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1.  The Cas6e ribonuclease is not required for interference and adaptation by the E. coli type I-E CRISPR-Cas system 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(12):6049-6061.
CRISPR-Cas are small RNA-based adaptive prokaryotic immunity systems protecting cells from foreign DNA or RNA. Type I CRISPR-Cas systems are composed of a multiprotein complex (Cascade) that, when bound to CRISPR RNA (crRNA), can recognize double-stranded DNA targets and recruit the Cas3 nuclease to destroy target-containing DNA. In the Escherichia coli type I-E CRISPR-Cas system, crRNAs are generated upon transcription of CRISPR arrays consisting of multiple palindromic repeats and intervening spacers through the function of Cas6e endoribonuclease, which cleaves at specific positions of repeat sequences of the CRISPR array transcript. Cas6e is also a component of Cascade. Here, we show that when mature unit-sized crRNAs are provided in a Cas6e-independent manner by transcription termination, the CRISPR-Cas system can function without Cas6e. The results should allow facile interrogation of various targets by type I-E CRISPR-Cas system in E. coli using unit-sized crRNAs generated by transcription.
PMCID: PMC4499155  PMID: 26013814
2.  CRISPR RNA binding and DNA target recognition by purified Cascade complexes from Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(1):530-543.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and their associated Cas proteins comprise a prokaryotic RNA-guided adaptive immune system that interferes with mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids and phages. The type I-E CRISPR interference complex Cascade from Escherichia coli is composed of five different Cas proteins and a 61-nt-long guide RNA (crRNA). crRNAs contain a unique 32-nt spacer flanked by a repeat-derived 5′ handle (8 nt) and a 3′ handle (21 nt). The spacer part of crRNA directs Cascade to DNA targets. Here, we show that the E. coli Cascade can be expressed and purified from cells lacking crRNAs and loaded in vitro with synthetic crRNAs, which direct it to targets complementary to crRNA spacer. The deletion of even one nucleotide from the crRNA 5′ handle disrupted its binding to Cascade and target DNA recognition. In contrast, crRNA variants with just a single nucleotide downstream of the spacer part bound Cascade and the resulting ribonucleotide complex containing a 41-nt-long crRNA specifically recognized DNA targets. Thus, the E. coli Cascade-crRNA system exhibits significant flexibility suggesting that this complex can be engineered for applications in genome editing and opening the way for incorporation of site-specific labels in crRNA.
PMCID: PMC4288178  PMID: 25488810
3.  Toroidal structure and DNA cleavage by the CRISPR-associated [4Fe-4S]-cluster containing Cas4 nuclease SSO0001 from Sulfolobus solfataricus 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2013;135(46):17476-17487.
Cas4 proteins, a core protein family associated with the microbial system of adaptive immunity CRISPR, are predicted to function in the adaptation step of the CRISPR mechanism. Here we show that the Cas4 protein SSO0001 from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has metal-dependent endonuclease and 5' to 3' exonuclease activities against single-stranded DNA, as well as ATP-independent DNA unwinding activity toward double-stranded DNA. The crystal structure of SSO0001 revealed a decameric toroid formed by five dimers with each protomer containing one [4Fe-4S] cluster and one Mn2+ ion bound in the active site located inside the internal tunnel. The conserved RecB motif and four Cys residues are important for DNA binding and cleavage activities, whereas DNA unwinding depends on several residues located near the [4Fe-4S]-cluster. Our results suggest that Cas4 proteins might contribute to the addition of novel CRISPR spacers through the formation of 3'-DNA overhangs and to the degradation of foreign DNA.
PMCID: PMC3889865  PMID: 24171432
CRISPR interference; Cas4; exonuclease; RecB motif; [4Fe-4S] cluster
4.  The CRISPR-associated Cas4 protein Pcal_0546 from Pyrobaculum calidifontis contains a [2Fe-2S] cluster: crystal structure and nuclease activity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(17):11144-11155.
Cas4 nucleases constitute a core family of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) associated proteins, but little is known about their structure and activity. Here we report the crystal structure of the Cas4 protein Pcal_0546 from Pyrobaculum calidifontis, which revealed a monomeric protein with a RecB-like fold and one [2Fe-2S] cluster coordinated by four conserved Cys residues. Pcal_0546 exhibits metal-dependent 5′ to 3′ exonuclease activity against ssDNA substrates, whereas the Cas4 protein SSO1391 from Sulfolobus solfataricus can cleave ssDNA in both the 5′ to 3′ and 3′ to 5′ directions. The active site of Pcal_0546 contains a bound metal ion coordinated by the side chains of Asp123, Glu136, His146, and the main chain carbonyl of Ile137. Site-directed mutagenesis of Pcal_0546 and SSO1391 revealed that the residues of RecB motifs II, III and QhXXY are critical for nuclease activity, whereas mutations of the conserved Cys residues resulted in a loss of the iron-sulfur cluster, but had no effect on DNA cleavage. Our results revealed the biochemical diversity of Cas4 nucleases, which can have different oligomeric states, contain [4Fe-4S] or [2Fe-2S] clusters, and cleave single stranded DNA in different directions producing single-stranded DNA overhangs, which are potential intermediates for the synthesis of new CRISPR spacers.
PMCID: PMC4176176  PMID: 25200083
5.  Biochemical and Structural Studies of Conserved Maf Proteins Revealed Nucleotide Pyrophosphatases with a Preference for Modified Nucleotides 
Chemistry & Biology  2013;20(11):1386-1398.
Maf (for multicopy associated filamentation) proteins represent a large family of conserved proteins implicated in cell division arrest but whose biochemical activity remains unknown. Here, we show that the prokaryotic and eukaryotic Maf proteins exhibit nucleotide pyrophosphatase activity against 5-methyl-UTP, pseudo-UTP, 5-methyl-CTP, and 7-methyl-GTP, which represent the most abundant modified bases in all organisms, as well as against canonical nucleotides dTTP, UTP, and CTP. Overexpression of the Maf protein YhdE in E. coli cells increased intracellular levels of dTMP and UMP, confirming that dTTP and UTP are the in vivo substrates of this protein. Crystal structures and site-directed mutagenesis of Maf proteins revealed the determinants of their activity and substrate specificity. Thus, pyrophosphatase activity of Maf proteins toward canonical and modified nucleotides might provide the molecular mechanism for a dual role of these proteins in cell division arrest and house cleaning.
Graphical Abstract
•Maf proteins represent a family of nucleoside triphosphate pyrophosphatases•Maf proteins hydrolyze the canonical nucleotides dTTP, UTP, and CTP•Maf proteins are also active against m5UTP, m5CTP, pseudo-UTP, and m7GTP•Maf structures reveal the molecular mechanisms of their substrate selectivity
Tchigvintsev et al. show that Maf proteins are a family of nucleotide pyrophosphatases active against both canonical and modified nucleotides. This suggests that Mafs might have a dual role in cell division and in the prevention of the incorporation of modified nucleotides into cellular nucleic acids.
PMCID: PMC3899018  PMID: 24210219
6.  A dual function of the CRISPR-Cas system in bacterial antivirus immunity and DNA repair 
Molecular microbiology  2010;79(2):484-502.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs) and the associated proteins (Cas) comprise a system of adaptive immunity against viruses and plasmids in prokaryotes. Cas1 is a CRISPR-associated protein that is common to all CRISPR-containing prokaryotes but its function remains obscure. Here we show that the purified Cas1 protein of Escherichia coli (YgbT) exhibits nuclease activity against single-stranded and branched DNAs including Holliday junctions, replication forks, and 5′-flaps. The crystal structure of YgbT and site-directed mutagenesis have revealed the potential active site. Genome-wide screens show that YgbT physically and genetically interacts with key components of DNA repair systems, including recB, recC and ruvB. Consistent with these findings, the ygbT deletion strain showed increased sensitivity to DNA damage and impaired chromosomal segregation. Similar phenotypes were observed in strains with deletion of CRISPR clusters, suggesting that the function of YgbT in repair involves interaction with the CRISPRs. These results show that YgbT belongs to a novel, structurally distinct family of nucleases acting on branched DNAs and suggest that, in addition to antiviral immunity, at least some components of the CRISPR-Cas system have a function in DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC3071548  PMID: 21219465
Cas1; CRISPR; DNA recombination; DNA repair; nuclease; YgbT
7.  Site-Selective Artificial Ribonucleases: Oligonucleotide Conjugates Containing Multiple Imidazole Residues in the Catalytic Domain 
Journal of Nucleic Acids  2011;2011:748632.
Design of site-selective artificial ribonucleases (aRNases) is one of the most challenging tasks in RNA targeting. Here, we designed and studied oligonucleotide-based aRNases containing multiple imidazole residues in the catalytic part and systematically varied structure of cleaving constructs. We demonstrated that the ribonuclease activity of the conjugates is strongly affected by the number of imidazole residues in the catalytic part, the length of a linker between the catalytic imidazole groups of the construct and the oligonucleotide, and the type of anchor group, connecting linker structure and the oligonucleotide. Molecular modeling of the most active aRNases showed that preferable orientation(s) of cleaving constructs strongly depend on the structure of the anchor group and length of the linker. The inclusion of deoxyribothymidine anchor group significantly reduced the probability of cleaving groups to locate near the cleavage site, presumably due to a stacking interaction with the neighbouring nucleotide residue. Altogether the obtained results show that dynamics factors play an important role in site-specific RNA cleavage. Remarkably high cleavage activity was displayed by the conjugates with the most flexible and extended cleaving construct, which presumably provides a better opportunity for imidazole residues to be correctly positioned in the vicinity of scissile phosphodiester bond.
PMCID: PMC3180074  PMID: 21961054
8.  Thermodynamic, kinetic and structural basis for recognition and repair of abasic sites in DNA by apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease from human placenta 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(17):5134-5146.
X-ray analysis of enzyme–DNA interactions is very informative in revealing molecular contacts, but provides neither quantitative estimates of the relative importance of these contacts nor information on the relative contributions of specific and nonspecific interactions to the total affinity of enzymes for specific DNA. A stepwise increase in the ligand complexity approach is used to estimate the relative contributions of virtually every nucleotide unit of synthetic DNA containing abasic sites to its affinity for apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease (APE1) from human placenta. It was found that APE1 interacts with 9–10 nt units or base pairs of single-stranded and double-stranded ribooligonucleotides and deoxyribooligonucleotides of different lengths and sequences, mainly through weak additive contacts with internucleotide phosphate groups. Such nonspecific interactions of APE1 with nearly every nucleotide within its DNA-binding cleft provides up to seven orders of magnitude (ΔG° ∼ −8.7 to −9.0 kcal/mol) of the enzyme affinity for any DNA substrate. In contrast, interactions with the abasic site together with other specific APE1–DNA interactions provide only one order of magnitude (ΔG° ∼ −1.1 to −1.5 kcal/mol) of the total affinity of APE1 for specific DNA. We conclude that the enzyme's specificity for abasic sites in DNA is mostly due to a great increase (six to seven orders of magnitude) in the reaction rate with specific DNA, with formation of the Michaelis complex contributing to the substrate preference only marginally.
PMCID: PMC521659  PMID: 15459284
9.  Sequence-specific artificial ribonucleases. I. Bis-imidazole-containing oligonucleotide conjugates prepared using precursor-based strategy 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(13):3887-3897.
Antisense oligonucleotide conjugates, bearing constructs with two imidazole residues, were synthesized using a precursor-based technique employing post-synthetic histamine functionalization of oligonucleotides bearing methoxyoxalamido precursors at the 5′-termini. The conjugates were assessed in terms of their cleavage activities using both biochemical assays and conformational analysis by molecular modelling. The oligonucleotide part of the conjugates was complementary to the T-arm of yeast tRNAPhe (44–60 nt) and was expected to deliver imidazole groups near the fragile sequence C61-ACA-G65 of the tRNA. The conjugates showed ribonuclease activity at neutral pH and physiological temperature resulting in complete cleavage of the target RNA, mainly at the C63–A64 phosphodiester bond. For some constructs, cleavage was completed within 1–2 h under optimal conditions. Molecular modelling was used to determine the preferred orientation(s) of the cleaving group(s) in the complexes of the conjugates with RNA target. Cleaving constructs bearing two imidazole residues were found to be conformationally highly flexible, adopting no preferred specific conformation. No interactions other than complementary base pairing between the conjugates and the target were found to be the factors stabilizing the ‘active’ cleaving conformation(s).
PMCID: PMC506794  PMID: 15273275

Results 1-9 (9)