The RNA i-motif

K. Snoussi, S. Nonin-Lecomte, J. L. Leroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oligodeoxynucleotides with stretches of cytidine residues associate into a four-stranded structure, the i-motif, in which two head-to-tail, intercalated, parallel-stranded duplexes are held together by hemiprotonated C·C+ pairs. We have investigated the possibility of forming an i-motif structure with C-rich ribonucleic acids. The four C-rich RNAs studied, r(UC5), r(C5), r(C5U) and r(UC3), associate into multiple intercalated structures at acidic pH. r(UC5) forms two i-motif structures that differ by their intercalation topologies. We report on a structural study of the main form and we analyze the small conformational differences found by comparison with the DNA i-motif. The stacking topology of the main structure avoids one of the six 2′-OH/2′-OH repulsive contacts expected in a fully intercalated structure. The C3′-endo pucker of the RNA sugars and the orientation of the intercalated C·C+ pairs result in a modest widening of the narrow grooves at the steps where the hydroxyl groups are in close contact. The free energy of the RNA i-motif, on average -4 kJ mol-1 per C·C+ pair, is half of the value found in DNA i-motif structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-153
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 25 2001


  • Hemiprotonated C·C pairs
  • Hydroxyl group
  • I-motif
  • RNA solution structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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