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1.  Hepatitis Delta Antigen Requires a Flexible Quasi-Double-Stranded RNA Structure To Bind and Condense Hepatitis Delta Virus RNA in a Ribonucleoprotein Complex 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(13):7402-7411.
The circular genome and antigenome RNAs of hepatitis delta virus (HDV) form characteristic unbranched, quasi-double-stranded RNA secondary structures in which short double-stranded helical segments are interspersed with internal loops and bulges. The ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs) formed by these RNAs with the virus-encoded protein hepatitis delta antigen (HDAg) perform essential roles in the viral life cycle, including viral replication and virion formation. Little is understood about the formation and structure of these complexes and how they function in these key processes. Here, the specific RNA features required for HDAg binding and the topology of the complexes formed were investigated. Selective 2′OH acylation analyzed by primer extension (SHAPE) applied to free and HDAg-bound HDV RNAs indicated that the characteristic secondary structure of the RNA is preserved when bound to HDAg. Notably, the analysis indicated that predicted unpaired positions in the RNA remained dynamic in the RNP. Analysis of the in vitro binding activity of RNAs in which internal loops and bulges were mutated and of synthetically designed RNAs demonstrated that the distinctive secondary structure, not the primary RNA sequence, is the major determinant of HDAg RNA binding specificity. Atomic force microscopy analysis of RNPs formed in vitro revealed complexes in which the HDV RNA is substantially condensed by bending or wrapping. Our results support a model in which the internal loops and bulges in HDV RNA contribute flexibility to the quasi-double-stranded structure that allows RNA bending and condensing by HDAg.
IMPORTANCE RNA-protein complexes (RNPs) formed by the hepatitis delta virus RNAs and protein, HDAg, perform critical roles in virus replication. Neither the structures of these RNPs nor the RNA features required to form them have been characterized. HDV RNA is unusual in that it forms an unbranched quasi-double-stranded structure in which short base-paired segments are interspersed with internal loops and bulges. We analyzed the role of the HDV RNA sequence and secondary structure in the formation of a minimal RNP and visualized the structure of this RNP using atomic force microscopy. Our results indicate that HDAg does not recognize the primary sequence of the RNA; rather, the principle contribution of unpaired bases in HDV RNA to HDAg binding is to allow flexibility in the unbranched quasi-double-stranded RNA structure. Visualization of RNPs by atomic force microscopy indicated that the RNA is significantly bent or condensed in the complex.
PMCID: PMC4054418  PMID: 24741096
2.  The Structure of a Biologically Active Influenza Virus Ribonucleoprotein Complex 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000491.
The influenza viruses contain a segmented, single-stranded RNA genome of negative polarity. Each RNA segment is encapsidated by the nucleoprotein and the polymerase complex into ribonucleoprotein particles (RNPs), which are responsible for virus transcription and replication. Despite their importance, information about the structure of these RNPs is scarce. We have determined the three-dimensional structure of a biologically active recombinant RNP by cryo-electron microscopy. The structure shows a nonameric nucleoprotein ring (at 12 Å resolution) with two monomers connected to the polymerase complex (at 18 Å resolution). Docking the atomic structures of the nucleoprotein and polymerase domains, as well as mutational analyses, has allowed us to define the interactions between the functional elements of the RNP and to propose the location of the viral RNA. Our results provide the first model for a functional negative-stranded RNA virus ribonucleoprotein complex. The structure reported here will serve as a framework to generate a quasi-atomic model of the molecular machine responsible for viral RNA synthesis and to test new models for virus RNA replication and transcription.
Author Summary
The influenza viruses cause annual epidemics of respiratory disease and occasional pandemics that constitute a major public-health issue. The recent spillover of avian H5N1 and H1N1 swine influenza viruses to humans poses a serious threat of a new pandemic. These viruses contain a segmented RNA genome, which forms independent ribonucleoprotein particles including the polymerase complex and multiple copies of the nucleoprotein. Each of these ribonucleoprotein particles are replicated and express the encoding virus genes independently in the virus-infected cells. To better understand how these processes take place we have determined the three-dimensional structure of a model ribonucleoprotein particle that only contains 248 nucleotides of virus RNA but is biologically active in vitro and in vivo. The structure shows a circular appearance and includes 9 nucleoprotein monomers, two of which are associated to the polymerase complex. Docking of the available atomic structures of the nucleoprotein and domains of the polymerase complex has permitted us to propose a quasi-atomic model for this ribonucleoprotein particle and some of the predictions of the model have been confirmed experimentally by site-directed mutagenesis and phenotype analysis in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2695768  PMID: 19557158
3.  The hnRNP F protein: unique primary structure, nucleic acid-binding properties, and subcellular localization. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1994;22(6):1059-1067.
More than 20 different heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) are associated with pre-mRNAs in the nucleus of mammalian cells and these proteins appear to influence pre-mRNA processing and other aspects of mRNA metabolism and transport. The arrangement of hnRNP proteins on pre-mRNAs is likely to be unique for each RNA and may be determined by the different RNA-binding preferences of each of these proteins. hnRNP F (M(r) = 53 kD, pI = 6.1) and hnRNP H (M(r) = 56 kD, pI = 6.7-7.1) are abundant components of immunopurified hnRNP complexes and they have distinct nucleic acid binding properties. Unlike other hnRNP proteins which display a varying range of affinities for different ribonucleotidehomopolymers and ssDNA, hnRNP F and hnRNP H bind only to poly(rG) in vitro. hnRNP F and hnRNP H were purified from HeLa cells by poly(rG) affinity chromatography and oligonucleotides derived from peptide sequences were used to isolate a cDNA encoding hnRNP F. The predicted amino acid sequence of hnRNP F revealed a novel protein with three repeated domains related to the RNP consensus sequence RNA-binding domain. Monoclonal antibodies produced against bacterially expressed hnRNP F were specific for both hnRNP F and hnRNP H and recognized related proteins in divergent organisms, including in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. hnRNP F and hnRNP H are thus highly related immunologically and they share identical peptides. Interestingly, immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that hnRNP F and hnRNP H are concentrated in discrete regions of the nucleoplasm, in contrast to the general nucleoplasmic distribution of previously characterized hnRNP proteins. The unique RNA-binding properties, amino acid sequence and distinct intranuclear localization of hnRNP F and hnRNP H make them novel hnRNP proteins that are likely to be important for the processing of RNAs containing guanosine-rich sequences.
PMCID: PMC307930  PMID: 7512260
4.  The Crystal Structure and RNA-Binding of an Orthomyxovirus Nucleoprotein 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003624.
Genome packaging for viruses with segmented genomes is often a complex problem. This is particularly true for influenza viruses and other orthomyxoviruses, whose genome consists of multiple negative-sense RNAs encapsidated as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. To better understand the structural features of orthomyxovirus RNPs that allow them to be packaged, we determined the crystal structure of the nucleoprotein (NP) of a fish orthomyxovirus, the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV) (genus Isavirus). As the major protein component of the RNPs, ISAV-NP possesses a bi-lobular structure similar to the influenza virus NP. Because both RNA-free and RNA-bound ISAV NP forms stable dimers in solution, we were able to measure the NP RNA binding affinity as well as the stoichiometry using recombinant proteins and synthetic oligos. Our RNA binding analysis revealed that each ISAV-NP binds ∼12 nts of RNA, shorter than the 24–28 nts originally estimated for the influenza A virus NP based on population average. The 12-nt stoichiometry was further confirmed by results from electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Considering that RNPs of ISAV and the influenza viruses have similar morphologies and dimensions, our findings suggest that NP-free RNA may exist on orthomyxovirus RNPs, and selective RNP packaging may be accomplished through direct RNA-RNA interactions.
Author Summary
Orthomyxoviruses are a family of RNA viruses that include the various types of influenza viruses. The genome of orthomyxoviruses consists of multiple segments of negative-sense, single-stranded RNA molecules, each packaged in the form of rod-shaped, double-helical ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. How different RNPs interact with each other to ensure specific genome packaging is a long-standing question and crucial to our understanding of orthomyxovirus replication and influenza virus gene reassortment. Our study of a fish orthomyxovirus, the infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV), shows that its nucleoprotein (NP), which forms the protein scaffold backbone of the viral RNP, has a bi-lobular structure like the influenza virus NP. Because ISAV-NP forms stable dimers in solution, we were able to determine ISAV-NP RNA binding stoichiometry by biochemical assays, electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Our results indicate that each ISAV-NP binds ∼12-nt RNA, shorter than the 24–28 nts originally estimated for the influenza A virus based on population average. We propose that NP-free RNA exists on orthomyxovirus RNPs, and such RNA regions likely mediate specific RNP-RNP interactions during genome packaging. Further elucidation of the RNA-mediated RNP-RNP interactions will help us determine the molecular basis of gene reassortment by orthomyxoviruses including the influenza viruses.
PMCID: PMC3771910  PMID: 24068932
5.  Distinct RNP Complexes of Shuttling hnRNP Proteins with Pre-mRNA and mRNA: Candidate Intermediates in Formation and Export of mRNA 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(21):7307-7319.
Nascent pre-mRNAs associate with hnRNP proteins in hnRNP complexes, the natural substrates for mRNA processing. Several lines of evidence indicate that hnRNP complexes undergo substantial remodeling during mRNA formation and export. Here we report the isolation of three distinct types of pre-mRNP and mRNP complexes from HeLa cells associated with hnRNP A1, a shuttling hnRNP protein. Based on their RNA and protein compositions, these complexes are likely to represent distinct stages in the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling pathway of hnRNP A1 with its bound RNAs. In the cytoplasm, A1 is associated with its nuclear import receptor (transportin), the cytoplasmic poly(A)-binding protein, and mRNA. In the nucleus, A1 is found in two distinct types of complexes that are differently associated with nuclear structures. One class contains pre-mRNA and mRNA and is identical to previously described hnRNP complexes. The other class behaves as freely diffusible nuclear mRNPs (nmRNPs) at late nuclear stages of maturation and possibly associated with nuclear mRNA export. These nmRNPs differ from hnRNPs in that while they contain shuttling hnRNP proteins, the mRNA export factor REF, and mRNA, they do not contain nonshuttling hnRNP proteins or pre-mRNA. Importantly, nmRNPs also contain proteins not found in hnRNP complexes. These include the alternatively spliced isoforms D01 and D02 of the hnRNP D proteins, the E0 isoform of the hnRNP E proteins, and LRP130, a previously reported protein with unknown function that appears to have a novel type of RNA-binding domain. The characteristics of these complexes indicate that they result from RNP remodeling associated with mRNA maturation and delineate specific changes in RNP protein composition during formation and transport of mRNA in vivo.
PMCID: PMC99905  PMID: 11585913
6.  Differential chromosomal distribution of ribonucleoprotein antigens in nuclei of Drosophila spermatocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1986;103(6):2113-2119.
The ribonucleoprotein (RNP) composition of the active Y chromosomal structures in spermatocyte nuclei of Drosophila hydei has been investigated using the anti-RNP antibodies Dm 28K2 and pp60 as a probe. Antibody Dm 28K2 was raised against an RNP protein of cytoplasmic RNP particles in D. melanogaster cells, while antibody pp60 was raised against a pre-messenger RNP fraction from oocytes of Xenopus laevis. Both antibodies detect nuclear RNP (nRNP) antigens of D. hydei. This is shown by CsCl density centrifugation of nRNP from D. hydei cells and immunoblotting across the density gradient. Dm 28K2 and pp60 recognize antigens of nRNP complexes which band at a characteristic buoyant density of approximately 1.4 g/cm3 in CsCl. By indirect immunofluorescence we observe that the nRNP complexes identified by Dm 28K2 are localized at only two of the five Y chromosomal loop structures which are named according to their distinct morphology. Dm 28K2 decorates RNPs within the "clubs," within the cones, and within the matrix of the "pseudonucleolus." Ultrastructural bodies that are candidates for this immunoreaction are RNP granules that resemble the so-called perichromatin granules. Antibody pp60 recognizes RNP complexes close to the axes of the active Y chromatin. In the "pseudonucleolus" it can be shown that the structures recognized by pp60 are quite distinct from those detected by Dm 28K2. Thus, the "pseudonucleolus" is a striking example for the presence of different RNP populations within a same defined nuclear compartment. Together with previous results (Glatzer, K. H., 1984, Mol. Gen. Genet., 196:236- 243), our data represent evidence that the morphological and apparently functional differences between the active Y chromosomal loops, which are involved in male fertility, are caused by the presence of qualitatively and possibly also functionally different RNP populations within these nuclear compartments. Because both RNP antigens are discussed in the literature in connection with repressed mRNP the observed cross-reaction of the respective antibodies in D. hydei suggests a more general and important function of these proteins in the RNA metabolism of eukaryotic cells.
PMCID: PMC2114595  PMID: 3536959
7.  Control of Translation and miRNA-Dependent Repression by a Novel Poly(A) Binding Protein, hnRNP-Q 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(5):e1001564.
The heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein Q2 competitively binds mRNA poly(A) tails to regulate translational and miRNA-related functions of PABP.
Translation control often operates via remodeling of messenger ribonucleoprotein particles. The poly(A) binding protein (PABP) simultaneously interacts with the 3′ poly(A) tail of the mRNA and the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4G (eIF4G) to stimulate translation. PABP also promotes miRNA-dependent deadenylation and translational repression of target mRNAs. We demonstrate that isoform 2 of the mouse heterogeneous nuclear protein Q (hnRNP-Q2/SYNCRIP) binds poly(A) by default when PABP binding is inhibited. In addition, hnRNP-Q2 competes with PABP for binding to poly(A) in vitro. Depleting hnRNP-Q2 from translation extracts stimulates cap-dependent and IRES-mediated translation that is dependent on the PABP/poly(A) complex. Adding recombinant hnRNP-Q2 to the extracts inhibited translation in a poly(A) tail-dependent manner. The displacement of PABP from the poly(A) tail by hnRNP-Q2 impaired the association of eIF4E with the 5′ m7G cap structure of mRNA, resulting in the inhibition of 48S and 80S ribosome initiation complex formation. In mouse fibroblasts, silencing of hnRNP-Q2 stimulated translation. In addition, hnRNP-Q2 impeded let-7a miRNA-mediated deadenylation and repression of target mRNAs, which require PABP. Thus, by competing with PABP, hnRNP-Q2 plays important roles in the regulation of global translation and miRNA-mediated repression of specific mRNAs.
Author Summary
The regulation of mRNA translation and stability is of paramount importance for almost every cellular function. In eukaryotes, the poly(A) binding protein (PABP) is a central regulator of both global and mRNA-specific translation. PABP simultaneously interacts with the 3′ poly(A) tail of the mRNA and the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4G (eIF4G). These interactions circularize the mRNA and stimulate translation. PABP also regulates specific mRNAs by promoting miRNA-dependent deadenylation and translational repression. A key step in understanding PABP's functions is to identify factors that affect its association with the poly(A) tail. Here we show that the cytoplasmic isoform of the mouse heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein Q (hnRNP-Q2/SYNCRIP), which exhibits binding preference to poly(A), interacts with the poly(A) tail by default when PABP binding is inhibited. In addition, hnRNP-Q2 competes with PABP for binding to the poly(A) tail. Depleting hnRNP-Q2 stimulates translation in cell-free extracts and in cultured cells, in agreement with its function as translational repressor. In addition, hnRNP-Q2 impeded miRNA-mediated deadenylation and repression of target mRNAs, which requires PABP. Thus, competition from hnRNP-Q2 provides a novel mechanism by which multiple functions of PABP are regulated. This regulation could play important roles in various biological processes, such as development, viral infection, and human disease.
PMCID: PMC3660254  PMID: 23700384
8.  Characterization of the interaction between protein Snu13p/15.5K and the Rsa1p/NUFIP factor and demonstration of its functional importance for snoRNP assembly 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(3):2015-2036.
The yeast Snu13p protein and its 15.5K human homolog both bind U4 snRNA and box C/D snoRNAs. They also bind the Rsa1p/NUFIP assembly factor, proposed to scaffold immature snoRNPs and to recruit the Hsp90-R2TP chaperone complex. However, the nature of the Snu13p/15.5K–Rsa1p/NUFIP interaction and its exact role in snoRNP assembly remained to be elucidated. By using biophysical, molecular and imaging approaches, here, we identify residues needed for Snu13p/15.5K–Rsa1p/NUFIP interaction. By NMR structure determination and docking approaches, we built a 3D model of the Snup13p–Rsa1p interface, suggesting that residues R249, R246 and K250 in Rsa1p and E72 and D73 in Snu13p form a network of electrostatic interactions shielded from the solvent by hydrophobic residues from both proteins and that residue W253 of Rsa1p is inserted in a hydrophobic cavity of Snu13p. Individual mutations of residues in yeast demonstrate the functional importance of the predicted interactions for both cell growth and snoRNP formation. Using archaeal box C/D sRNP 3D structures as templates, the association of Snu13p with Rsa1p is predicted to be exclusive of interactions in active snoRNPs. Rsa1p and NUFIP may thus prevent premature activity of pre-snoRNPs, and their removal may be a key step for active snoRNP production.
PMCID: PMC3919607  PMID: 24234454
9.  hnRNP I, the polypyrimidine tract-binding protein: distinct nuclear localization and association with hnRNAs. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1992;20(14):3671-3678.
Many hnRNP proteins and snRNPs interact with hnRNA in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells and affect the fate of hnRNA and its processing into mRNA. There are at least 20 abundant proteins in vertebrate cell hnRNP complexes and their structure and arrangement on specific hnRNAs is likely to be important for the processing of pre-mRNAs. hnRNP I, a basic protein of ca. 58,000 daltons by SDS-PAGE, is one of the abundant hnRNA-binding proteins. Monoclonal antibodies to hnRNP I were produced and full length cDNA clones for hnRNP I were isolated and sequenced. The sequence of hnRNP I (59,632 daltons and pI 9.86) demonstrates that it is identical to the previously described polypyrimidine tract-binding protein (PTB) and shows that it is highly related to hnRNP L. The sequences of these two proteins, I and L, define a new family of hnRNP proteins within the large superfamily of the RNP consensus RNA-binding proteins. Here we describe experiments which reveal new and unique properties on the association of hnRNP I/PTB with hnRNP complexes and on its cellular localization. Micrococcal nuclease digestions show that hnRNP I, along with hnRNP S and P, is released from hnRNP complexes by nuclease digestion more readily than most other hnRNP proteins. This nuclease hypersensitivity suggests that hnRNP I is bound to hnRNA regions that are particularly exposed in the complexes. Immunofluorescence microscopy shows that hnRNP I is found in the nucleoplasm but in addition high concentrations are detected in a discrete perinucleolar structure. Thus, the PTB is one of the major proteins that bind pre-mRNAs; it is bound to nuclease-hypersensitive regions of the hnRNA-protein complexes and shows a novel pattern of nuclear localization.
PMCID: PMC334017  PMID: 1641332
10.  Characterization of Staufen1 Ribonucleoproteins by Mass Spectrometry and Biochemical Analyses Reveal the Presence of Diverse Host Proteins Associated with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 
The human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) unspliced, 9 kb genomic RNA (vRNA) is exported from the nucleus for the synthesis of viral structural proteins and enzymes (Gag and Gag/Pol) and is then transported to sites of virus assembly where it is packaged into progeny virions. vRNA co-exists in the cytoplasm in the context of the HIV-1 ribonucleoprotein (RNP) that is currently defined by the presence of Gag and several host proteins including the double-stranded RNA-binding protein, Staufen1. In this study we isolated Staufen1 RNP complexes derived from HIV-1-expressing cells using tandem affinity purification and have identified multiple host protein components by mass spectrometry. Four viral proteins, including Gag, Gag/Pol, Env and Nef as well as >200 host proteins were identified in these RNPs. Moreover, HIV-1 induces both qualitative and quantitative differences in host protein content in these RNPs. 22% of Staufen1-associated factors are virion-associated suggesting that the RNP could be a vehicle to achieve this. In addition, we provide evidence on how HIV-1 modulates the composition of cytoplasmic Staufen1 RNPs. Biochemical fractionation by density gradient analyses revealed new facets on the assembly of Staufen1 RNPs. The assembly of dense Staufen1 RNPs that contain Gag and several host proteins were found to be entirely RNA-dependent but their assembly appeared to be independent of Gag expression. Gag-containing complexes fractionated into a lighter and another, more dense pool. Lastly, Staufen1 depletion studies demonstrated that the previously characterized Staufen1 HIV-1-dependent RNPs are most likely aggregates of smaller RNPs that accumulate at juxtanuclear domains. The molecular characterization of Staufen1 HIV-1 RNPs will offer important information on virus-host cell interactions and on the elucidation of the function of these RNPs for the transport of Gag and the fate of the unspliced vRNA in HIV-1-producing cells.
PMCID: PMC3486646  PMID: 23125841
Gag; genomic RNA; HIV-1; mass spectrometry; gradient centrifugation; ribonucleoprotein; Staufen1; virus-host interactions
11.  Comparison of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Intracellular and Virion Ribonucleoproteins 
Journal of Virology  1980;33(2):856-865.
Vesicular stomatitis virus ribonucleoproteins (RNP) obtained by a detergent treatment of purified virus (vRNP) or from infected HeLa cell cytoplasm (icRNP) were examined by sedimentation in sucrose or Renografin gradients in the presence or absence of EDTA. It was shown that vRNP and icRNP sediment at the same rate in sucrose and Renografin in the absence of EDTA; however, icRNP sedimented more slowly in the presence of EDTA than did vRNP. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of the proteins of vRNA and icRNP recovered from EDTA-containing gradients demonstrated that both RNP structures contained L, N, and NS proteins in the same proportion. Electron microscopy of both RNP structures, in the absence of EDTA, demonstrated that both exist as helical structures ∼20 by 700 nm. However, in the presence of EDTA the icRNP was completely uncoiled with a mean length of 4,095 nm, whereas vRNP was hardly affected. The addition of excess Mg2+ or Mn2+ to uncoiled icRNP preparations partially restored the coiled configuration. These observations suggest that the change in sedimentation of icRNP in the presence of EDTA is due to a change from a coiled to an uncoiled conformation, that icRNP and vRNP are not structurally identical, and that icRNP must undergo a conformational change during maturation of VSV from the 20-by-700-nm intracellular form to the 50-by-175-nm form found in intact virus. The icRNP containing L, N, and NS proteins (icRNPL,N,NS) and icRNP containing only N protein (icRNPN), prepared by centrifugation of icRNPL,N,NS in CsCl to remove L and NS, were compared by cosedimentation in sucrose gradients. There was a decrease in sedimentation rate of icRNPN due to loss of L and NS. This sedimentation difference was also apparent in the presence of EDTA; however, both icRNPL,N,NS and icRNPN sedimented at a much slower rate in the presence of EDTA, and by electron microscopy both were completely uncoiled. These observations suggest that N protein alone is responsible for the 20-by-700-nm coiled structure and that the divalent cation interactions disrupted by EDTA are N-N or N-RNA interactions. These results are discussed with regard to vesicular stomatitis virus maturation.
PMCID: PMC288611  PMID: 6774108
12.  The high kinetic stability of a G-quadruplex limits hnRNP F qRRM3 binding to G-tract RNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(4):2505-2516.
The RNA binding protein heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) F is involved in telomeres maintenance and pre-mRNA processing, such as alternative splicing and polyadenylation. It specifically recognizes RNA containing three consecutive guanines (G-tracts) that have the potential to assemble into G-quadruplexes. We have proposed recently that hnRNP F could regulate alternative splicing by remodeling RNA structures, such as G-quadruplexes. However, the exact mechanism of hnRNP F binding to such RNA sequences remains unknown. Here, we have studied the binding of the third RNA binding domain of hnRNP F [quasi-RNA recognition motif 3 (qRRM3)] to G-tract RNA using isothermal titration calorimetry, circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Our results show that qRRM3 binds specifically exclusively to single-stranded G-tracts (ssRNA), in contrast to previous reports stating that the G-quadruplex was recognized as well. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the pre-existent ssRNA/G-quadruplex equilibrium slows down the formation of the protein–ssRNA complex. Based on in vitro transcription assays, we show that the rate of the protein–RNA complex formation is faster than that of the G-quadruplex. We propose a model according to which hnRNP F could bind RNA co-transcriptionally and prevents G-quadruplex formation.
PMCID: PMC3575826  PMID: 23275549
13.  Protein-DNA docking with a coarse-grained force field 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:228.
Protein-DNA interactions are important for many cellular processes, however structural knowledge for a large fraction of known and putative complexes is still lacking. Computational docking methods aim at the prediction of complex architecture given detailed structures of its constituents. They are becoming an increasingly important tool in the field of macromolecular assemblies, complementing particularly demanding protein-nucleic acids X ray crystallography and providing means for the refinement and integration of low resolution data coming from rapidly advancing methods such as cryoelectron microscopy.
We present a new coarse-grained force field suitable for protein-DNA docking. The force field is an extension of previously developed parameter sets for protein-RNA and protein-protein interactions. The docking is based on potential energy minimization in translational and orientational degrees of freedom of the binding partners. It allows for fast and efficient systematic search for native-like complex geometry without any prior knowledge regarding binding site location.
We find that the force field gives very good results for bound docking. The quality of predictions in the case of unbound docking varies, depending on the level of structural deviation from bound geometries. We analyze the role of specific protein-DNA interactions on force field performance, both with respect to complex structure prediction, and the reproduction of experimental binding affinities. We find that such direct, specific interactions only partially contribute to protein-DNA recognition, indicating an important role of shape complementarity and sequence-dependent DNA internal energy, in line with the concept of indirect protein-DNA readout mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3522568  PMID: 22966980
14.  Biochemical and Structural Evidence in Support of a Coherent Model for the Formation of the Double-Helical Influenza A Virus Ribonucleoprotein 
mBio  2012;4(1):e00467-12.
Influenza A virions contain eight ribonucleoproteins (RNPs), each comprised of a negative-strand viral RNA, the viral polymerase, and multiple nucleoproteins (NPs) that coat the viral RNA. NP oligomerization along the viral RNA is mediated largely by a 28-amino-acid tail loop. Influenza viral RNPs, which serve as the templates for viral RNA synthesis in the nuclei of infected cells, are not linear but rather are organized in hairpin-like double-helical structures. Here we present results that strongly support a coherent model for the assembly of the double-helical influenza virus RNP structure. First, we show that NP self-associates much more weakly in the absence of RNA than in its presence, indicating that oligomerization is very limited in the cytoplasm. We also show that once NP has oligomerized, it can dissociate in the absence of bound RNA, but only at a very slow rate, indicating that the NP scaffold remains intact when viral RNA dissociates from NPs to interact with the polymerase during viral RNA synthesis. In addition, we identify a previously unknown NP-NP interface that is likely responsible for organizing the double-helical viral RNP structure. This identification stemmed from our observation that NP lacking the oligomerization tail loop forms monomers and dimers. We determined the crystal structure of this NP dimer, which reveals this new NP-NP interface. Mutation of residues that disrupt this dimer interface does not affect oligomerization of NPs containing the tail loop but does inactivate the ability of NPs containing the tail loop to support viral RNA synthesis in minigenome assays.
IMPORTANCE  Influenza A virus, the causative agent of human pandemics and annual epidemics, contains eight RNA gene segments. Each RNA segment assumes the form of a rod-shaped, double-helical ribonucleoprotein (RNP) that contains multiple copies of a viral protein, the nucleoprotein (NP), which coats the RNA segment along its entire length. Previous studies showed that NP molecules can polymerize via a structural element called the tail loop, but the RNP assembly process is poorly understood. Here we show that influenza virus RNPs are likely assembled from NP monomers, which polymerize through the tail loop only in the presence of viral RNA. Using X-ray crystallography, we identified an additional way that NP molecules interact with each other. We hypothesize that this new interaction is responsible for organizing linear, single-stranded influenza virus RNPs into double-helical structures. Our results thus provide a coherent model for the assembly of the double-helical influenza virus RNP structure.
Influenza A virus, the causative agent of human pandemics and annual epidemics, contains eight RNA gene segments. Each RNA segment assumes the form of a rod-shaped, double-helical ribonucleoprotein (RNP) that contains multiple copies of a viral protein, the nucleoprotein (NP), which coats the RNA segment along its entire length. Previous studies showed that NP molecules can polymerize via a structural element called the tail loop, but the RNP assembly process is poorly understood. Here we show that influenza virus RNPs are likely assembled from NP monomers, which polymerize through the tail loop only in the presence of viral RNA. Using X-ray crystallography, we identified an additional way that NP molecules interact with each other. We hypothesize that this new interaction is responsible for organizing linear, single-stranded influenza virus RNPs into double-helical structures. Our results thus provide a coherent model for the assembly of the double-helical influenza virus RNP structure.
PMCID: PMC3531806  PMID: 23269829
15.  Analysis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) in Trypanosoma brucei: structural organization and protein components of the spliced leader RNP. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(11):5516-5526.
trans splicing in Trypanosoma brucei involves the ligation of the 40-nucleotide spliced leader (SL) to each of the exons of large, polycistronic pre-mRNAs and requires the function of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). We have identified and characterized snRNP complexes of SL, U2, U4, and U6 RNAs in T. brucei extracts by a combination of glycerol gradient sedimentation, CsCl density centrifugation, and anti-m3G immunoprecipitation. Both the SL RNP and the U4/U6 snRNP contain salt-stable cores; the U2 snRNP, in contrast to other eucaryotic snRNPs, is not stable under stringent ionic conditions. Two distinct complexes of U6 RNA were found, a U6 snRNP and a U4/U6 snRNP. The structure of the SL RNP was analyzed in detail by oligonucleotide-directed RNase H protection and by in vitro reconstitution. Our results indicate that the 3' half of SL RNA constitutes the core protein-binding domain and that protein components of the SL RNP also bind to the U2 and U4 RNAs. Using antisense RNA affinity chromatography, we identified a set of low-molecular-mass proteins (14.8, 14, 12.5, and 10 kDa) as components of the core SL RNP.
PMCID: PMC361921  PMID: 1656232
16.  Characterization of the major hnRNP proteins from Drosophila melanogaster 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1992;116(2):257-269.
To better understand the role(s) of hnRNP proteins in the process of mRNA formation, we have identified and characterized the major nuclear proteins that interact with hnRNAs in Drosophila melanogaster. cDNA clones of several D. melanogaster hnRNP proteins have been isolated and sequenced, and the genes encoding these proteins have been mapped cytologically on polytene chromosomes. These include the hnRNP proteins hrp36, hrp40, and hrp48, which together account for the major proteins of hnRNP complexes in D. melanogaster (Matunis et al., 1992, accompanying paper). All of the proteins described here contain two amino-terminal RNP consensus sequence RNA-binding domains and a carboxyl-terminal glycine-rich domain. We refer to this configuration, which is also found in the hnRNP A/B proteins of vertebrates, as 2 x RBD-Gly. The sequences of the D. melanogaster hnRNP proteins help define both highly conserved and variable amino acids within each RBD and support the suggestion that each RBD in multiple RBD-containing proteins has been conserved independently and has a different function. Although 2 x RBD-Gly proteins from evolutionarily distant organisms are conserved in their general structure, we find a surprising diversity among the members of this family of proteins. A mAb to the hrp40 proteins crossreacts with the human A/B and G hnRNP proteins and detects immunologically related proteins in divergent organisms from yeast to man. These data establish 2 x RBD-Gly as a prevalent hnRNP protein structure across eukaryotes. This information about the composition of hnRNP complexes and about the structure of hnRNA-binding proteins will facilitate studies of the functions of these proteins.
PMCID: PMC2289286  PMID: 1730754
17.  Human U4/U6.U5 and U4atac/U6atac.U5 Tri-snRNPs Exhibit Similar Protein Compositions 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(10):3219-3229.
In the U12-dependent spliceosome, the U4atac/U6atac snRNP represents the functional analogue of the major U4/U6 snRNP. Little information is available presently regarding the protein composition of the former snRNP and its association with other snRNPs. In this report we show that human U4atac/U6atac di-snRNPs associate with U5 snRNPs to form a 25S U4atac/U6atac.U5 trimeric particle. Comparative analysis of minor and major tri-snRNPs by using immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that their protein compositions are very similar, if not identical. Not only U5-specific proteins but, surprisingly, all tested U4/U6- and major tri-snRNP-specific proteins were detected in the minor tri-snRNP complex. Significantly, the major tri-snRNP-specific proteins 65K and 110K, which are required for integration of the major tri-snRNP into the U2-dependent spliceosome, were among those proteins detected in the minor tri-snRNP, raising an interesting question as to how the specificity of addition of tri-snRNP to the corresponding spliceosome is maintained. Moreover, immunodepletion studies demonstrated that the U4/U6-specific 61K protein, which is involved in the formation of major tri-snRNPs, is essential for the association of the U4atac/U6atac di-snRNP with U5 to form the U4atac/U6atac.U5 tri-snRNP. Subsequent immunoprecipitation studies demonstrated that those proteins detected in the minor tri-snRNP complex are also incorporated into U12-dependent spliceosomes. This remarkable conservation of polypeptides between minor and major spliceosomes, coupled with the absence of significant sequence similarity between the functionally analogous snRNAs, supports an evolutionary model in which most major and minor spliceosomal proteins, but not snRNAs, are derived from a common ancestor.
PMCID: PMC133795  PMID: 11971955
18.  Polypyrimidine tract-binding protein and heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1 bind to human T-cell leukemia virus type 2 RNA regulatory elements. 
Journal of Virology  1995;69(11):6852-6858.
Efficient expression of human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV) and human immunodeficiency virus structural proteins requires Rx and Rev proteins, respectively. Decreased expression of Gag and Env appears to be due, in part, to intragenic RNA sequences, termed cis-acting repressive sequences (CRS), and may be mediated by binding of specific cellular factors. We demonstrated previously that two cellular proteins, p60CRS and p40CRS, interact with HTLV type 2.5' long terminal repeat CRS RNA and that the interaction of both proteins with CRS RNA correlates with function (A. C. Black, C. T. Ruland, J. Luo, A. Bakker, J. K. Fraser, and J. D. Rosenblatt, Virology 200:29-41, 1994). By radioimmunoprecipitation of HeLa nuclear proteins UV cross-linked to CRS RNAs with murine monoclonal antibodies, we now show that p40CRS is heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) A1 and p60CRS is polypyrimidine tract-binding protein or hnRNP I. These immunoprecipitation results were confirmed by an immunobinding assay with hnRNP I and hnRNP AI antibodies and by cross-competition electrophoretic mobility shift experiments. In addition, we mapped a putative hnRNP A1 binding site in U5 RNA and demonstrated that p40CRS (hnRNP A1) binding to that site correlates with CRS function. Since both hnRNP I and hnRNP A1 have been shown to influence splicing and potentially other steps in RNA processing, the binding of both hnRNP I and hnRNP A1 to HTLV RNA regulatory elements may alter retrovirus RNA processing and may be involved in regulation by Rex.
PMCID: PMC189599  PMID: 7474099
19.  The low-abundance U11 and U12 small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) interact to form a two-snRNP complex. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(3):1276-1285.
A novel small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) complex containing both U11 and U12 RNAs has been identified in HeLa cell extracts. This U11/U12 snRNP complex can be visualized on glycerol gradients, on native polyacrylamide gels, and by selection with antisense 2'-O-methyl oligoribonucleotides. RNase H-mediated degradation of the U12 snRNA confirmed a direct interaction between the U11 and U12 snRNPs. This snRNP complex is the first to be identified involving low-abundance snRNPs. Selection of the U11/U12 snRNP complex is sensitive to high salt, suggestive of a protein-mediated interaction. Secondary structure analyses revealed several regions of the U11 snRNP accessible for interaction with other RNAs or proteins but no detectable difference between the accessibility of these regions in the U11 monoparticle compared with the U11/U12 snRNP complex. There are also several accessible single-stranded regions in the U12 snRNP, and oligonucleotide-directed RNase H digestion identified nucleotides 28 to 36 of U12 as containing sequences required for the U11/U12 interaction. Both the U12 snRNP and the U11/U12 snRNP complex can be disrupted without altering the cleavage/polyadenylation activity of a nuclear extract.
PMCID: PMC369560  PMID: 1372090
20.  Immunoelectron microscope visualization of nuclear ribonucleoprotein antigens within spread transcription complexes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1986;103(4):1153-1157.
The ultrastructural distribution of nuclear ribonucleoproteins (RNP) within spread active chromatin has been investigated using specific anti-RNP antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies directed against the core proteins of heterogeneous nuclear (hn)RNP or against small nuclear (sn)RNP have been incubated directly with lysed mouse or Drosophila tissue culture cells and the bound antibodies visualized by means of a protein A-colloidal gold complex. The hnRNP core proteins have been localized on growing RNP fibrils within non-nucleolar transcription complexes. Anti-snRNP antibodies, directed either against the Sm- antigen (common for nucleoplasmic snRNP species containing U1, U2, U4, U5, and U6 RNAs) or against U1-snRNP, were bound by two morphological types of RNP structures. Within areas of chromatin that do not completely disperse, labeling was observed on RNP-fibril gradient type structures or on groups of fibrogranular material. In the well dispersed regions containing individual nonribosomal transcription complexes, snRNP antigens were associated with growing RNP fibrils. Our results provide direct evidence for association of some U-snRNP species (including U1-snRNP) with extranucleolar RNA as early as during transcription elongation. In addition, the presence of core hnRNP proteins on the same type of nascent RNA transcripts has been confirmed.
PMCID: PMC2114363  PMID: 2945824
21.  DECK: Distance and environment-dependent, coarse-grained, knowledge-based potentials for protein-protein docking 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:280.
Computational approaches to protein-protein docking typically include scoring aimed at improving the rank of the near-native structure relative to the false-positive matches. Knowledge-based potentials improve modeling of protein complexes by taking advantage of the rapidly increasing amount of experimentally derived information on protein-protein association. An essential element of knowledge-based potentials is defining the reference state for an optimal description of the residue-residue (or atom-atom) pairs in the non-interaction state.
The study presents a new Distance- and Environment-dependent, Coarse-grained, Knowledge-based (DECK) potential for scoring of protein-protein docking predictions. Training sets of protein-protein matches were generated based on bound and unbound forms of proteins taken from the DOCKGROUND resource. Each residue was represented by a pseudo-atom in the geometric center of the side chain. To capture the long-range and the multi-body interactions, residues in different secondary structure elements at protein-protein interfaces were considered as different residue types. Five reference states for the potentials were defined and tested. The optimal reference state was selected and the cutoff effect on the distance-dependent potentials investigated. The potentials were validated on the docking decoys sets, showing better performance than the existing potentials used in scoring of protein-protein docking results.
A novel residue-based statistical potential for protein-protein docking was developed and validated on docking decoy sets. The results show that the scoring function DECK can successfully identify near-native protein-protein matches and thus is useful in protein docking. In addition to the practical application of the potentials, the study provides insights into the relative utility of the reference states, the scope of the distance dependence, and the coarse-graining of the potentials.
PMCID: PMC3145612  PMID: 21745398
22.  Selection of Alternative 5′ Splice Sites: Role of U1 snRNP and Models for the Antagonistic Effects of SF2/ASF and hnRNP A1 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(22):8303-8318.
The first component known to recognize and discriminate among potential 5′ splice sites (5′SSs) in pre-mRNA is the U1 snRNP. However, the relative levels of U1 snRNP binding to alternative 5′SSs do not necessarily determine the splicing outcome. Strikingly, SF2/ASF, one of the essential SR protein-splicing factors, causes a dose-dependent shift in splicing to a downstream (intron-proximal) site, and yet it increases U1 snRNP binding at upstream and downstream sites simultaneously. We show here that hnRNP A1, which shifts splicing towards an upstream 5′SS, causes reduced U1 snRNP binding at both sites. Nonetheless, the importance of U1 snRNP binding is shown by proportionality between the level of U1 snRNP binding to the downstream site and its use in splicing. With purified components, hnRNP A1 reduces U1 snRNP binding to 5′SSs by binding cooperatively and indiscriminately to the pre-mRNA. Mutations in hnRNP A1 and SF2/ASF show that the opposite effects of the proteins on 5′SS choice are correlated with their effects on U1 snRNP binding. Cross-linking experiments show that SF2/ASF and hnRNP A1 compete to bind pre-mRNA, and we conclude that this competition is the basis of their functional antagonism; SF2/ASF enhances U1 snRNP binding at all 5′SSs, the rise in simultaneous occupancy causing a shift in splicing towards the downstream site, whereas hnRNP A1 interferes with U1 snRNP binding such that 5′SS occupancy is lower and the affinities of U1 snRNP for the individual sites determine the site of splicing.
PMCID: PMC102138  PMID: 11046128
23.  The RNA binding protein hnRNP-K mediates post-transcriptional regulation of uncoupling protein-2 by angiopoietin-1 
Cellular Signalling  2014;26(7):1379-1384.
Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) is a ligand for the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 and has key roles in the development of the vascular system and vascular protection. In a screen to define signalling pathways regulated by Ang1 in endothelial cells we found the RNA-binding protein hnRNP-K to be phosphorylated in response to Ang1. The ligand stimulated both tyrosine phosphorylation of hnRNP-K and recruitment of the tyrosine kinase Src to the RNA-binding protein. In endothelial cells hnRNP-K was found bound to mRNA encoding the mitochondrial protein uncoupling protein-2 (UCP2). Ang1 stimulation of cells resulted in the release of UCP2 mRNA from hnRNP-K. Using in vitro assays we confirmed direct binding between hnRNP-K and UCP2 mRNA. Furthermore Src induced phosphorylation of purified hnRNP-K and prevented UCP2 mRNA binding. Tyrosine 458 in the RNA-binding protein was found to be required for suppression of UCP2 mRNA binding by Src phosphorylation. In addition to releasing UCP2 mRNA from hnRNP-K, Ang1 induced an increase in UCP2 protein expression in endothelial cells without affecting total UCP2 mRNA levels. Consistent with the known effects of UCP2 to suppress generation of reactive oxygen species, Ang1 limited ROS production in endothelium stimulated with tumour necrosis factor-α. Taken together these data suggest that UCP2 mRNA is present in endothelial cells bound to hnRNP-K, which holds it in a translationally inactive state, and that Ang1 stimulates Src interaction with hnRNP-K, phosphorylation of the RNA-binding protein, release of these transcripts and upregulation of UCP2 protein expression. This study demonstrates a new mechanism for post-transcriptional regulation of UCP2 by the vascular protective ligand Ang1. The ability to rapidly upregulate UCP2 protein expression may be important in protecting endothelial cells from excessive generation of potentially damaging reactive oxygen species.
•In endothelial cells UCP2 mRNA is bound to hnRNP-K.•hnRNP-K suppresses UCP2 mRNA translation.•Ang1 stimulates recruitment of Src, phosphorylation of hnRNP-K and mRNA release.•Src phosphorylation of tyrosine-458 in hnRNP-K suppresses UCP2 mRNA binding.•Ang1 increases UCP2 protein levels.
PMCID: PMC4039131  PMID: 24642125
Endothelial; Angiopoietin; hnRNP-K; Uncoupling protein-2; Reactive oxygen species
24.  Genetic trans-Complementation Establishes a New Model for Influenza Virus RNA Transcription and Replication 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(5):e1000462.
The influenza A viruses genome comprises eight single-stranded RNA segments of negative polarity. Each one is included in a ribonucleoprotein particle (vRNP) containing the polymerase complex and a number of nucleoprotein (NP) monomers. Viral RNA replication proceeds by formation of a complementary RNP of positive polarity (cRNP) that serves as intermediate to generate many progeny vRNPs. Transcription initiation takes place by a cap-snatching mechanism whereby the polymerase steals a cellular capped oligonucleotide and uses it as primer to copy the vRNP template. Transcription termination occurs prematurely at the polyadenylation signal, which the polymerase copies repeatedly to generate a 3′-terminal polyA. Here we studied the mechanisms of the viral RNA replication and transcription. We used efficient systems for recombinant RNP transcription/replication in vivo and well-defined polymerase mutants deficient in either RNA replication or transcription to address the roles of the polymerase complex present in the template RNP and newly synthesised polymerase complexes during replication and transcription. The results of trans-complementation experiments showed that soluble polymerase complexes can synthesise progeny RNA in trans and become incorporated into progeny vRNPs, but only transcription in cis could be detected. These results are compatible with a new model for virus RNA replication, whereby a template RNP would be replicated in trans by a soluble polymerase complex and a polymerase complex distinct from the replicative enzyme would direct the encapsidation of progeny vRNA. In contrast, transcription of the vRNP would occur in cis and the resident polymerase complex would be responsible for mRNA synthesis and polyadenylation.
Author Summary
The influenza A viruses produce annual epidemics and occasional pandemics of respiratory disease. There is great concern about a potential new pandemic being caused by presently circulating avian influenza viruses, and hence increasing interest in understanding how the virus replicates its genome. This comprises eight molecules of RNA, each one bound to a polymerase complex and encapsidated by multiple copies of the nucleoprotein, in the form of ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs). These structures are responsible for virus RNA replication and transcription but the detailed mechanisms of these processes are not fully understood. We report here the results of genetic complementation experiments using proficient in vitro and in vivo recombinant systems for transcription and replication, and polymerase point mutants that are either transcription-defective or replication-defective. These results are compatible with a new model for virus replication whereby a polymerase distinct from that present in the parental RNP is responsible for RNA replication in trans and the progeny RNP is associated to a polymerase distinct from that performing replication. In contrast, transcription is carried out in cis by the polymerase resident in the RNP.
PMCID: PMC2682650  PMID: 19478885
25.  Application of asymmetric statistical potentials to antibody–protein docking 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(20):2608-2614.
Motivation: An effective docking algorithm for antibody–protein antigen complex prediction is an important first step toward design of biologics and vaccines. We have recently developed a new class of knowledge-based interaction potentials called Decoys as the Reference State (DARS) and incorporated DARS into the docking program PIPER based on the fast Fourier transform correlation approach. Although PIPER was the best performer in the latest rounds of the CAPRI protein docking experiment, it is much less accurate for docking antibody–protein antigen pairs than other types of complexes, in spite of incorporating sequence-based information on the location of the paratope. Analysis of antibody–protein antigen complexes has revealed an inherent asymmetry within these interfaces. Specifically, phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine residues highly populate the paratope of the antibody but not the epitope of the antigen.
Results: Since this asymmetry cannot be adequately modeled using a symmetric pairwise potential, we have removed the usual assumption of symmetry. Interaction statistics were extracted from antibody–protein complexes under the assumption that a particular atom on the antibody is different from the same atom on the antigen protein. The use of the new potential significantly improves the performance of docking for antibody–protein antigen complexes, even without any sequence information on the location of the paratope. We note that the asymmetric potential captures the effects of the multi-body interactions inherent to the complex environment in the antibody–protein antigen interface.
Availability: The method is implemented in the ClusPro protein docking server, available at
Contact: or
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3467743  PMID: 23053206

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