The Conformation of the RNA in Cowpea Chlorotic Mottle Virus: Dye‐Binding Studies

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The binding of the acridine orange to cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) and its purified RNA has been studied to obtain the number of dye‐binding sites as a function of pH and, through further analysis, to estimate the degree of RNA secondary structure in situ. Acridine orange does not bind to CCMV protein and so the dye binding directly reflects the accessibility and structure of the RNA. The number of dye molecules per nucleotide which can be bound by native virus (pH 4.5, I= 0.1 buffer) is 0.13–0.18, the precise value depending upon the assumption of either heterogeneous binding sites or weak binding forces. The number of binding sites increases by a factor of about 2.7 to 0.34–0.48 when the pH is raised to pH 7.5 and “swelling” of the virus occurs. About 50% of the sites on the free RNA are available to bind dye in the swollen virus. The stacking coefficient, which is a measure of the degree of base pairing in a polynucleotide, has been calculated for the native and swollen virus and for the isolated RNA. The values of the stacking coefficient, for the RNA in the virus and following extraction are comparable, which suggests that the structure of the RNA in both cases is similar, and the values are low in magnitude, which indicates the existence of extensive regions of double‐helix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-455
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1975


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