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Structural fidelity and NMR relaxation analysis in a prototype RNA hairpin

Structural fidelity and NMR relaxation analysis in a prototype RNA hairpin

RNA vol. 21  p. 963-974  DOI: 10.1261/rna.047357.114
PMID/PMCID: PMC4408802 Published: 2015-12-03 

George M. Giambaşu
Darrin M. York
David A. Case


RNA hairpins are widespread and very stable motifs that contribute decisively to RNA folding and biological function. The GTP1G2C3A4C5U6U7C8G9G10U11G12C13C14 construct (with a central UUCG tetraloop) has been extensively studied by solution NMR, and offers and excellent opportunity to evaluate the structure and dynamical description afforded by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Here, we compare average structural parameters and NMR relaxation rates estimated from a series of multiple independent explicit solvent MD simulations using the two most recent RNA AMBER force fields (ff99 and ff10). Predicted overall tumbling times are ~20% faster than those inferred from analysis of NMR data and follow the same trend when temperature and ionic strength is varied. The Watson–Crick stem and the “canonical” UUCG loop structure is maintained in most simulations including the characteristic syn conformation along the glycosidic bond of G9, although some key hydrogen bonds in the loop are partially disrupted. Our analysis pinpoints G9–G10 backbone conformations as a locus of discrepancies between experiment and simulation. In general the results for the more recent force-field parameters (ff10) are closer to experiment than those for the older ones (ff99). This work provides a comprehensive and detailed comparison of state of the art MD simulations against a wide variety of solution NMR measurements.