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A neutral pH thermal hydrolysis method for quantification of structured RNAs

  • Author(s): Wilson, SC
  • Cohen, DT
  • Wang, XC
  • Hammond, MC
  • et al.
Abstract

Riboswitch aptamers adopt diverse and complex tertiary structural folds that contain both single-stranded and double-stranded regions. We observe that this high degree of secondary structure leads to an appreciable hypochromicity that is not accounted for in the standard method to calculate extinction coefficients using nearest-neighbor effects, which results in a systematic underestimation of RNA concentrations. Here we present a practical method for quantifying riboswitch RNAs using thermal hydrolysis to generate the corresponding pool of mononucleotides, for which precise extinction coefficients have been measured. Thermal hydrolysis can be performed at neutral pH without reaction quenching, avoids the use of nucleases or expensive fluorescent dyes, and does not require generation of calibration curves. The accuracy of this method for determining RNA concentrations has been validated using quantitative31P-NMR calibrated to an external standard. We expect that this simple procedure will be generally useful for the accurate quantification of any sequence-defined RNA sample, which is often a critical parameter for in vitro binding and kinetic assays. © 2014 Wilson et al.

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