RNA was isolated from subribosomal particles of the malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi. The nucleotide composition (mole fraction) of the principal species was obtained (S-rRNA, 0.295A, 0.36U, 0.25G, 0.105C: L-rRNA, 0.326A, 0.31U, 0.228G, 0.144C). Ribosomal RNA was also isolated from Drosophila melanogaster. Optical properties of these A + U-rich species were measured. In all four cases analysis of the hypochromic effect revealed that adenine and uracil residues tended to form clusters along the polynucleotide chain. A substantial fraction of residues was located in bihelical regions of approx. 50% G-C base pairs or in regions of approx. 30-35% G-C base pairs. The possible evolutionary significance of these results was considered on the basis of comparison with properties of rRNA from bacteria (Escherichia coli) and a mammal (rabbit reticulocyte).
1. The c.d. (circular dichroism) of Drosophila melanogaster rRNA (42% G+C) and of G+C-rich fragments (78% G+C) obtained by partial hydrolysis of rabbit L-rRNA (the largest RNA species isolated from the large subribosomal particle) were measured and found to differ substantially. 2. To interpret these spectra a relation between c.d. of bihelical RNA and % G+C was derived, namely delta epsilonfG = AFG2+bfG+c, where deltaepsilonfG is the c.d. of RNA characterized by a mole fraction, fG, of guanine nucleotides and a, b and c are constants. 3. A frame of reference was established by studying the c.d. of a range of rRNA species, including S-rRNA (the RNA species isolated from the smaller subribosomal particle) and L-rRNA of Escherichia coli. 4. It was found for the rRNA species studied that 0.60+/-0.05 of residues appear to form bihelical secondary structure. 5. A higher helical content, 0.66+/-0.05, was found for the G+C-rich fragment of L-rRNA. The difference in the c.d. of rabbit L-rRNA and of D. melanogaster rRNA is attributable to the dependence of c.d. of the bihelical parts on %G+C. 6. The minimum in c.d. at 295 nm increases with increasing %G+C. The c.d. of rRNA was compared with that of the parent subparticle in this region of the spectrum, where high precision may be attained.