Impact of an extruded nucleotide on cleavage activity and dynamic catalytic core conformation of the hepatitis delta virus ribozyme
The self-cleaving hepatitis delta virus (HDV) ribozyme is essential for the replication of HDV, a liver disease causing pathogen in humans. The catalytically critical nucleotide C75 of ribozyme is buttressed by a trefoil turn pivoting around an extruded G76. In all available crystal structures, the conformation of G76 is restricted by stacking with G76 of a neighboring molecule. To test whether this crystal contact introduces a structural perturbation into the catalytic core, we have analyzed similar to 200 ns of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. In the absence of crystal packing, the simulated G76 fluctuates between several conformations, including one wherein G76 establishes a perpendicular base quadruplet in the major groove of the adjacent P1stem. Second site mutagenesis experiments suggest that the identity of the nucleotide in position 76 (N76) indeed contributes to trhe catalytic activity of a trans-acting HDV ribozyme through its capacity for hydrogen bonding with P1. by contrast, in the cis-cleaving genomic ribozyme the functional relevance of N76 is less pronounced and not correlated with the P1 sequence. Terbium(III) footprinting and additional MD show that the activity differences between N76 mutants of this ribozyme are related instead to changes in average conformation and modified cross- correlations in the trefoil turn. (c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.