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The thermodynamic stabilities of four natural prohead or packaging RNA (pRNA) three-way junction (3WJ) nanomotifs and seven phi29 pRNA 3WJ deletion mutant nanomotifs were investigated using UV optical melting on a three-component RNA system. Our data reveal that some pRNA 3WJs are more stable than the phi29 pRNA 3WJ. The stability of the 3WJ contributes to the unique self-assembly properties of pRNA. Thus, ultrastable pRNA 3WJ motifs suggest new scaffolds for pRNA-based nanotechnology. We present data demonstrating that pRNA 3WJs differentially respond to the presence of metal ions. A comparison of our data with free energies predicted by currently available RNA secondary structure prediction programs shows that these programs do not accurately predict multibranch loop stabilities. These results will expand the existing parameters used for RNA secondary structure prediction from sequence in order to better inform RNA structure-function hypotheses and guide the rational design of functional RNA supramolecular assemblies.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





521 - 529


RNA nanotechnology, RNA self-assembly, packaging RNA, prohead RNA, thermodynamics, three-way junction, Bacillus Phages, Magnesium, Nanotechnology, Nucleic Acid Conformation, Nucleotide Motifs, RNA Stability, RNA, Viral, Sequence Deletion, Sodium, Spermidine, Static Electricity, Thermodynamics, Virus Assembly