Instability of 28S rRNA of Crotalus durissus terrificus liver was observed during hotphenol extraction: purified 28S rRNA is converted into an 18S RNA component by heat treatment. It was also found that ‘6S’ and ‘8S’ low-molecular-weight RNA species were released during the thermal conversion. This conversion and the release of the low-molecular-weight species were also induced by 8m-urea and 80% (v/v) dimethyl sulphoxide at 0°C. Evidence is presented that this phenomenon is an irreversible process and results from the rupture of hydrogen bonds. The 18S RNA product was shown to be homogeneous by polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis and by sucrose-density-gradient centrifugation. The base composition of the 18S RNA products obtained by heat, urea or dimethyl sulphoxide treatments was similar. The C+G content of the 18S RNA product was different from that of the native 18S rRNA, but similar to that of 28S rRNA.

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