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The core domain of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP), comprised of a ring of seven paralogous proteins bound around a single-stranded RNA sequence, functions as the assembly nucleus in the maturation of U1, U2, U4 and U5 spliceosomal snRNPs. The structure of the human U4 snRNP core domain was initially solved at 3.6 Å resolution by experimental phasing using data with tetartohedral twinning. Molecular replacement from this model followed by density modification using untwinned data recently led to a structure of the minimal U1 snRNP at 3.3 Å resolution. With the latter structure providing a search model for molecular replacement, the U4 core-domain structure has now been re-refined. The U4 Sm site-sequence AAUUUUU has been shown to bind to the seven Sm proteins SmF-SmE-SmG-SmD3-SmB-SmD1-SmD2 in an identical manner as the U1 Sm-site sequence AAUUUGU, except in SmD1 where the bound U replaces G. The progression from the initial to the re-refined structure exemplifies a tortuous route to accuracy: where well diffracting crystals of complex assemblies are initially unavailable, the early model errors are rectified by exploiting preliminary interpretations in further experiments involving homologous structures. New insights are obtained from the more accurate model.


Jade Li, Adelaine K Leung, Yasushi Kondo, Chris Oubridge, Kiyoshi Nagai. Re-refinement of the spliceosomal U4 snRNP core-domain structure. Acta crystallographica. Section D, Structural biology. 2016 Jan;72(Pt 1):131-46

PMID: 26894541

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