionary trends in RNA base selectivity within the RNase A superfamily

Guillem Prats-Ejarque, Lu Lu, Vivian A. Salazar, Mohammed Moussaoui, Ester Boix

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Copyright © 2019 Prats-Ejarque, Lu, Salazar, Moussaoui and Boix. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. There is a growing interest in the pharmaceutical industry to design novel tailored drugs for RNA targeting. The vertebrate-specific RNase A superfamily is nowadays one of the best characterized family of enzymes and comprises proteins involved in host defense with specific cytotoxic and immune-modulatory properties. We observe within the family a structural variability at the substrate-binding site associated to a diversification of biological properties. In this work, we have analyzed the enzyme specificity at the secondary base binding site. Towards this end, we have performed a kinetic characterization of the canonical RNase types together with a molecular dynamic simulation of selected representative family members. The RNases' catalytic activity and binding interactions have been compared using UpA, UpG and UpI dinucleotides. Our results highlight an evolutionary trend from lower to higher order vertebrates towards an enhanced discrimination power of selectivity for adenine respect to guanine at the secondary base binding site (B2). Interestingly, the shift from guanine to adenine preference is achieved in all the studied family members by equivalent residues through distinct interaction modes. We can identify specific polar and charged side chains that selectively interact with donor or acceptor purine groups. Overall, we observe selective bidentate polar and electrostatic interactions: Asn to N1/N6 and N6/N7 adenine groups in mammals versus Glu/Asp and Arg to N1/N2, N1/O6 and O6/N7 guanine groups in non-mammals. In addition, kinetic and molecular dynamics comparative results on UpG versus UpI emphasize the main contribution of Glu/Asp interactions to N1/N2 group for guanine selectivity in lower order vertebrates. A close inspection at the B2 binding pocket also highlights the principal contribution of the protein β6 and L4 loop regions. Significant differences in the orientation and extension of the L4 loop could explain how the same residues can participate in alternative binding modes. The analysis suggests that within the RNase A superfamily an evolution pressure has taken place at the B2 secondary binding site to provide novel substrate-recognition patterns. We are confident that a better knowledge of the enzymes' nucleotide recognition pattern would contribute to identify their physiological substrate and eventually design applied therapies to modulate their biological functions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1170
Pages (from-to)1170
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019


  • RNA
  • RNase
  • RNase A superfamily
  • catalysis
  • evolution
  • molecular dynamics
  • purine


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