The human 7SK ribonucleoprotein (RNP) has been analyzed to determine its RNA secondary structure and protein constituents. HeLa cell 7SK RNA alone and within its RNP have been probed by chemical modification and enzymatic cleavage, and sites of modification or cleavage have been mapped by primer extension. The resulting secondary structure suggests that structural determinants necessary for capping (a 5' stem followed by the sequence AUPuUPuC) and nuclear migration (the sequence AUPuUPuC) of 7SK RNA may be similar to those for U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA). It also supports existence of a 3' stem structure which could serve to self-prime cDNA synthesis during pseudogene formation. Oligonucleotide-directed RNase H digestion indicated regions of 7SK RNA capable of base pairing with other nucleic acids. Antisense 2'-O-methyl RNA oligonucleotides were used to affinity select the 7SK RNP from an in vivo 35S-labeled cell sonic extract and identify eight associated proteins of 83, 48, 45, 43, 42, 21, 18, and 13 kDa. 7SK RNA has extensive sequence complementarity to U4 snRNA, within the U4/U6 base pairing domain, and also to U11 snRNA. The possibility that the 7SK RNP is an unrecognized component of the pre-mRNA processing machinery is discussed.
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