The protein encoded by chimeric BCR-ABL mRNA causes chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). We showed previously that a novel allosterically controllable ribozyme, of the type known as a maxizyme, can cleave this mRNA, with high specificity and high-level activity in vivo. We designed the maxizyme in such a way that it was able to form an active core with which to capture the catalytically indispensable Mg2+ ions only in the presence of the BCR-ABL mRNA junction. In order to probe the putative conformational changes, we used a weakly alkaline solution (pH 9.2) in the presence of 25 mM Mg2+ ions to hydrolyze differentially phosphodiester bonds that were located in different environments. Phosphodiester bonds in single-stranded regions were clearly more susceptible to attack by alkali than those within a double-stranded helix. As indicated by earlier data obtained in vivo, our results demonstrated that the active conformation was achieved only in the presence of the junction within the chimeric BCR-ABL mRNA. Moreover, we demonstrated that the use of mild alkaline solutions to probe RNA structures is very informative. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.
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