Lay summary

Metal ions are necessary for folding and function of catalytic RNA molecules. However, the structural and mechanistic roles of these ions are still largely in the dark. Na(I) and Mg(II) are usually assumed to be the sole metallic cofactors involved with nucleic acids in living systems, both being most abundant and freely available in the cell. The recognition of these and other metal ions by nucleic acids is poorly understood as is their effect on structure, folding, and catalytic activity.

This study focuses on the metal ion assisted assembly of the catalytic core of two different ribozymes, i.e. a group II intron from yeast as well as a mammalian ribozyme, and the thermodynamic and structural characterization of these interactions. A multidisciplinary approach is applied by a combination of tools from Coordination and Analytical Chemistry as well as Structural Biology, mainly biomolecular NMR spectroscopy. Our results will not only contribute to the understanding of the metal ion-promoted structure, folding, and mechanism of the RNAs catalytic core, but also promise to have a significant impact on the Biological Inorganic Chemistry of RNAs and on RNA Biochemistry in general.