Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Stephen M. Testa


This dissertation details three studies dealing with the manipulation of nucleicacids. In the first investigation, each of the four natural nucleobases were analyzed for theability to serve as a universal template at the ligation junction of a T4 DNA ligasereaction. This resulted in the first instance of sequence-independent ligation catalyzed byany DNA ligase. Although all of the nucleobases display universal templatingcapabilities, thymidine and guanosine provided the most effective results. In addition,lowered MgCl2 and ATP concentrations, as well as the inclusion of DMSO, also aided inthe sequence-independent ligation reported here. In the course of these studies, currentmethods of removing urea from denaturing-gel purified nucleic acids provedcumbersome. Therefore, in the second study simple butanol extraction was examined as ameans to eliminate urea from nucleic acid solutions. Stepwise butanol extraction was themost effective approach to solving this problem and provided a much needed techniquefor nucleic acid purification. This type of extraction also does not result in significantlosses of nucleic acid sample. The third study exploits the molecular recognition andcatalytic properties inherent in an autocatalytic group I intron to develop a ribozyme thatcan replace the 5' end of an RNA substrate with a different RNA. This 5' replacementsplicing reaction can potentially repair mutations on the 5' ends of RNA transcripts thatlead to a variety of genetic mutations. The model system was a common mutation in asmall model mimic of the k-ras gene in vitro, which predisposes individuals to lungcancer. This 5' replacement splicing reaction occurred in vitro using this small modelsystem; the reaction was also enhanced by the alteration of the molecular interactionsinvolved. The results and implications of each of these studies are detailed in thisdissertation.