Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 61–76 | Cite as

The architecture of 5S rRNA and its relation to function

  • George E. Fox
  • Carl R. Woese


An extensive comparative analysis of the available primary sequence data on 5S rRNA has been made. A universal secondary structure is presented for procaryotic 5S rRNA which contains four helical regions. Eucaryotic 5S rRNAs are found to have only three of these helices and thus have a somewhat different architecture. In addition, a highly conserved segment of more than thirty nucleotides is identified in the 5′ half of the procaryotic molecule. This segment includes the oligonucleotide-CGAAC- which presumably binds to the t-RNA “common” sequence-GTΨCG-. Among the eucaryotes, the plants display a procaryotic nature in this region, but no eucaryote has the sequence -CGAAC- in this segment.

A functional role for the procaryotic 5S rRNA molecule is discussed in which it is envisioned to undergo conformational change, i.e., coiling and uncoiling of one of the helices, which can result in a cyclic interaction of the 5S rRNA molecule with two t-RNA molecules. A general principle also emerges: the natural rotational motion inherent in coiling and uncoiling of nucleic acid helices can be converted quite simply to linear mechanical motion.

Key words

5S ribosomal RNA Translation Evolution Molecular Architecture Conformational Changes 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • George E. Fox
    • 1
  • Carl R. Woese
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Genetics and DevelopmentUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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