As important functional structures, RNA pseudoknots provide excellent models for studying the interplay between secondary and tertiary structures and the roles of triplexes, noncanonical interactions, and coaxial stacking in the folding/unfolding process. Here we report a first atomistic and statistical analysis of the unfolding of the pseudoknot within gene 32 mRNA of bacteriophage T2. Multiple unfolding pathways, diverse transition states, and various intermediate structures were observed. Water molecules were found to be coupled with the unfolding process via the expulsion or concurrent mechanism.
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