Distribution of rRNA introns in the three-dimensional structure of the ribosome

Scott A. Jackson, Jamie J. Cannone, Jung C. Lee, Robin R. Gutell, Sarah A. Woodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


More than 1200 introns have been documented at over 150 unique sites in the small and large subunit ribosomal RNA genes (as of February 2002). Nearly all of these introns are assigned to one of four main types: group I, group II, archaeal and spliceosomal. This sequence information has been organized into a relational database that is accessible through the Comparative RNA Web Site (http://www.rna.icmb.utexas.edu/) While the rRNA introns are distributed across the entire tree of life, the majority of introns occur within a few phylogenetic groups. We analyzed the distributions of rRNA introns within the three-dimensional structures of the 30 S and 50 S ribosomes. Most sites in rRNA genes that contain introns contain only one type of intron. While the intron insertion sites occur at many different coordinates, the majority are clustered near conserved residues that form tRNA binding sites and the subunit interface. Contrary to our expectations, many of these positions are not accessible to solvent in the mature ribosome. The correlation between the frequency of intron insertions and proximity of the insertion site to functionally important residues suggests an association between intron evolution and rRNA function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-52
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Group I/II introns
  • Intron transposition
  • Reverse splicing
  • Ribosomal RNA
  • Sequence database

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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