A nickel complex has been shown to promote conformation-specific oxidation of guanosine in polynucleotide RNA. In all cases, reaction was strictly dependent on the solvent exposure and surface properties of guanine N7. Modification of native tRNAPhe (yeast) was detected at G18, G19, G20, and Gm34 and concurred with predictions based on its crystal structure. Additional guanine derivatives became exposed to oxidation only after the tRNA unfolded in the absence of Mg2+. Reaction of the Tetrahymena group I intron RNA (L-21 ScaI) also compared favorably to its three-dimensional model by appropriately identifying guanosine residues in hairpin loops, duplex termini, and the essential cofactor binding site. These results complemented prior data generated by hydroxyl radical, and in combination they served to distinguish the solvent accessibility of sugar backbone and base positions in guanosine residues. Most importantly, this nickel complex exhibited greater selectivity than either dimethyl sulfate or RNase T1 for characterizing tRNAPhe and intron RNA.
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