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Structural and biochemical analysis of the essential spliceosomal protein Prp8 Open Access


Other title
X-ray crystallography
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ritchie, Dustin B.
Supervisor and department
MacMillan, Andrew (Biochemistry)
Examining committee member and department
Glover, Mark (Biochemistry)
Chabot, Benoit (Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, University of Sherbrooke)
Fahlman, Richard (Biochemistry)
Owttrim, George (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biochemistry

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
More than 90% of human genes undergo a processing step called splicing, whereby non-coding introns are removed from initial transcripts and coding exons are ligated together to yield mature messenger RNA. Roughly 50% of human genetic diseases correspond to aberrant splicing. Splicing is catalyzed by an RNA/protein machine called the spliceosome. RNA components of the spliceosome are at least partly responsible for splicing catalysis. In addition, in vitro analyses implicate an essential and very highly conserved protein, Prp8, in orchestrating key steps in spliceosome assembly and possibly catalysis. Interestingly, mutant alleles of Prp8 are the cause of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited form of retinal degeneration. A key goal is elucidation of the precise role of Prp8 in the spliceosome by high resolution structural analysis. The large size of Prp8 and its insolubility hinder progress in this regard. Instead, structural understanding of Prp8 can be gained by investigating domains in isolation; however there is only limited information as to what domain boundaries are and few hints about the functional relevance of putative domains. Here we have further defined the previously proposed domain IV in Prp8, and identified the domain IV core. Structural determination of the domain IV core reveals an RNase H fold, which could not be predicted based on primary sequence alone. RNase H recognizes A-form nucleic acid duplexes, which strongly suggests the domain IV core interacts with double-stranded RNA in the context of the spliceosome. Characterizing the binding preferences of the domain IV revealed the highest affinity is for a 4-helix junction structure adopted by the very RNAs at the spliceosome active site. Our characterization of the protein/RNA binding interface by complementary footprinting techniques currently provides the best model of how RNA interacts with an essential protein component at the heart of the spliceosome.
License granted by Dustin Ritchie ( on 2010-01-05 (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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