Nucleic Acids Research

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Efficient production of superior dumbbell-shaped DNA minimal vectors for small hairpin RNA expression

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Genetic therapy holds great promise for the treatment of inherited or acquired genetic diseases; however, its breakthrough is hampered by the lack of suitable gene delivery systems. Dumbbell-shaped DNA minimal vectors represent an attractive, safe alternative to the commonly used viral vectors which are fraught with risk, but dumbbell generation appears to be costly and time-consuming. We developed a new PCR-based method for dumbbell production which comprises only two steps. First, PCR amplification of the therapeutic expression cassette using chemically modified primers to form a ready-to-ligate DNA structure; and second, a highly efficient intramolecular ligation reaction. Compared with conventional strategies, the new method produces dumbbell vectors more rapidly, with higher yields and purity, and at lower costs. In addition, such produced small hairpin RNA expressing dumbbells triggered superior target gene knockdown compared with conventionally produced dumbbells or plasmids. Our novel method is suitable for large-scale dumbbell production and can facilitate clinical applications of this vector system.

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High-throughput prediction of RNA, DNA and protein binding regions mediated by intrinsic disorder

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Intrinsically disordered proteins and regions (IDPs and IDRs) lack stable 3D structure under physiological conditions in-vitro, are common in eukaryotes, and facilitate interactions with RNA, DNA and proteins. Current methods for prediction of IDPs and IDRs do not provide insights into their functions, except for a handful of methods that address predictions of protein-binding regions. We report first-of-its-kind computational method DisoRDPbind for high-throughput prediction of RNA, DNA and protein binding residues located in IDRs from protein sequences. DisoRDPbind is implemented using a runtime-efficient multi-layered design that utilizes information extracted from physiochemical properties of amino acids, sequence complexity, putative secondary structure and disorder and sequence alignment. Empirical tests demonstrate that it provides accurate predictions that are competitive with other predictors of disorder-mediated protein binding regions and complementary to the methods that predict RNA- and DNA-binding residues annotated based on crystal structures. Application in Homo sapiens, Mus musculus, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster proteomes reveals that RNA- and DNA-binding proteins predicted by DisoRDPbind complement and overlap with the corresponding known binding proteins collected from several sources. Also, the number of the putative protein-binding regions predicted with DisoRDPbind correlates with the promiscuity of proteins in the corresponding protein–protein interaction networks. Webserver: http://biomine.ece.ualberta.ca/DisoRDPbind/

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RNASequel: accurate and repeat tolerant realignment of RNA-seq reads

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

RNA-seq is a key technology for understanding the biology of the cell because of its ability to profile transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation at single nucleotide resolutions. Compared to DNA sequencing alignment algorithms, RNA-seq alignment algorithms have a diminished ability to accurately detect and map base pair substitutions, gaps, discordant pairs and repetitive regions. These shortcomings adversely affect experiments that require a high degree of accuracy, notably the ability to detect RNA editing. We have developed RNASequel, a software package that runs as a post-processing step in conjunction with an RNA-seq aligner and systematically corrects common alignment artifacts. Its key innovations are a two-pass splice junction alignment system that includes de novo splice junctions and the use of an empirically determined estimate of the fragment size distribution when resolving read pairs. We demonstrate that RNASequel produces improved alignments when used in conjunction with STAR or Tophat2 using two simulated datasets. We then show that RNASequel improves the identification of adenosine to inosine RNA editing sites on biological datasets. This software will be useful in applications requiring the accurate identification of variants in RNA sequencing data, the discovery of RNA editing sites and the analysis of alternative splicing.

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RlmCD-mediated U747 methylation promotes efficient G748 methylation by methyltransferase RlmAII in 23S rRNA in Streptococcus pneumoniae; interplay between two rRNA methylations responsible for telithromycin susceptibility

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Adenine at position 752 in a loop of helix 35 from positions 745 to 752 in domain II of 23S rRNA is involved in binding to the ribosome of telithromycin (TEL), a member of ketolides. Methylation of guanine at position 748 by the intrinsic methyltransferase RlmAII enhances binding of telithromycin (TEL) to A752 in Streptococcus pneumoniae. We have found that another intrinsic methylation of the adjacent uridine at position 747 enhances G748 methylation by RlmAII, rendering TEL susceptibility. U747 and another nucleotide, U1939, were methylated by the dual-specific methyltransferase RlmCD encoded by SP_1029 in S. pneumoniae. Inactivation of RlmCD reduced N1-methylated level of G748 by RlmAII in vivo, leading to TEL resistance when the nucleotide A2058, located in domain V of 23S rRNA, was dimethylated by the dimethyltransferase Erm(B). In vitro methylation of rRNA showed that RlmAII activity was significantly enhanced by RlmCD-mediated pre-methylation of 23S rRNA. These results suggest that RlmCD-mediated U747 methylation promotes efficient G748 methylation by RlmAII, thereby facilitating TEL binding to the ribosome.

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NUFIP and the HSP90/R2TP chaperone bind the SMN complex and facilitate assembly of U4-specific proteins

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

The Sm proteins are loaded on snRNAs by the SMN complex, but how snRNP-specific proteins are assembled remains poorly characterized. U4 snRNP and box C/D snoRNPs have structural similarities. They both contain the 15.5K and proteins with NOP domains (PRP31 for U4, NOP56/58 for snoRNPs). Biogenesis of box C/D snoRNPs involves NUFIP and the HSP90/R2TP chaperone system and here, we explore the function of this machinery in U4 RNP assembly. We show that yeast Prp31 interacts with several components of the NUFIP/R2TP machinery, and that these interactions are separable from each other. In human cells, PRP31 mutants that fail to stably associate with U4 snRNA still interact with components of the NUFIP/R2TP system, indicating that these interactions precede binding of PRP31 to U4 snRNA. Knock-down of NUFIP leads to mislocalization of PRP31 and decreased association with U4. Moreover, NUFIP is associated with the SMN complex through direct interactions with Gemin3 and Gemin6. Altogether, our data suggest a model in which the NUFIP/R2TP system is connected with the SMN complex and facilitates assembly of U4 snRNP-specific proteins.

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TDP-43 affects splicing profiles and isoform production of genes involved in the apoptotic and mitotic cellular pathways

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

In recent times, high-throughput screening analyses have broadly defined the RNA cellular targets of TDP-43, a nuclear factor involved in neurodegeneration. A common outcome of all these studies is that changing the expression levels of this protein can alter the expression of several hundred RNAs within cells. What still remains to be clarified is which changes represent direct cellular targets of TDP-43 or just secondary variations due to the general role played by this protein in RNA metabolism. Using an HTS-based splicing junction analysis we identified at least six bona fide splicing events that are consistent with being controlled by TDP-43. Validation of the data, both in neuronal and non-neuronal cell lines demonstrated that TDP-43 substantially alters the levels of isoform expression in four genes potentially important for neuropathology: MADD/IG20, STAG2, FNIP1 and BRD8. For MADD/IG20 and STAG2, these changes could also be confirmed at the protein level. These alterations were also observed in a cellular model that successfully mimics TDP-43 loss of function effects following its aggregation. Most importantly, our study demonstrates that cell cycle alterations induced by TDP-43 knockdown can be recovered by restoring the STAG2, an important component of the cohesin complex, normal splicing profile.

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TRAP150 interacts with the RNA-binding domain of PSF and antagonizes splicing of numerous PSF-target genes in T cells

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

PSF (a.k.a. SFPQ) is a ubiquitously expressed, essential nuclear protein with important roles in DNA damage repair and RNA biogenesis. In stimulated T cells, PSF binds to and suppresses the inclusion of CD45 exon 4 in the final mRNA; however, in resting cells, TRAP150 binds PSF and prevents access to the CD45 RNA, though the mechanism for this inhibition has remained unclear. Here, we show that TRAP150 binds a region encompassing the RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) of PSF using a previously uncharacterized, 70 residue region we have termed the PSF-interacting domain (PID). TRAP150's PID directly inhibits the interaction of PSF RRMs with RNA, which is mediated through RRM2. However, interaction of PSF with TRAP150 does not appear to inhibit the dimerization of PSF with other Drosophila Behavior, Human Splicing (DBHS) proteins, which is also dependent on RRM2. Finally, we use RASL-Seq to identify ~40 T cell splicing events sensitive to PSF knockdown, and show that for the majority of these, PSF's effect is antagonized by TRAP150. Together these data suggest a model in which TRAP150 interacts with dimeric PSF to block access of RNA to RRM2, thereby regulating the activity of PSF toward a broad set of splicing events in T cells.

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Noncanoncial signal recognition particle RNAs in a major eukaryotic phylum revealed by purification of SRP from the human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Despite conservation of the signal recognition particle (SRP) from bacteria to man, computational approaches have failed to identify SRP components from genomes of many lower eukaryotes, raising the possibility that they have been lost or altered in those lineages. We report purification and analysis of SRP in the human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, providing the first description of SRP in basidiomycetous yeast. The C. neoformans SRP RNA displays a predicted structure in which the universally conserved helix 8 contains an unprecedented stem-loop insertion. Guided by this sequence, we computationally identified 152 SRP RNAs throughout the phylum Basidiomycota. This analysis revealed additional helix 8 alterations including single and double stem-loop insertions as well as loop diminutions affecting RNA structural elements that are otherwise conserved from bacteria to man. Strikingly, these SRP RNA features in Basidiomycota are accompanied by phylum-specific alterations in the RNA-binding domain of Srp54, the SRP protein subunit that directly interacts with helix 8. Our findings reveal unexpected fungal SRP diversity and suggest coevolution of the two most conserved SRP features—SRP RNA helix 8 and Srp54—in basidiomycetes. Because members of this phylum include important human and plant pathogens, these noncanonical features provide new targets for antifungal compound development.

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Crystal structure of the full-length bacterial selenocysteine-specific elongation factor SelB

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Selenocysteine (Sec), the 21st amino acid in translation, uses its specific tRNA (tRNASec) to recognize the UGA codon. The Sec-specific elongation factor SelB brings the selenocysteinyl-tRNASec (Sec-tRNASec) to the ribosome, dependent on both an in-frame UGA and a Sec-insertion sequence (SECIS) in the mRNA. The bacterial SelB binds mRNA through its C-terminal region, for which crystal structures have been reported. In this study, we determined the crystal structure of the full-length SelB from the bacterium Aquifex aeolicus, in complex with a GTP analog, at 3.2-Å resolution. SelB consists of three EF-Tu-like domains (D1–3), followed by four winged-helix domains (WHD1–4). The spacer region, connecting the N- and C-terminal halves, fixes the position of WHD1 relative to D3. The binding site for the Sec moiety of Sec-tRNASec is located on the interface between D1 and D2, where a cysteine molecule from the crystallization solution is coordinated by Arg residues, which may mimic Sec binding. The Sec-binding site is smaller and more exposed than the corresponding site of EF-Tu. Complex models of Sec-tRNASec, SECIS RNA, and the 70S ribosome suggest that the unique secondary structure of tRNASec allows SelB to specifically recognize tRNASec and characteristically place it at the ribosomal A-site.

Categories: Journal Articles

Role of a non-canonical surface of Rad6 in ubiquitin conjugating activity

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Rad6 is a yeast E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme that monoubiquitinates histone H2B in conjunction with the E3, Bre1, but can non-specifically modify histones on its own. We determined the crystal structure of a Rad6~Ub thioester mimic, which revealed a network of interactions in the crystal in which the ubiquitin in one conjugate contacts Rad6 in another. The region of Rad6 contacted is located on the distal face of Rad6 opposite the active site, but differs from the canonical E2 backside that mediates free ubiquitin binding and polyubiquitination activity in other E2 enzymes. We find that free ubiquitin interacts weakly with both non-canonical and canonical backside residues of Rad6 and that mutations of non-canonical residues have deleterious effects on Rad6 activity comparable to those observed to mutations in the canonical E2 backside. The effect of non-canonical backside mutations is similar in the presence and absence of Bre1, indicating that contacts with non-canonical backside residues govern the intrinsic activity of Rad6. Our findings shed light on the determinants of intrinsic Rad6 activity and reveal new ways in which contacts with an E2 backside can regulate ubiquitin conjugating activity.

Categories: Journal Articles

Structural basis for the Smad5 MH1 domain to recognize different DNA sequences

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Smad proteins are important intracellular mediators of TGF-β signalling, which transmit signals directly from cell surface receptors to the nucleus. The MH1 domain of Smad plays a key role in DNA recognition. Two types of DNA sequence were identified as Smad binding motifs: the Smad binding element (SBE) and the GC-rich sequence. Here we report the first crystal structure of the Smad5 MH1 domain in complex with the GC-rich sequence. Compared with the Smad5-MH1/SBE complex structure, the Smad5 MH1 domain contacts the GC-rich site with the same β-hairpin, but the detailed interaction modes are different. Conserved β-hairpin residues make base specific contacts with the minimal GC-rich site, 5'-GGC-3'. The assembly of Smad5-MH1 on the GC-rich DNA also results in distinct DNA conformational changes. Moreover, the crystal structure of Smad5-MH1 in complex with a composite DNA sequence demonstrates that the MH1 domain is targeted to each binding site (GC-rich or SBE) with modular binding modes, and the length of the DNA spacer affects the MH1 assembly. In conclusion, our work provides the structural basis for the recognition and binding specificity of the Smad MH1 domain with the DNA targets.

Categories: Journal Articles

Structure of mitochondrial poly(A) RNA polymerase reveals the structural basis for dimerization, ATP selectivity and the SPAX4 disease phenotype

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Polyadenylation, performed by poly(A) polymerases (PAPs), is a ubiquitous post-transcriptional modification that plays key roles in multiple aspects of RNA metabolism. Although cytoplasmic and nuclear PAPs have been studied extensively, the mechanism by which mitochondrial PAP (mtPAP) selects adenosine triphosphate over other nucleotides is unknown. Furthermore, mtPAP is unique because it acts as a dimer. However, mtPAP's dimerization requirement remains enigmatic. Here, we show the structural basis for mtPAP's nucleotide selectivity, dimerization and catalysis. Our structures reveal an intricate dimerization interface that features an RNA-recognition module formed through strand complementation. Further, we propose the structural basis for the N478D mutation that drastically reduces the length of poly(A) tails on mitochondrial mRNAs in patients with spastic ataxia 4 (SPAX4), a severe and progressive neurodegenerative disease.

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Redesign of the monomer-monomer interface of Cre recombinase yields an obligate heterotetrameric complex

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Cre recombinase catalyzes the cleavage and religation of DNA at loxP sites. The enzyme is a homotetramer in its functional state, and the symmetry of the protein complex enforces a pseudo-palindromic symmetry upon the loxP sequence. The Cre-lox system is a powerful tool for many researchers. However, broader application of the system is limited by the fixed sequence preferences of Cre, which are determined by both the direct DNA contacts and the homotetrameric arrangement of the Cre monomers. As a first step toward achieving recombination at arbitrary asymmetric target sites, we have broken the symmetry of the Cre tetramer assembly. Using a combination of computational and rational protein design, we have engineered an alternative interface between Cre monomers that is functional yet incompatible with the wild-type interface. Wild-type and engineered interface halves can be mixed to create two distinct Cre mutants, neither of which are functional in isolation, but which can form an active heterotetramer when combined. When these distinct mutants possess different DNA specificities, control over complex assembly directly discourages recombination at unwanted half-site combinations, enhancing the specificity of asymmetric site recombination. The engineered Cre mutants exhibit this assembly pattern in a variety of contexts, including mammalian cells.

Categories: Journal Articles

Robust, tunable genetic memory from protein sequestration combined with positive feedback

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

Natural regulatory networks contain many interacting components that allow for fine-tuning of switching and memory properties. Building simple bistable switches, synthetic biologists have learned the design principles of complex natural regulatory networks. However, most switches constructed so far are so simple (e.g. comprising two regulators) that they are functional only within a limited parameter range. Here, we report the construction of robust, tunable bistable switches in Escherichia coli using three heterologous protein regulators (ExsADC) that are sequestered into an inactive complex through a partner swapping mechanism. On the basis of mathematical modeling, we accurately predict and experimentally verify that the hysteretic region can be fine-tuned by controlling the interactions of the ExsADC regulatory cascade using the third member ExsC as a tuning knob. Additionally, we confirm that a dual-positive feedback switch can markedly increase the hysteretic region, compared to its single-positive feedback counterpart. The dual-positive feedback switch displays bistability over a 106-fold range of inducer concentrations, to our knowledge, the largest range reported so far. This work demonstrates the successful interlocking of sequestration-based ultrasensitivity and positive feedback, a design principle that can be applied to the construction of robust, tunable, and predictable genetic programs to achieve increasingly sophisticated biological behaviors.

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Nucleic Acids Research: Editorial Board

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28
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Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28
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Structure of a human translation termination complex

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

In contrast to bacteria that have two release factors, RF1 and RF2, eukaryotes only possess one unrelated release factor eRF1, which recognizes all three stop codons of the mRNA and hydrolyses the peptidyl-tRNA bond. While the molecular basis for bacterial termination has been elucidated, high-resolution structures of eukaryotic termination complexes have been lacking. Here we present a 3.8 Å structure of a human translation termination complex with eRF1 decoding a UAA(A) stop codon. The complex was formed using the human cytomegalovirus (hCMV) stalling peptide, which perturbs the peptidyltransferase center (PTC) to silence the hydrolysis activity of eRF1. Moreover, unlike sense codons or bacterial stop codons, the UAA stop codon adopts a U-turn-like conformation within a pocket formed by eRF1 and the ribosome. Inducing the U-turn conformation for stop codon recognition rationalizes how decoding by eRF1 includes monitoring geometry in order to discriminate against sense codons.

Categories: Journal Articles

G-quadruplexes and their regulatory roles in biology

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 08:28

‘If G-quadruplexes form so readily in vitro, Nature will have found a way of using them in vivo’ (Statement by Aaron Klug over 30 years ago).

During the last decade, four-stranded helical structures called G-quadruplex (or G4) have emerged from being a structural curiosity observed in vitro, to being recognized as a possible nucleic acid based mechanism for regulating multiple biological processes in vivo. The sequencing of many genomes has revealed that they are rich in sequence motifs that have the potential to form G-quadruplexes and that their location is non-random, correlating with functionally important genomic regions. In this short review, we summarize recent evidence for the in vivo presence and function of DNA and RNA G-quadruplexes in various cellular pathways including DNA replication, gene expression and telomere maintenance. We also highlight remaining open questions that will have to be addressed in the future.

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