Degradation of hammerhead ribozymes by human ribonucleases

L. Qiu, A. Moreira, G. Kaplan, R. Levitz, J. Y. Wang, C. Xu, K. Drlica

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hammerhead ribozymes were used as substrates to examine endoribonucleolytic activities in cell extracts and cultured human cells. Primer-extension analyses showed that ribozymes directed against tumor necrosis factor-α mRNA and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 tat mRNA were cleaved at UA and CA dinucleotides by extracts. Preferred cleavage sites were similar to those observed following digestion with RNase A, and cleavage was blocked by RNasin, an inhibitor of pyrimidine-specific ribonucleases. Removal of UA and CA dinucleotides rendered ribozymes more stable when incubated in cell extracts that were not significantly contaminated by extracellular nucleases. Placement of UA dinucleotides adjacent to a ribozyme in mRNA led to excision of the ribozyme from long transcripts during incubation in extracts. UA dinucleotides also made mRNA more labile than a control RNA when expressed from an endogenous plasmid gene in the human myeloid cell line U937. Similarly, UA and CA dinucleotides caused ribozymes to have a shorter halflife when delivered to U937 cells by lipofectin-mediated transformation. Taken together, these data indicate that one or more members of the pyrimidine-specific ribonuclease family is involved in the intracellular degradation of RNA, and they explain the paucity of UA dinucleotides in eukaryotic mRNA. Judicious manipulation of preferred target sequences of pyrimidine-specific ribonucleases may be useful in designing effective hammerhead ribozymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-362
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and General Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998


  • HIV-1 tat
  • Pyrimidine-specific ribonucleases
  • Tumor necrosis factor-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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