A prototypic hammerhead ribozyme has three helices that surround an asymmetrical central core loop. We have mutagenized a hammerhead type ribozyme. In agreement with previous studies, progressive removal of stem-loop II from a three stemmed ribozyme showed that this region is not absolutely critical for catalysis. However, complete elimination of stem II and its loop did reduce, but did not eliminate, function. In a stem-loop II-deleted ribozyme, activity was best preserved when a purine, preferably a G, was present at position 10.1. This G contributed to catalysis irregardless of its role as either one part of a canonical pair with a C residue at 11.1 or a lone nucleotide with C (11.1) deleted. Computational methods using lattices generated 87 million three-dimensional chain forms for a stem-loop II-deleted RNA complex that preserved one potential G·C base pair at positions 10.1 and 11.1. This exhaustive set of chain forms included one major class of structures with G(10.1) being spatially proximal to the GUCX cleavage site of the substrate strand. Strong correlations were observed between colinear arrangement of stems I and III, constraints of base-pairing in the central core loop, and one particular placement of G(10.1) relative to the cleavage site. Our calculations of a stem-loop II-deleted ribozyme indicate that without needing to invoke any other constraints, the inherent asymmetry in the lengths of the two loop strands (3 nt in one and 7 nt in the other) that compose the core and flank G10.1–C11.1 stipulated strongly this particular G placement. This suggests that the hammerhead ribozyme maintains an asymmetry in its internal loop for a necessary structure/function reason.
Brooke Lustig, N H. Lin, S M. Smith, R L. Jernigan, and K.-T Jeang. "A small modified hammerhead ribozyme and its conformational characteristics determined by mutagenesis and lattice calculation" Nucleic Acids Research (1995): 3531-3538. doi:10.1093/nar/23.17.3531