Structure of a group II intron in complex with its reverse transcriptase. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bacterial group II introns are large catalytic RNAs related to nuclear spliceosomal introns and eukaryotic retrotransposons. They self-splice, yielding mature RNA, and integrate into DNA as retroelements. A fully active group II intron forms a ribonucleoprotein complex comprising the intron ribozyme and an intron-encoded protein that performs multiple activities including reverse transcription, in which intron RNA is copied into the DNA target. Here we report cryo-EM structures of an endogenously spliced Lactococcus lactis group IIA intron in its ribonucleoprotein complex form at 3.8-Å resolution and in its protein-depleted form at 4.5-Å resolution, revealing functional coordination of the intron RNA with the protein. Remarkably, the protein structure reveals a close relationship between the reverse transcriptase catalytic domain and telomerase, whereas the active splicing center resembles the spliceosomal Prp8 protein. These extraordinary similarities hint at intricate ancestral relationships and provide new insights into splicing and retromobility.

publication date

  • June 2016