Functional equivalence of hairpins in the RNA subunits of RNase MRP and RNase P in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

a1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland 21250, USA


RNase MRP and RNase P are both ribonucleoprotein enzymes performing endonucleolytic cleavage of RNA. RNase MRP cleaves at a specific site in the precursor-rRNA transcript to initiate processing of the 5.8S rRNA. RNase P cleaves precursor tRNAs to create the 5′ end of the mature tRNAs. In spite of their different specificities, the two RNases have significant structural similarities. For example, the two enzymes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae share eight protein subunits; only one protein is unique to each enzyme. The RNA components of the two nucleases also show striking secondary-structure similarity. To begin to characterize the role of the RNA subunits in enzyme function and substrate specificity, we swapped two hairpin structures (MRP3 and P3) between RNase MRP RNA and RNase P RNA of S. cerevisiae. The hairpins in the two enzymes could be exchanged without loss of function or specificity. On the other hand, when the MRP3 hairpin in RNase MRP of S. cerevisiae was replaced with the corresponding hairpin from the RNA of Schizosaccharomyces pombe or human RNase MRP, no functional enzyme was assembled. We propose that the MRP3 and P3 hairpins in S. cerevisiae perform similar functions and have coevolved to maintain common features that are different from those of MRP3 and P3 hairpins in other species.

(Received December 10 1999)
(Revised January 10 2000)
(Accepted February 7 2000)

Key Words: RNA structure; rRNA processing; tRNA processing; yeast.

c1 Reprint requests to: Lasse Lindahl, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, Maryland 21250, USA; e-mail: lindahl@umbc.edu.