Analysis of RNA 5′ ends: Phosphate enumeration and cap characterization

Daniel J. Luciano, Joel G. Belasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The function and fate of cellular RNAs are often governed by the phosphorylation state at the 5′ end or the identity of whatever cap may be present there. Here we describe methods for examining these important 5′-terminal features on any cellular or synthetic RNA of interest that can be detected by Northern blotting. One such method, PABLO, is a splinted ligation assay that makes it possible to accurately quantify the percentage of 5′ ends that are monophosphorylated. Another, PACO, is a capping assay that reveals the percentage of 5′ ends that are diphosphorylated. A third, boronate gel electrophoresis in conjunction with deoxyribozyme-mediated cleavage, enables different types of caps (e.g., m7Gppp caps versus NAD caps) to be distinguished from one another and the percentage of each to be determined. After completing all three tests, the percentage of 5′ ends that are triphosphorylated can be deduced by process of elimination. Together, this battery of assays allows the 5′ terminus of an RNA to be profiled in unprecedented detail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-9
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • DNAzyme
  • Diphosphate
  • Guanylyltransferase
  • Monophosphate
  • Pce1
  • Triphosphate


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