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1.  An extended dsRBD is required for post-transcriptional modification in human tRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(19):9446-9456.
In tRNA, dihydrouridine is a conserved modified base generated by the post-transcriptional reduction of uridine. Formation of dihydrouridine 20, located in the D-loop, is catalyzed by dihydrouridine synthase 2 (Dus2). Human Dus2 (HsDus2) expression is upregulated in lung cancers, offering a growth advantage throughout its ability to interact with components of the translation apparatus and inhibit apoptosis. Here, we report the crystal structure of the individual domains of HsDus2 and their functional characterization. HsDus2 is organized into three major modules. The N-terminal catalytic domain contains the flavin cofactor involved in the reduction of uridine. The second module is the conserved α-helical domain known as the tRNA binding domain in HsDus2 homologues. It is connected via a flexible linker to an unusual extended version of a dsRNA binding domain (dsRBD). Enzymatic assays and yeast complementation showed that the catalytic domain binds selectively NADPH but cannot reduce uridine in the absence of the dsRBD. While in Dus enzymes from bacteria, plants and fungi, tRNA binding is essentially achieved by the α-helical domain, we showed that in HsDus2 this function is carried out by the dsRBD. This is the first reported case of a tRNA-modifying enzyme carrying a dsRBD used to bind tRNAs.
PMCID: PMC4627097  PMID: 26429968
2.  Dynamics of RNA modification by a multi-site-specific tRNA methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(18):11697-11706.
In most organisms, the widely conserved 1-methyl-adenosine58 (m1A58) tRNA modification is catalyzed by an S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM)-dependent, site-specific enzyme TrmI. In archaea, TrmI also methylates the adjacent adenine 57, m1A57 being an obligatory intermediate of 1-methyl-inosine57 formation. To study this multi-site specificity, we used three oligoribonucleotide substrates of Pyrococcus abyssi TrmI (PabTrmI) containing a fluorescent 2-aminopurine (2-AP) at the two target positions and followed the RNA binding kinetics and methylation reactions by stopped-flow and mass spectrometry. PabTrmI did not modify 2-AP but methylated the adjacent target adenine. 2-AP seriously impaired the methylation of A57 but not A58, confirming that PabTrmI methylates efficiently the first adenine of the A57A58A59 sequence. PabTrmI binding provoked a rapid increase of fluorescence, attributed to base unstacking in the environment of 2-AP. Then, a slow decrease was observed only with 2-AP at position 57 and SAM, suggesting that m1A58 formation triggers RNA release. A model of the protein–tRNA complex shows both target adenines in proximity of SAM and emphasizes no major tRNA conformational change except base flipping during the reaction. The solvent accessibility of the SAM pocket is not affected by the tRNA, thereby enabling S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine to be replaced by SAM without prior release of monomethylated tRNA.
PMCID: PMC4191401  PMID: 25217588
3.  The human tRNA m5C methyltransferase Misu is multisite-specific 
RNA Biology  2012;9(11):1331-1338.
The human tRNA m5C methyltransferase Misu is a novel downstream target of the proto-oncogene Myc that participates in controlling cell division and proliferation. Misu catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to carbon 5 of cytosines in tRNAs. It was previously shown to catalyze in vitro the intron-dependent formation of m5C at the first position of the anticodon (position 34) within the human pre-tRNALeu(CAA). In addition, it was recently reported that C48 and C49 are methylated in vivo by Misu. We report here the expression of hMisu in Escherichia coli and its purification to homogeneity. We show that this enzyme methylates position 48 in tRNALeu(CAA) with or without intron and positions 48, 49 and 50 in tRNAGly2(GCC) in vitro. Therefore, hMisu is the enzyme responsible for the methylation of at least four cytosines in human tRNAs. By comparison, the orthologous yeast enzyme Trm4 catalyzes the methylation of carbon 5 of cytosine at positions 34, 40, 48 or 49 depending on the tRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3597573  PMID: 22995836
tRNA modification enzyme; RNA methyltransferase; 5-methylcytosine; m5C; Misu; NSun2; Trm4
4.  Crystal Structure of Two Anti-Porphyrin Antibodies with Peroxidase Activity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51128.
We report the crystal structures at 2.05 and 2.45 Å resolution of two antibodies, 13G10 and 14H7, directed against an iron(III)-αααβ-carboxyphenylporphyrin, which display some peroxidase activity. Although these two antibodies differ by only one amino acid in their variable λ-light chain and display 86% sequence identity in their variable heavy chain, their complementary determining regions (CDR) CDRH1 and CDRH3 adopt very different conformations. The presence of Met or Leu residues at positions preceding residue H101 in CDRH3 in 13G10 and 14H7, respectively, yields to shallow combining sites pockets with different shapes that are mainly hydrophobic. The hapten and other carboxyphenyl-derivatized iron(III)-porphyrins have been modeled in the active sites of both antibodies using protein ligand docking with the program GOLD. The hapten is maintained in the antibody pockets of 13G10 and 14H7 by a strong network of hydrogen bonds with two or three carboxylates of the carboxyphenyl substituents of the porphyrin, respectively, as well as numerous stacking and van der Waals interactions with the very hydrophobic CDRH3. However, no amino acid residue was found to chelate the iron. Modeling also allows us to rationalize the recognition of alternative porphyrinic cofactors by the 13G10 and 14H7 antibodies and the effect of imidazole binding on the peroxidase activity of the 13G10/porphyrin complexes.
PMCID: PMC3519839  PMID: 23240001
5.  Structural comparison of tRNA m1A58 methyltransferases revealed different molecular strategies to maintain their oligomeric architecture under extreme conditions 
tRNA m1A58 methyltransferases (TrmI) catalyze the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-L-methionine to nitrogen 1 of adenine 58 in the T-loop of tRNAs from all three domains of life. The m1A58 modification has been shown to be essential for cell growth in yeast and for adaptation to high temperatures in thermophilic organisms. These enzymes were shown to be active as tetramers. The crystal structures of five TrmIs from hyperthermophilic archaea and thermophilic or mesophilic bacteria have previously been determined, the optimal growth temperature of these organisms ranging from 37°C to 100°C. All TrmIs are assembled as tetramers formed by dimers of tightly assembled dimers.
In this study, we present a comparative structural analysis of these TrmIs, which highlights factors that allow them to function over a large range of temperature. The monomers of the five enzymes are structurally highly similar, but the inter-monomer contacts differ strongly. Our analysis shows that bacterial enzymes from thermophilic organisms display additional intermolecular ionic interactions across the dimer interfaces, whereas hyperthermophilic enzymes present additional hydrophobic contacts. Moreover, as an alternative to two bidentate ionic interactions that stabilize the tetrameric interface in all other TrmI proteins, the tetramer of the archaeal P. abyssi enzyme is strengthened by four intersubunit disulfide bridges.
The availability of crystal structures of TrmIs from mesophilic, thermophilic or hyperthermophilic organisms allows a detailed analysis of the architecture of this protein family. Our structural comparisons provide insight into the different molecular strategies used to achieve the tetrameric organization in order to maintain the enzyme activity under extreme conditions.
PMCID: PMC3281791  PMID: 22168821
6.  Insights into the hyperthermostability and unusual region-specificity of archaeal Pyrococcus abyssi tRNA m1A57/58 methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(18):6206-6218.
The S-adenosyl-l-methionine dependent methylation of adenine 58 in the T-loop of tRNAs is essential for cell growth in yeast or for adaptation to high temperatures in thermophilic organisms. In contrast to bacterial and eukaryotic tRNA m1A58 methyltransferases that are site-specific, the homologous archaeal enzyme from Pyrococcus abyssi catalyzes the formation of m1A also at the adjacent position 57, m1A57 being a precursor of 1-methylinosine. We report here the crystal structure of P. abyssi tRNA m1A57/58 methyltransferase (PabTrmI), in complex with S-adenosyl-l-methionine or S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine in three different space groups. The fold of the monomer and the tetrameric architecture are similar to those of the bacterial enzymes. However, the inter-monomer contacts exhibit unique features. In particular, four disulfide bonds contribute to the hyperthermostability of the archaeal enzyme since their mutation lowers the melting temperature by 16.5°C. His78 in conserved motif X, which is present only in TrmIs from the Thermococcocales order, lies near the active site and displays two alternative conformations. Mutagenesis indicates His78 is important for catalytic efficiency of PabTrmI. When A59 is absent in tRNAAsp, only A57 is modified. Identification of the methylated positions in tRNAAsp by mass spectrometry confirms that PabTrmI methylates the first adenine of an AA sequence.
PMCID: PMC2952851  PMID: 20483913
7.  The crystal structure of Pyrococcus abyssi tRNA (uracil-54, C5)-methyltransferase provides insights into its tRNA specificity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(15):4929-4940.
The 5-methyluridine is invariably found at position 54 in the TΨC loop of tRNAs of most organisms. In Pyrococcus abyssi, its formation is catalyzed by the S-adenosyl-l-methionine-dependent tRNA (uracil-54, C5)-methyltransferase (PabTrmU54), an enzyme that emerged through an ancient horizontal transfer of an RNA (uracil, C5)-methyltransferase-like gene from bacteria to archaea. The crystal structure of PabTrmU54 in complex with S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine at 1.9 Å resolution shows the protein organized into three domains like Escherichia coli RumA, which catalyzes the same reaction at position 1939 of 23S rRNA. A positively charged groove at the interface between the three domains probably locates part of the tRNA-binding site of PabTrmU54. We show that a mini-tRNA lacking both the D and anticodon stem-loops is recognized by PabTrmU54. These results were used to model yeast tRNAAsp in the PabTrmU54 structure to get further insights into the different RNA specificities of RumA and PabTrmU54. Interestingly, the presence of two flexible loops in the central domain, unique to PabTrmU54, may explain the different substrate selectivities of both enzymes. We also predict that a large TΨC loop conformational change has to occur for the flipping of the target uridine into the PabTrmU54 active site during catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2528175  PMID: 18653523
8.  THUMP from archaeal tRNA:m22G10 methyltransferase, a genuine autonomously folding domain 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(9):2483-2494.
The tRNA:m22G10 methyltransferase of Pyrococus abyssi (PAB1283, a member of COG1041) catalyzes the N2,N2-dimethylation of guanosine at position 10 in tRNA. Boundaries of its THUMP (THioUridine synthases, RNA Methyltransferases and Pseudo-uridine synthases)—containing N-terminal domain [1–152] and C-terminal catalytic domain [157–329] were assessed by trypsin limited proteolysis. An inter-domain flexible region of at least six residues was revealed. The N-terminal domain was then produced as a standalone protein (THUMPα) and further characterized. This autonomously folded unit exhibits very low affinity for tRNA. Using protein fold-recognition (FR) methods, we identified the similarity between THUMPα and a putative RNA-recognition module observed in the crystal structure of another THUMP-containing protein (ThiI thiolase of Bacillus anthracis). A comparative model of THUMPα structure was generated, which fulfills experimentally defined restraints, i.e. chemical modification of surface exposed residues assessed by mass spectrometry, and identification of an intramolecular disulfide bridge. A model of the whole PAB1283 enzyme docked onto its tRNAAsp substrate suggests that the THUMP module specifically takes support on the co-axially stacked helices of T-arm and acceptor stem of tRNA and, together with the catalytic domain, screw-clamp structured tRNA. We propose that this mode of interactions may be common to other THUMP-containing enzymes that specifically modify nucleotides in the 3D-core of tRNA.
PMCID: PMC1459410  PMID: 16687654

Results 1-8 (8)