Proximity of conserved U6 and U2 snRNA elements to the 5′ splice site region in activated spliceosomes



Major structural changes occur in the spliceosome during its catalytic activation, which immediately precedes the splicing of pre-mRNA. Whereas changes in snRNA conformation are well documented at the level of secondary RNA–RNA interactions, little is known about the tertiary structure of this RNA–RNA network, which comprises the spliceosome's catalytic core. Here, we have used the hydroxyl-radical probe Fe-BABE, tethered to the tenth nucleotide (U+10) of the 5′ end of a pre-mRNA intron, to map RNA–RNA proximities in spliceosomes. These studies revealed that several conserved snRNA regions are close to U+10 in activated spliceosomes, namely (i) the U6 snRNA ACAGAG-box region, (ii) portions of the U6 intramolecular stem-loop (U6-ISL) including a nucleotide implicated in the first catalytic step (U74), and (iii) the region of U2 that interacts with the branch point. These data constrain the relative orientation of these structural elements with respect to U+10 in the activated spliceosome. Upon conversion of the activated spliceosome to complex C, the accessibility of U6-ISL to hydroxyl-radical cleavage is altered, suggesting rearrangements after the first catalytic step.