An in vitro selection method based on the autolytic cleavage of yeast tRNAPhe by Pb2+ was applied to obtain tRNA derivatives with the anticodon hairpin replaced by four single-stranded nucleotides. Based on the rates of the site-specific cleavage by Pb2+ and the presence of a specific UV-induced crosslink, certain tetranucieotide sequences allow proper folding of the rest of the tRNA molecule, wheras others do not. One such successful tetramer sequence was also used to replace the acceptor stem of yeast tRNAPhe and the anticodon hairpin of E.coli tRNAPhe without disrupting folding. These experiments suggest that certain tetramers may be able to replace structurally non essential hairpins in any RNA.
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