RNA-binding protein RBM38 was reported to bind the mRNA of several p53-related genes through its RRM domain and to up-regulate or down-regulate protein translation by increasing mRNA stability or recruitment of other effector proteins. The recognition mechanism, however, for RNA-binding of RBM38 remains unclear. Here, we report the crystal structure of the RRM domain of human RBM38 in complex with a single-stranded RNA. Our structural and biological results revealed that RBM38 recognizes G(U/C/A)GUG sequence single-stranded RNA in a sequence-specific and structure-specific manner. Two phenylalanine stacked with bases of RNA were crucial for RNA binding, and a series of hydrogen bonds between the base atoms of RNA and main-chain or side-chain atoms of RBM38 determine the sequence-specific recognition. Our results revealed the RNA-recognition mechanism of human RBM38 and provided structural information for understanding the RNA-binding property of RBM38.

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