Ignacio Tinoco

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Here we use mechanical force to induce the unfolding and refolding of single RNA molecules: a simple RNA hairpin, a molecule containing a three-helix junction, and the P5abc domain of the Tetrahymena thermophila ribozyme. All three molecules (P5abc only in the absence of Mg2+) can be mechanically unfolded at equilibrium, and when kept at constant force(More)
Helicases are a ubiquitous class of enzymes involved in nearly all aspects of DNA and RNA metabolism. Despite recent progress in understanding their mechanism of action, limited resolution has left inaccessible the detailed mechanisms by which these enzymes couple the rearrangement of nucleic acid structures to the binding and hydrolysis of ATP. Observing(More)
We describe the RNA folding problem and contrast it with the much more difficult protein folding problem. RNA has four similar monomer units, whereas proteins have 20 very different residues. The folding of RNA is hierarchical in that secondary structure is much more stable than tertiary folding. In RNA the two levels of folding (secondary and tertiary) can(More)
Atomic force microscopes and optical tweezers are widely used to probe the mechanical properties of individual molecules and molecular interactions, by exerting mechanical forces that induce transitions such as unfolding or dissociation. These transitions often occur under nonequilibrium conditions and are associated with hysteresis effects-features usually(More)
The ribosome translates the genetic information encoded in messenger RNA into protein. Folded structures in the coding region of an mRNA represent a kinetic barrier that lowers the peptide elongation rate, as the ribosome must disrupt structures it encounters in the mRNA at its entry site to allow translocation to the next codon. Such structures are(More)
We have followed individual ribosomes as they translate single messenger RNA hairpins tethered by the ends to optical tweezers. Here we reveal that translation occurs through successive translocation--and-pause cycles. The distribution of pause lengths, with a median of 2.8 s, indicates that at least two rate-determining processes control each pause. Each(More)
Mechanical unfolding trajectories for single molecules of the Tetrahymena thermophila ribozyme display eight intermediates corresponding to discrete kinetic barriers that oppose mechanical unfolding with lifetimes of seconds and rupture forces between 10 and 30 piconewtons. Barriers are magnesium dependent and correspond to known intra- and interdomain(More)
Ribosomal frameshifting occurs when a ribosome slips a few nucleotides on an mRNA and generates a new sequence of amino acids. Programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1PRF) is used in various systems to express two or more proteins from a single mRNA at precisely regulated levels. We used single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) to(More)