Activation of PKR by RNA misfolding: HDV ribozyme dimers activate PKR

Laurie A. Heinicke, Philip C. Bevilacqua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Protein Kinase R (PKR), the double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-activated protein kinase, plays important roles in innate immunity. Previous studies have shown that PKR is activated by long stretches of dsRNA, RNA pseudoknots, and certain single-stranded RNAs; however, regulation of PKR by RNAs with globular tertiary structure has not been reported. In this study, the HDV ribozyme is used as a model of a mostly globular RNA. In addition to a catalytic core, the ribozyme contains a peripheral 13-bp pairing region (P4), which, upon shortening, affects neither the catalytic activity of the ribozyme nor its ability to crystallize. We report that the HDV ribozyme sequence alone can activate PKR. To elucidate the RNA structural basis for this, we prepared a number of HDV variants, including those with shortened or lengthened P4 pairing regions, with the anticipation that lengthening the P4 extension would yield a more potent activator since it would offer more base pairs of dsRNA. Surprisingly, the variant with a shortened P4 was the most potent activator. Through native gel mobility and enzymatic structure mapping experiments we implicate misfolded HDV ribozyme dimers as the PKR-activating species, and show that the shortened P4 leads to enhanced occupancy of the RNA dimer. These observations have implications for how RNA misfolding relates to innate immune response and human disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2157-2165
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology


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