We have discovered a large and highly conserved RNA motif that typically resides in a noncoding section of a multigene messenger RNA in extremophilic Gram-positive eubacteria. RNAs of this class adopt an ornate secondary structure, are large compared with most other noncoding RNAs, and have been identified only in certain extremophilic bacteria. These ornate, large, extremophilic (OLE) RNAs have a length of approximately 610 nucleotides, and the 35 representatives examined exhibit extraordinary conservation of nucleotide sequence and base pairing. Structural probing of the OLE RNA from Bacillus halodurans corroborates a complex secondary structure model predicted from comparative sequence analysis. The patterns of structural conservation, and its unique phylogenetic distribution, suggest that OLE RNA carries out a complex and critical function only in certain extremophilic bacteria.
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