U4 RNA, which is known to play an indispensable role in pre-mRNA splicing, is present in plant nuclei, has a canonical m32,2,7G cap at its 5′ end and is associated with U6 RNA in snRNP particles. It occurs in broad bean in the form of a number of sequence variants. Two of these were sequenced: U4A RNA is 154 and U4B RNA is 152 nucleotides long. Sequence similarity of broad bean U4B RNA is 94 per cent to broad bean U4A RNA, 65 per cent to rat U4A RNA, 61 per cent to Drosophila U4A RNA and 50 per cent to snR14, the U4 RNA equivalent of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Sequence conservation is much more pronounced in the 5′ half of the molecule than in its 3′ half. The secondary structure of both variants of broad bean U4 RNA perfectly fits with that of all other 114 RNAs sequenced so far. Nucleotide changes between broad bean U4A and U4B RNAs are restricted to molecular regions that affect the thermodynamic stability of these molecules. A model is proposed for the base pairing interaction of broad bean U4 RNA with broad bean U6 RNA. This is the first report on the structure of a plant U4 RNA.
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