Characterizing the Secondary Structure and Identifying Functionally Essential Nucleotides of pH6DZ1, a Fluorescence-Signaling and RNA-Cleaving Deoxyribozyme
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pH6DZ1 is a synthetic deoxyribozyme that is able to couple catalysis with fluorescence signal generation. This deoxyribozyme has the ability to cleave itself at a lone ribonucleotide that is present between a pair of deoxyribothymidines, one modified with a fluorophore (fluorescein) and the other with a quencher (DABCYL). Herein, we report on the sequence truncation and secondary structure characterization of pH6DZ1 as well as the identification of functionally important nucleotides within this deoxyribozyme. Our data indicate that pH6DZ1 has a four-way, junction-like secondary structure comprised of four short duplexes, three hairpin loops, and three interhelical unpaired elements. Ten nucleotides, all located in two separate single-stranded regions, were identified as functionally indispensable nucleotides (complete loss of the catalytic function was obtained upon mutation). Nine nucleotides, most of which are also distributed in three single-stranded DNA elements, were identified as functionally vital nucleotides (at least a 1000-fold activity reduction was obtained upon mutation). Our study has shown that pH6DZ1 has a secondary structure that is more complex than those reported for other RNA-cleaving deoxyribozymes. The identification of functionally important nucleotides lays the foundation for future mechanistic studies on this DNAzyme. The elucidation of the secondary structure of pH6DZ1 should facilitate the future exploration of this unique DNAzyme for the development of DNAzyme-based biosensors.
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