Nucleic Acids Research

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Dynamic profiling of double-stranded RNA binding proteins

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Double-stranded (ds) RNA is a key player in numerous biological activities in cells, including RNA interference, anti-viral immunity and mRNA transport. The class of proteins responsible for recognizing dsRNA is termed double-stranded RNA binding proteins (dsRBP). However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying the interaction between dsRBPs and dsRNA. Here we examined four human dsRBPs, ADAD2, TRBP, Staufen 1 and ADAR1 on six dsRNA substrates that vary in length and secondary structure. We combined single molecule pull-down (SiMPull), single molecule protein-induced fluorescence enhancement (smPIFE) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to investigate the dsRNA-dsRBP interactions. Our results demonstrate that despite the highly conserved dsRNA binding domains, the dsRBPs exhibit diverse substrate specificities and dynamic properties when in contact with different RNA substrates. While TRBP and ADAR1 have a preference for binding simple duplex RNA, ADAD2 and Staufen1 display higher affinity to highly structured RNA substrates. Upon interaction with RNA substrates, TRBP and Staufen1 exhibit dynamic sliding whereas two deaminases ADAR1 and ADAD2 mostly remain immobile when bound. MD simulations provide a detailed atomic interaction map that is largely consistent with the affinity differences observed experimentally. Collectively, our study highlights the diverse nature of substrate specificity and mobility exhibited by dsRBPs that may be critical for their cellular function.

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ROCK inhibition enhances microRNA function by promoting deadenylation of targeted mRNAs via increasing PAIP2 expression

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

The reduced expression levels and functional impairment of global miRNAs are related to various human diseases, including cancers. However, relatively little is known about how global miRNA function may be upregulated. Here, we report that global miRNA function can be enhanced by Rho-associated, coiled-coil-containing protein kinase (ROCK) inhibitors. The regulation of miRNA function by ROCK inhibitors is mediated, at least in part, by poly(A)-binding protein-interacting protein 2 (PAIP2), which enhances poly(A)-shortening of miRNA-targeted mRNAs and leads to global upregulation of miRNA function. In the presence of a ROCK inhibitor, PAIP2 expression is enhanced by the transcription factor hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4A) through increased ROCK1 nuclear localization and enhanced ROCK1 association with HNF4A. Our data reveal an unexpected role of ROCK1 as a cofactor of HNF4A in enhancing PAIP2 transcription. ROCK inhibitors may be useful for the various pathologies associated with the impairment of global miRNA function.

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FDF-PAGE: a powerful technique revealing previously undetected small RNAs sequestered by complementary transcripts

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Small RNAs, between 18nt and 30nt in length, are a diverse class of non-coding RNAs that mediate a range of cellular processes, from gene regulation to pathogen defense. They guide ribonucleoprotein complexes to their target nucleic acids by Watson–Crick base pairing. We report here that current techniques for small RNA detection and library generation are biased by formation of RNA duplexes. To address this problem, we established FDF-PAGE (fully-denaturing formaldehyde polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis) to prevent annealing of sRNAs to their complement. By applying FDF-PAGE, we provide evidence that both strands of viral small RNA are present in near equimolar ratios, indicating that the predominant precursor is a long double-stranded RNA. Comparing non-denaturing conditions to FDF-PAGE uncovered extensive sequestration of miRNAs in model organisms and allowed us to identify candidate small RNAs under the control of competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs). By revealing the full repertoire of small RNAs, we can begin to create a better understanding of small RNA mediated interactions.

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A network of SMG-8, SMG-9 and SMG-1 C-terminal insertion domain regulates UPF1 substrate recruitment and phosphorylation

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Mammalian nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a eukaryotic surveillance mechanism that degrades mRNAs containing premature translation termination codons. Phosphorylation of the essential NMD effector UPF1 by the phosphoinositide-3-kinase-like kinase (PIKK) SMG-1 is a key step in NMD and occurs when SMG-1, its two regulatory factors SMG-8 and SMG-9, and UPF1 form a complex at a terminating ribosome. Electron cryo-microscopy of the SMG-1–8–9-UPF1 complex shows the head and arm architecture characteristic of PIKKs and reveals different states of UPF1 docking. UPF1 is recruited to the SMG-1 kinase domain and C-terminal insertion domain, inducing an opening of the head domain that provides access to the active site. SMG-8 and SMG-9 interact with the SMG-1 C-insertion and promote high-affinity UPF1 binding to SMG-1–8–9, as well as decelerated SMG-1 kinase activity and enhanced stringency of phosphorylation site selection. The presence of UPF2 destabilizes the SMG-1–8–9-UPF1 complex leading to substrate release. Our results suggest an intricate molecular network of SMG-8, SMG-9 and the SMG-1 C-insertion domain that governs UPF1 substrate recruitment and phosphorylation by SMG-1 kinase, an event that is central to trigger mRNA decay.

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Structural basis of the mercury(II)-mediated conformational switching of the dual-function transcriptional regulator MerR

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

The mer operon confers bacterial resistance to inorganic mercury (Hg2+) and organomercurials by encoding proteins involved in sensing, transport and detoxification of these cytotoxic agents. Expression of the mer operon is under tight control by the dual-function transcriptional regulator MerR. The metal-free, apo MerR binds to the mer operator/promoter region as a repressor to block transcription initiation, but is converted into an activator upon Hg2+-binding. To understand how MerR interacts with Hg2+ and how Hg2+-binding modulates MerR function, we report here the crystal structures of apo and Hg2+-bound MerR from Bacillus megaterium, corresponding respectively to the repressor and activator conformation of MerR. To our knowledge, the apo-MerR structure represents the first visualization of a MerR family member in its intact and inducer-free form. And the Hg2+-MerR structure offers the first view of a triligated Hg2+-thiolate center in a metalloprotein, confirming that MerR binds Hg2+ via trigonal planar coordination geometry. Structural comparison revealed the conformational transition of MerR is coupled to the assembly/disassembly of a buried Hg2+ binding site, thereby providing a structural basis for the Hg2+-mediated functional switching of MerR. The pronounced Hg2+-induced repositioning of the MerR DNA-binding domains suggests a plausible mechanism for the transcriptional regulation of the mer operon.

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Structural and functional studies of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis VapBC30 toxin-antitoxin system: implications for the design of novel antimicrobial peptides

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems play important roles in bacterial physiology, such as multidrug tolerance, biofilm formation, and arrest of cellular growth under stress conditions. To develop novel antimicrobial agents against tuberculosis, we focused on VapBC systems, which encompass more than half of TA systems in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Here, we report that theMycobacterium tuberculosis VapC30 toxin regulates cellular growth through both magnesium and manganese ion-dependent ribonuclease activity and is inhibited by the cognate VapB30 antitoxin. We also determined the 2.7-Å resolution crystal structure of the M. tuberculosis VapBC30 complex, which revealed a novel process of inactivation of the VapC30 toxin via swapped blocking by the VapB30 antitoxin. Our study on M. tuberculosis VapBC30 leads us to design two kinds of VapB30 and VapC30-based novel peptides which successfully disrupt the toxin-antitoxin complex and thus activate the ribonuclease activity of the VapC30 toxin. Our discovery herein possibly paves the way to treat tuberculosis for next generation.

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Role of the central cations in the mechanical unfolding of DNA and RNA G-quadruplexes

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Cations are known to mediate diverse interactions in nucleic acids duplexes but they are critical in the arrangement of four-stranded structures. Here, we use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent to analyse the mechanical unfolding of representative intramolecular G-quadruplex structures: a parallel, a hybrid and an antiparallel DNA and a parallel RNA, in the presence of stabilising cations. We confirm the stability of these conformations in the presence of $\rm {K}^+$ central ions and observe distortions from the tetrad topology in their absence. Force-induced unfolding dynamics is then investigated. We show that the unfolding events in the force-extension curves are concomitant to the loss of coordination between the central ions and the guanines of the G-quadruplex. We found lower ruptures forces for the parallel configuration with respect to the antiparallel one, while the behaviour of the force pattern of the parallel RNA appears similar to the parallel DNA. We anticipate that our results will be essential to interpret the fine structure rupture profiles in stretching assays at high resolution and will shed light on the mechanochemical activity of G-quadruplex-binding machinery.

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Synthetic biosensors for precise gene control and real-time monitoring of metabolites

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Characterization and standardization of inducible transcriptional regulators has transformed how scientists approach biology by allowing precise and tunable control of gene expression. Despite their utility, only a handful of well-characterized regulators exist, limiting the complexity of engineered biological systems. We apply a characterization pipeline to four genetically encoded sensors that respond to acrylate, glucarate, erythromycin and naringenin. We evaluate how the concentration of the inducing chemical relates to protein expression, how the extent of induction affects protein expression kinetics, and how the activation behavior of single cells relates to ensemble measurements. We show that activation of each sensor is orthogonal to the other sensors, and to other common inducible systems. We demonstrate independent control of three fluorescent proteins in a single cell, chemically defining eight unique transcriptional states. To demonstrate biosensor utility in metabolic engineering, we apply the glucarate biosensor to monitor product formation in a heterologous glucarate biosynthesis pathway and identify superior enzyme variants. Doubling the number of well-characterized inducible systems makes more complex synthetic biological circuits accessible. Characterizing sensors that transduce the intracellular concentration of valuable metabolites into fluorescent readouts enables high-throughput screening of biological catalysts and alleviates the primary bottleneck of the metabolic engineering design-build-test cycle.

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Nucleic Acids Research: Editorial Board

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15
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Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15
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The microRNA-183 cluster: the family that plays together stays together

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

The microRNA (miR)183 cluster, which is comprised of miRs-183, -96 and -182, is also a miR family with sequence homology. Despite the strong similarity in the sequences of these miRs, minute differences in their seed sequences result in both overlapping and distinct messenger RNA targets, which are often within the same pathway. These miRs have tightly synchronized expression during development and are required for maturation of sensory organs. In comparison to their defined role in normal development, the miR-183 family is frequently highly expressed in a variety of non-sensory diseases, including cancer, neurological and auto-immune disorders. Here, we discuss the conservation of the miR-183 cluster and the functional role of this miR family in normal development and diseases. We also describe the regulation of vital cellular pathways by coordinated expression of these miR siblings. This comprehensive review sheds light on the likely reasons why the genomic organization and seeming redundancy of the miR-183 family cluster was conserved through 600 million years of evolution.

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Xylonucleic acid: synthesis, structure, and orthogonal pairing properties

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

There is a common interest for studying xeno-nucleic acid systems in the fields of synthetic biology and the origin of life, in particular, those with an engineered backbone and possessing novel properties. Along this line, we have investigated xylonucleic acid (XyloNA) containing a potentially prebiotic xylose sugar (a 3'-epimer of ribose) in its backbone. Herein, we report for the first time the synthesis of four XyloNA nucleotide building blocks and the assembly of XyloNA oligonucleotides containing all the natural nucleobases. A detailed investigation of pairing and structural properties of XyloNAs in comparison to DNA/RNA has been performed by thermal UV-melting, CD, and solution state NMR spectroscopic studies. XyloNA has been shown to be an orthogonal self-pairing system which adopts a slightly right-handed extended helical geometry. Our study on one hand, provides understanding for superior structure-function (-pairing) properties of DNA/RNA over XyloNA for selection as an informational polymer in the prebiotic context, while on the other hand, finds potential of XyloNA as an orthogonal genetic system for application in synthetic biology.

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The unusual and dynamic character of PX-DNA

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

PX-DNA is a four-stranded DNA structure that has been implicated in the recognition of homology, either continuously, or in an every-other-half-turn fashion. Some of the structural features of the molecule have been noted previously, but the structure requires further characterization. Here, we report atomic force microscopic characterization of PX molecules that contain periodically placed biotin groups, enabling the molecule to be labeled by streptavidin molecules at these sites. In comparison with conventional double stranded DNA and with antiparallel DNA double crossover molecules, it is clear that PX-DNA is a more dynamic structure. Furthermore, the spacing between the nucleotide pairs along the helix axis is shorter, suggesting a mixed B/A structure. Circular dichroism spectroscopy indicates unusual features in the PX molecule that are absent in both the molecules to which it is compared.

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Accurate placement of substrate RNA by Gar1 in H/ACA RNA-guided pseudouridylation

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

H/ACA RNA-guided ribonucleoprotein particle (RNP), the most complicated RNA pseudouridylase so far known, uses H/ACA guide RNA for substrate capture and four proteins (Cbf5, Nop10, L7Ae and Gar1) for pseudouridylation. Although it was shown that Gar1 not only facilitates the product release, but also enhances the catalytic activity, the chemical role that Gar1 plays in this complicated machinery is largely unknown. Kinetics measurement on Pyrococcus furiosus RNPs at different temperatures making use of fluorescence anisotropy showed that Gar1 reduces the catalytic barrier through affecting the activation entropy instead of enthalpy. Site-directed mutagenesis combined with molecular dynamics simulations demonstrated that V149 in the thumb loop of Cbf5 is critical in placing the target uridine to the right position toward catalytic D85 of Cbf5. The enzyme elegantly aligns the position of uridine in the catalytic site with the help of Gar1. In addition, conversion of uridine to pseudouridine results in a rigid syn configuration of the target nucleotide in the active site and causes Gar1 to pull out the thumb. Both factors guarantee the efficient release of the product.

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The missing indels: an estimate of indel variation in a human genome and analysis of factors that impede detection

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

With the development of High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) thousands of human genomes have now been sequenced. Whenever different studies analyze the same genome they usually agree on the amount of single-nucleotide polymorphisms, but differ dramatically on the number of insertion and deletion variants (indels). Furthermore, there is evidence that indels are often severely under-reported. In this manuscript we derive the total number of indel variants in a human genome by combining data from different sequencing technologies, while assessing the indel detection accuracy. Our estimate of approximately 1 million indels in a Yoruban genome is much higher than the results reported in several recent HTS studies. We identify two key sources of difficulties in indel detection: the insufficient coverage, read length or alignment quality; and the presence of repeats, including short interspersed elements and homopolymers/dimers. We quantify the effect of these factors on indel detection. The quality of sequencing data plays a major role in improving indel detection by HTS methods. However, many indels exist in long homopolymers and repeats, where their detection is severely impeded. The true number of indel events is likely even higher than our current estimates, and new techniques and technologies will be required to detect them.

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Generation of supercoils in nicked and gapped DNA drives DNA unknotting and postreplicative decatenation

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Due to the helical structure of DNA the process of DNA replication is topologically complex. Freshly replicated DNA molecules are catenated with each other and are frequently knotted. For proper functioning of DNA it is necessary to remove all of these entanglements. This is done by DNA topoisomerases that pass DNA segments through each other. However, it has been a riddle how DNA topoisomerases select the sites of their action. In highly crowded DNA in living cells random passages between contacting segments would only increase the extent of entanglement. Using molecular dynamics simulations we observed that in actively supercoiled DNA molecules the entanglements resulting from DNA knotting or catenation spontaneously approach sites of nicks and gaps in the DNA. Type I topoisomerases, that preferentially act at sites of nick and gaps, are thus naturally provided with DNA–DNA juxtapositions where a passage results in an error-free DNA unknotting or DNA decatenation.

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Structural heterogeneity and functional diversity of topologically associating domains in mammalian genomes

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Recent chromosome conformation capture (3C) derived techniques have revealed that topologically associating domain (TAD) is a pervasive element in chromatin three-dimensional (3D) organization. However, there is currently no parameter to quantitatively measure the structural characteristics of TADs, thus obscuring our understanding on the structural and functional differences among TADs. Based on our finding that there exist intrinsic chromatin interaction patterns in TADs, we define a theoretical parameter, called aggregation preference (AP), to characterize TAD structures by capturing the interaction aggregation degree. Applying this defined parameter to 11 Hi-C data sets generated by both traditional and in situ Hi-C experimental pipelines, our analyses reveal that heterogeneous structures exist among TADs, and this structural heterogeneity is significantly correlated to DNA sequences, epigenomic signals and gene expressions. Although TADs can be stable in genomic positions across cell lines, structural comparisons show that a considerable number of stable TADs undergo significantly structural rearrangements during cell changes. Moreover, the structural change of TAD is tightly associated with its transcription remodeling. Altogether, the theoretical parameter defined in this work provides a quantitative method to link structural characteristics and biological functions of TADs, and this linkage implies that chromatin interaction pattern has the potential to mark transcription activity in TADs.

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Improved prediction of RNA secondary structure by integrating the free energy model with restraints derived from experimental probing data

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 01:15

Recently, several experimental techniques have emerged for probing RNA structures based on high-throughput sequencing. However, most secondary structure prediction tools that incorporate probing data are designed and optimized for particular types of experiments. For example, RNAstructure-Fold is optimized for SHAPE data, while SeqFold is optimized for PARS data. Here, we report a new RNA secondary structure prediction method, restrained MaxExpect (RME), which can incorporate multiple types of experimental probing data and is based on a free energy model and an MEA (maximizing expected accuracy) algorithm. We first demonstrated that RME substantially improved secondary structure prediction with perfect restraints (base pair information of known structures). Next, we collected structure-probing data from diverse experiments (e.g. SHAPE, PARS and DMS-seq) and transformed them into a unified set of pairing probabilities with a posterior probabilistic model. By using the probability scores as restraints in RME, we compared its secondary structure prediction performance with two other well-known tools, RNAstructure-Fold (based on a free energy minimization algorithm) and SeqFold (based on a sampling algorithm). For SHAPE data, RME and RNAstructure-Fold performed better than SeqFold, because they markedly altered the energy model with the experimental restraints. For high-throughput data (e.g. PARS and DMS-seq) with lower probing efficiency, the secondary structure prediction performances of the tested tools were comparable, with performance improvements for only a portion of the tested RNAs. However, when the effects of tertiary structure and protein interactions were removed, RME showed the highest prediction accuracy in the DMS-accessible regions by incorporating in vivo DMS-seq data.

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