RNA double-helical fragments at atomic resolution: I. The crystal and molecular structure of sodium adenylyl-3′,5′-uridine hexahydrate

Nadrian C. Seeman, John M. Rosenberg, F. L. Suddath, Jung Ja Park Kim, Alexander Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The crystal structure of sodium adenylyl-3′,5′-uridine (ApU) hexahydrate has been determined by X-ray diffraction procedures and refined to an R factor of 0.057. ApU crystallizes with two molecules per asymmetric unit in a monoclinic unit cell, space group P21, with cell dimensions: a = 18.025, b = 17.501, c = 9.677 A ̊and β = 99.45 °. The two independent molecules of ApU form a small segment of right-handed antiparallel double-helical RNA in the crystal, with Watson-Crick base-pairing between adenine and uracil. This is the first time that this Watson-Crick base-pair has been seen unambiguously at atomic resolution and it is also the first time that a nucleic acid fragment with double-helical symmetry has been seen at atomic resolution. The distance between the C1′ atoma of the adenine-uracil base-pair is slightly shorter than the analogous distance seen in guanine-cytosine base-pairs. The bases in each strand are heavily stacked. One sodium cation binds to the phosphates, as expected; however, the other sodium cation binds on the dyad axis in the minor groove of the double helix. It is co-ordinated directly to the two uracil carbonyl groups which protrude into the minor groove and is shielded from the nearest phosphates by a shell of water. This binding appears to be sequence-specific for ApU. One of the adenines also forms a pair of hydrogen bonds to a nearby ribose, utilizing N6 and N7. The 12 water molecules per double-helical fragment are all part of the first co-ordination shell. The ions and the symmetry of the double-helical fragment are the major organizing elements of the solvent region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-144
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 14 1976


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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