All of the ribose-phosphate linkages in yeast tRNAPhe that could be cleaved without affecting the folding of the molecule have been determined in a single experiment. Circular permutation analysis subjects circular tRNA molecules to limited alkaline hydrolysis in order to generate one random break per molecule. Correctly folded tRNAs were identified by lead cleavage at neutral pH, a well-characterized reaction that requires proper folding of tRNA Phe. Surprisingly, most of the circularly permuted tRNA molecules folded correctly. This result suggests that the tRNA folding motif could occur internally within other RNA sequences, and a computer search of Genbank entries has identified many examples of such motifs.
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