- The interaction between phage R17 coat protein and its RNA binding site for translational repression was studied as an example of a sequence-specific RNA--protein interaction. Nuclease protection and selection experiments define the binding site to about 20 contiguous nucleotides which form a hairpin. A nitrocellulose filter retention assay is used to show that the binding between the coat protein and a synthetic 21-nucleotide RNA fragment conforms to a simple bimolecular reaction. Unit stoichiometry and a Kd of about 1 nM are obtained at 2 degrees C in buffer containing 0.19 M salt. The interaction is highly sequence specific since a variety of RNAs failed to compete with the 21-nucleotide fragment for coat protein binding.