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1.  Mechanism of DNA loading by the DNA repair helicase XPD 
Nucleic Acids Research  2016;44(6):2806-2815.
The xeroderma pigmentosum group D (XPD) helicase is a component of the transcription factor IIH complex in eukaryotes and plays an essential role in DNA repair in the nucleotide excision repair pathway. XPD is a 5′ to 3′ helicase with an essential iron–sulfur cluster. Structural and biochemical studies of the monomeric archaeal XPD homologues have aided a mechanistic understanding of this important class of helicase, but several important questions remain open. In particular, the mechanism for DNA loading, which is assumed to require large protein conformational change, is not fully understood. Here, DNA binding by the archaeal XPD helicase from Thermoplasma acidophilum has been investigated using a combination of crystallography, cross-linking, modified substrates and biochemical assays. The data are consistent with an initial tight binding of ssDNA to helicase domain 2, followed by transient opening of the interface between the Arch and 4FeS domains, allowing access to a second binding site on helicase domain 1 that directs DNA through the pore. A crystal structure of XPD from Sulfolobus acidocaldiarius that lacks helicase domain 2 has an otherwise unperturbed structure, emphasizing the stability of the interface between the Arch and 4FeS domains in XPD.
PMCID: PMC4824113  PMID: 26896802
2.  Binding dynamics of a monomeric SSB protein to DNA: a single-molecule multi-process approach 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(22):10907-10924.
Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSBs) are ubiquitous across all organisms and are characterized by the presence of an OB (oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide/oligopeptide) binding motif to recognize single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). Despite their critical role in genome maintenance, our knowledge about SSB function is limited to proteins containing multiple OB-domains and little is known about single OB-folds interacting with ssDNA. Sulfolobus solfataricus SSB (SsoSSB) contains a single OB-fold and being the simplest representative of the SSB-family may serve as a model to understand fundamental aspects of SSB:DNA interactions. Here, we introduce a novel approach based on the competition between Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), protein-induced fluorescence enhancement (PIFE) and quenching to dissect SsoSSB binding dynamics at single-monomer resolution. We demonstrate that SsoSSB follows a monomer-by-monomer binding mechanism that involves a positive-cooperativity component between adjacent monomers. We found that SsoSSB dynamic behaviour is closer to that of Replication Protein A than to Escherichia coli SSB; a feature that might be inherited from the structural analogies of their DNA-binding domains. We hypothesize that SsoSSB has developed a balance between high-density binding and a highly dynamic interaction with ssDNA to ensure efficient protection of the genome but still allow access to ssDNA during vital cellular processes.
PMCID: PMC4678828  PMID: 26578575
3.  Intrinsic sequence specificity of the Cas1 integrase directs new spacer acquisition 
eLife  null;4:e08716.
The adaptive prokaryotic immune system CRISPR-Cas provides RNA-mediated protection from invading genetic elements. The fundamental basis of the system is the ability to capture small pieces of foreign DNA for incorporation into the genome at the CRISPR locus, a process known as Adaptation, which is dependent on the Cas1 and Cas2 proteins. We demonstrate that Cas1 catalyses an efficient trans-esterification reaction on branched DNA substrates, which represents the reverse- or disintegration reaction. Cas1 from both Escherichia coli and Sulfolobus solfataricus display sequence specific activity, with a clear preference for the nucleotides flanking the integration site at the leader-repeat 1 boundary of the CRISPR locus. Cas2 is not required for this activity and does not influence the specificity. This suggests that the inherent sequence specificity of Cas1 is a major determinant of the adaptation process.
eLife digest
In most animals, the adaptive immune system creates specialized cells that adapt to efficiently fight off any viruses or other pathogens that have invaded. Bacteria (and another group of single-celled organisms called archaea) also have an adaptive immune system, known as CRISPR-Cas, that combats viral invaders. This system is based on sections of the microbes' DNA called CRISPRs, which contain repetitive DNA sequences that are separated by short segments of ‘spacer’ DNA. When a virus invades the cell, some viral DNA is incorporated into the CRISPR as a spacer. This process is known as adaptation. CRISPR-associated proteins (or ‘Cas’ proteins) then use this spacer to recognize and mount an attack on any matching invader DNA that is later encountered.
Exactly how a spacer is inserted into the correct position in the CRISPR array during adaptation remains poorly understood. However, it is known that two CRISPR proteins called Cas1 and Cas2 play essential roles in this process.
Rollie et al. took Cas1 proteins from a bacterial cell (Escherichia coli) and an archaeal species (Sulfolobus solfataricus) and added them to branched DNA structures in the laboratory. These experiments revealed that Cas1 from both organisms can break the DNA down into smaller pieces. Cas2, on the other hand, is not required for this process. This ‘disintegration’ reaction is the reverse process of the ‘integration’ step of adaptation where the CRISPR proteins insert the invader DNA into the CRISPR array.
Rollie et al. also found that the disintegration reaction performed by Cas1 takes place on specific DNA sequences, which are also the sites where Cas1 inserts the spacer DNA during adaptation. Therefore, by examining the disintegration reaction, many of the details of the integration step can be deduced.
Overall, Rollie et al. show that selection by Cas1 plays an important role in restricting the adaptation process to particular DNA sites. The next step will be to use the disintegration reaction to examine the DNA binding and manipulation steps performed by Cas1 as part of its role in the adaptation of the CRISPR system.
PMCID: PMC4574026  PMID: 26284603
Sulfolobus solfataricus; CRISPR; integrase; adaptation; E. coli; other
4.  Multiple nucleic acid cleavage modes in divergent type III CRISPR systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2016;44(4):1789-1799.
CRISPR-Cas is an RNA-guided adaptive immune system that protects bacteria and archaea from invading nucleic acids. Type III systems (Cmr, Csm) have been shown to cleave RNA targets in vitro and some are capable of transcription-dependent DNA targeting. The crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has two divergent subtypes of the type III system (Sso-IIID and a Cmr7-containing variant of Sso-IIIB). Here, we report that both the Sso-IIID and Sso-IIIB complexes cleave cognate RNA targets with a ruler mechanism and 6 or 12 nt spacing that relates to the organization of the Cas7 backbone. This backbone-mediated cleavage activity thus appears universal for the type III systems. The Sso-IIIB complex is also known to possess a distinct ‘UA’ cleavage mode. The predominant activity observed in vitro depends on the relative molar concentration of protein and target RNA. The Sso-IIID complex can cleave plasmid DNA targets in vitro, generating linear DNA products with an activity that is dependent on both the cyclase and HD nuclease domains of the Cas10 subunit, suggesting a role for both nuclease active sites in the degradation of double-stranded DNA targets.
PMCID: PMC4770243  PMID: 26801642
5.  Single-molecule characterization of Fen1 and Fen1/PCNA complexes acting on flap substrates 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(3):1857-1872.
Flap endonuclease 1 (Fen1) is a highly conserved structure-specific nuclease that catalyses a specific incision to remove 5′ flaps in double-stranded DNA substrates. Fen1 plays an essential role in key cellular processes, such as DNA replication and repair, and mutations that compromise Fen1 expression levels or activity have severe health implications in humans. The nuclease activity of Fen1 and other FEN family members can be stimulated by processivity clamps such as proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA); however, the exact mechanism of PCNA activation is currently unknown. Here, we have used a combination of ensemble and single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer together with protein-induced fluorescence enhancement to uncouple and investigate the substrate recognition and catalytic steps of Fen1 and Fen1/PCNA complexes. We propose a model in which upon Fen1 binding, a highly dynamic substrate is bent and locked into an open flap conformation where specific Fen1/DNA interactions can be established. PCNA enhances Fen1 recognition of the DNA substrate by further promoting the open flap conformation in a step that may involve facilitated threading of the 5′ ssDNA flap. Merging our data with existing crystallographic and molecular dynamics simulations we provide a solution-based model for the Fen1/PCNA/DNA ternary complex.
PMCID: PMC3919604  PMID: 24234453
6.  Taking a molecular motor for a spin: helicase mechanism studied by spin labeling and PELDOR 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;44(2):954-968.
The complex molecular motions central to the functions of helicases have long attracted attention. Protein crystallography has provided transformative insights into these dynamic conformational changes, however important questions about the true nature of helicase configurations during the catalytic cycle remain. Using pulsed EPR (PELDOR or DEER) to measure interdomain distances in solution, we have examined two representative helicases: PcrA from superfamily 1 and XPD from superfamily 2. The data show that PcrA is a dynamic structure with domain movements that correlate with particular functional states, confirming and extending the information gleaned from crystal structures and other techniques. XPD in contrast is shown to be a rigid protein with almost no conformational changes resulting from nucleotide or DNA binding, which is well described by static crystal structures. Our results highlight the complimentary nature of PELDOR to crystallography and the power of its precision in understanding the conformational changes relevant to helicase function.
PMCID: PMC4737156  PMID: 26657627
7.  Structure of the archaeal Cascade subunit Csa5 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):762-769.
The Cascade complex for CRISPR-mediated antiviral immunity uses CRISPR RNA (crRNA) to target invading DNA species from mobile elements such as viruses, leading to their destruction. The core of the Cascade effector complex consists of the Cas5 and Cas7 subunits, which are widely conserved in prokaryotes. Cas7 binds crRNA and forms the helical backbone of Cascade. Many archaea encode a version of the Cascade complex (denoted Type I-A) that includes a Csa5 (or small) subunit, which interacts weakly with the core proteins. Here, we report the crystal structure of the Csa5 protein from Sulfolobus solfataricus. Csa5 comprises a conserved α-helical domain with a small insertion consisting of a weakly conserved β-strand domain. In the crystal, the Csa5 monomers have multimerized into infinite helical threads. At each interface is a strictly conserved intersubunit salt bridge, deletion of which disrupts multimerization. Structural analysis indicates a shared evolutionary history among the small subunits of the CRISPR effector complexes. The same α-helical domain is found in the C-terminal domain of Cse2 (from Type I-E Cascade), while the N-terminal domain of Cse2 is found in Cmr5 of the CMR (Type III-B) effector complex. As Cmr5 shares no match with Csa5, two possibilities present themselves: selective domain loss from an ancestral Cse2 to create two new subfamilies or domain fusion of two separate families to create a new Cse2 family. A definitive answer awaits structural studies of further small subunits from other CRISPR effector complexes.
PMCID: PMC3737334  PMID: 23846216
CRISPR; Csa5; structure; CRISPR interference; Cascade
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;283(8):5118-5126.
Hel308 is a superfamily 2 helicase conserved in eukaryotes and archaea. It is thought to function in the early stages of recombination following replication fork arrest, and has a specificity for removal of the lagging strand in model replication forks. A homologous helicase constitutes the N-terminal domain of human DNA polymerase Q. The Drosophila homologue mus301 is implicated in double strand break repair and meiotic recombination. We have solved the high-resolution crystal structure of Hel308 from the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus, revealing a five-domain structure with a central pore lined with essential DNA binding residues. The fifth domain is shown to act as a molecular brake, clamping the ssDNA extruded through the central pore of the helicase structure to limit the enzyme’s helicase activity. This provides an elegant mechanism to tune the enzyme’s processivity to its functional role. Hel308 can displace streptavidin from a biotinylated DNA molecule, suggesting that one function of the enzyme may be in the removal of bound proteins at stalled replication forks and recombination intermediates.
PMCID: PMC3434800  PMID: 18056710
9.  Structure of the DNA repair helicase XPD 
Cell  2008;133(5):801-812.
The XPD helicase (Rad3 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a component of transcription factor IIH (TFIIH), which functions in transcription initiation and Nucleotide Excision Repair in eukaryotes, catalysing DNA duplex opening localised to the transcription start site or site of DNA damage, respectively. XPD has a 5′ to 3′ polarity and the helicase activity is dependent on an iron-sulfur cluster binding domain, a feature that is conserved in related helicases such as FancJ. The xpd gene is the target of mutation in patients with xeroderma pigentosum, trichothiodystrophy and Cockayne’s syndrome, characterised by a wide spectrum of symptoms ranging from cancer susceptibility to neurological and developmental defects. The 2.25 Å crystal structure of XPD from the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus tokodaii, presented here together with detailed biochemical analyses, allows a molecular understanding of the structural basis for helicase activity and explains the phenotypes of xpd mutations in humans.
PMCID: PMC3326533  PMID: 18510925
10.  Extensive Lysine Methylation in Hyperthermophilic Crenarchaea: Potential Implications for Protein Stability and Recombinant Enzymes 
Archaea  2010;2010:106341.
In eukarya and bacteria, lysine methylation is relatively rare and is catalysed by sequence-specific lysine methyltransferases that typically have only a single-protein target. Using RNA polymerase purified from the thermophilic crenarchaeum Sulfolobus solfataricus, we identified 21 methyllysines distributed across 9 subunits of the enzyme. The modified lysines were predominantly in α-helices and showed no conserved sequence context. A limited survey of the Thermoproteus tenax proteome revealed widespread modification with 52 methyllysines in 30 different proteins. These observations suggest the presence of an unusual lysine methyltransferase with relaxed specificity in the crenarchaea. Since lysine methylation is known to enhance protein thermostability, this may be an adaptation to a thermophilic lifestyle. The implications of this modification for studies and applications of recombinant crenarchaeal enzymes are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2929605  PMID: 20811616
11.  PCNA and XPF cooperate to distort DNA substrates 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(5):1664-1675.
XPF is a structure-specific endonuclease that preferentially cleaves 3′ DNA flaps during a variety of repair processes. The crystal structure of a crenarchaeal XPF protein bound to a DNA duplex yielded insights into how XPF might recognise branched DNA structures, and recent kinetic data have demonstrated that the sliding clamp PCNA acts as an essential cofactor, possibly by allowing XPF to distort the DNA structure into a proper conformation for efficient cleavage to occur. Here, we investigate the solution structure of the 3′-flap substrate bound to XPF in the presence and absence of PCNA using intramolecular Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). We demonstrate that recognition of the flap substrate by XPF involves major conformational changes of the DNA, including a 90° kink of the DNA duplex and organization of the single-stranded flap. In the presence of PCNA, there is a further substantial reorganization of the flap substrate bound to XPF, providing a structural basis for the observation that PCNA has an essential catalytic role in this system. The wider implications of these observations for the plethora of PCNA-dependent enzymes are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2836553  PMID: 20008103
12.  Protein-Protein Interactions Leading to Recruitment of the Host DNA Sliding Clamp by the Hyperthermophilic Sulfolobus islandicus Rod-Shaped Virus 2 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(12):7105-7108.
Viruses infecting hyperthermophilic archaea typically do not encode DNA polymerases, raising questions regarding their genome replication. Here, using a yeast two-hybrid approach, we have assessed interactions between proteins of Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus 2 (SIRV2) and the host-encoded proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a key DNA replication protein in archaea. Five SIRV2 proteins were found to interact with PCNA, providing insights into the recruitment of host replisome for viral DNA replication.
PMCID: PMC4054388  PMID: 24696494
13.  Cas6 specificity and CRISPR RNA loading in a complex CRISPR-Cas system 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(10):6532-6541.
CRISPR-Cas is an adaptive prokaryotic immune system, providing protection against viruses and other mobile genetic elements. In type I and type III CRISPR-Cas systems, CRISPR RNA (crRNA) is generated by cleavage of a primary transcript by the Cas6 endonuclease and loaded into multisubunit surveillance/effector complexes, allowing homology-directed detection and cleavage of invading elements. Highly studied CRISPR-Cas systems such as those in Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa have a single Cas6 enzyme that is an integral subunit of the surveillance complex. By contrast, Sulfolobus solfataricus has a complex CRISPR-Cas system with three types of surveillance complexes (Cascade/type I-A, CSM/type III-A and CMR/type III-B), five Cas6 paralogues and two different CRISPR-repeat families (AB and CD). Here, we investigate the kinetic properties of two different Cas6 paralogues from S. solfataricus. The Cas6-1 subtype is specific for CD-family CRISPR repeats, generating crRNA by multiple turnover catalysis whilst Cas6-3 has a broader specificity and also processes a non-coding RNA with a CRISPR repeat-related sequence. Deep sequencing of crRNA in surveillance complexes reveals a biased distribution of spacers derived from AB and CD loci, suggesting functional coupling between Cas6 paralogues and their downstream effector complexes.
PMCID: PMC4041471  PMID: 24753403
14.  CRISPR-mediated targeted mRNA degradation in the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(8):5280-5288.
The recently discovered clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-mediated virus defense represents an adaptive immune system in many bacteria and archaea. Small CRISPR RNAs cause cleavage of complementary invading nucleic acids in conjunction with an associated protein or a protein complex. Here, we show CRISPR-mediated cleavage of mRNA from an invading virus in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus. More than 40% of the targeted mRNA could be cleaved, as demonstrated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Cleavage of the mRNA was visualized by northern analyses and cleavage sites were mapped. In vitro, the same substrates were cleaved by the purified CRISPR-associated CMR complex from Sulfolobus solfataricus. The in vivo system was also re-programmed to knock down mRNA of a selected chromosomal gene (β-galactosidase) using an artificial miniCRISPR locus. With a single complementary spacer, ∼50% reduction of the targeted mRNA and of corresponding intracellular protein activity was achieved. Our results demonstrate in vivo cleavage of mRNA in a prokaryote mediated by small RNAs (i.e. analogous to RNA interference in eukaryotes) and the re-programming of the system to silence specific genes of interest.
PMCID: PMC4005642  PMID: 24603867
15.  Structure of the CRISPR Interference Complex CSM Reveals Key Similarities with Cascade 
Molecular Cell  2013;52(1):124-134.
The Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) system is an adaptive immune system in prokaryotes. Interference complexes encoded by CRISPR-associated (cas) genes utilize small RNAs for homology-directed detection and subsequent degradation of invading genetic elements, and they have been classified into three main types (I–III). Type III complexes share the Cas10 subunit but are subclassifed as type IIIA (CSM) and type IIIB (CMR), depending on their specificity for DNA or RNA targets, respectively. The role of CSM in limiting the spread of conjugative plasmids in Staphylococcus epidermidis was first described in 2008. Here, we report a detailed investigation of the composition and structure of the CSM complex from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus, using a combination of electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and deep sequencing. This reveals a three-dimensional model for the CSM complex that includes a helical component strikingly reminiscent of the backbone structure of the type I (Cascade) family.
Graphical Abstract
•The CSM complex from Sulfolobus solfataricus has been purified and characterized•EM reveals a helical backbone with striking similarities to the Cascade complex•Mass spectrometry defines the subunit stoichiometry and organization of the complex•CSM subunits are modified by methylation, acetylation, and phosphorylation
PMCID: PMC3807668  PMID: 24119402
16.  CRISPR interference: a structural perspective 
Biochemical Journal  2013;453(Pt 2):155-166.
CRISPR (cluster of regularly interspaced palindromic repeats) is a prokaryotic adaptive defence system, providing immunity against mobile genetic elements such as viruses. Genomically encoded crRNA (CRISPR RNA) is used by Cas (CRISPR-associated) proteins to target and subsequently degrade nucleic acids of invading entities in a sequence-dependent manner. The process is known as ‘interference’. In the present review we cover recent progress on the structural biology of the CRISPR/Cas system, focusing on the Cas proteins and complexes that catalyse crRNA biogenesis and interference. Structural studies have helped in the elucidation of key mechanisms, including the recognition and cleavage of crRNA by the Cas6 and Cas5 proteins, where remarkable diversity at the level of both substrate recognition and catalysis has become apparent. The RNA-binding RAMP (repeat-associated mysterious protein) domain is present in the Cas5, Cas6, Cas7 and Cmr3 protein families and RAMP-like domains are found in Cas2 and Cas10. Structural analysis has also revealed an evolutionary link between the small subunits of the type I and type III-B interference complexes. Future studies of the interference complexes and their constituent components will transform our understanding of the system.
PMCID: PMC3727216  PMID: 23805973
antiviral defence; cluster of regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR); crystallography; evolution; protein structure; repeat-associated mysterious protein (RAMP); BhCas5c, Bacillus halodurans Cas5c; CRISPR, cluster of regularly interspaced palindromic repeats; Cas, CRISPR-associated; Cascade, CRISPR-associated complex for antiviral defence; crRNA, CRISPR RNA; dsDNA, double-stranded DNA; EcoCas3, Escherichia coli Cas3; EM, electron microscopy; HD, histidine–aspartate; MjaCas3″, Methanocaldococcus jannaschii Cas3″; PaCas6f, Pseudomonas aeruginosa Cas6f; PAM, protospacer adjacent motif; PfuCas, Pyrococcus furiosus Cas; pre-crRNA, precursor crRNA; RAMP, repeat-associated mysterious protein; RRM, RNA recognition motif; ssDNA, single-stranded DNA; SsoCas, Sulfolobus solfataricus Cas; ssRNA, single-stranded RNA; SthCas3, Streptococcus thermophilus Cas3; tracrRNA, trans-activating crRNA; TtCas, Thermus thermophilus Cas
17.  Structure of a dimeric crenarchaeal Cas6 enzyme with an atypical active site for CRISPR RNA processing 
Biochemical Journal  2013;452(Pt 2):223-230.
The competition between viruses and hosts is played out in all branches of life. Many prokaryotes have an adaptive immune system termed ‘CRISPR’ (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) which is based on the capture of short pieces of viral DNA. The captured DNA is integrated into the genomic DNA of the organism flanked by direct repeats, transcribed and processed to generate crRNA (CRISPR RNA) that is loaded into a variety of effector complexes. These complexes carry out sequence-specific detection and destruction of invading mobile genetic elements. In the present paper, we report the structure and activity of a Cas6 (CRISPR-associated 6) enzyme (Sso1437) from Sulfolobus solfataricus responsible for the generation of unit-length crRNA species. The crystal structure reveals an unusual dimeric organization that is important for the enzyme's activity. In addition, the active site lacks the canonical catalytic histidine residue that has been viewed as an essential feature of the Cas6 family. Although several residues contribute towards catalysis, none is absolutely essential. Coupled with the very low catalytic rate constants of the Cas6 family and the plasticity of the active site, this suggests that the crRNA recognition and chaperone-like activities of the Cas6 family should be considered as equal to or even more important than their role as traditional enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3652601  PMID: 23527601
antiviral defence; Cas6; clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR); ribonuclease; Sulfolobus; CRISPR, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; Cas, CRISPR-associated; crRNA, CRISPR RNA; Ni-NTA, Ni2+-nitrilotriacetate; PaCas6f, Pseudomonas aeruginosa Cas6; PfuCas6, Pyrococcus furiosus Cas6; RAMP, repeat-associated mysterious protein; RMSD, root mean square deviation; RRM, RNA-recognition motif; SAD, single-wavelength anomalous dispersion; SsoCas6, Sulfolobus solfataricus Cas6; TBE, Tris/borate/EDTA; TEV, tobacco etch virus; TtCas6e, Thermus thermophilus Cas6
18.  Crenarchaeal chromatin proteins Cren7 and Sul7 compact DNA by inducing rigid bends 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(1):196-205.
Archaeal chromatin proteins share molecular and functional similarities with both bacterial and eukaryotic chromatin proteins. These proteins play an important role in functionally organizing the genomic DNA into a compact nucleoid. Cren7 and Sul7 are two crenarchaeal nucleoid-associated proteins, which are structurally homologous, but not conserved at the sequence level. Co-crystal structures have shown that these two proteins induce a sharp bend on binding to DNA. In this study, we have investigated the architectural properties of these proteins using atomic force microscopy, molecular dynamics simulations and magnetic tweezers. We demonstrate that Cren7 and Sul7 both compact DNA molecules to a similar extent. Using a theoretical model, we quantify the number of individual proteins bound to the DNA as a function of protein concentration and show that forces up to 3.5 pN do not affect this binding. Moreover, we investigate the flexibility of the bending angle induced by Cren7 and Sul7 and show that the protein–DNA complexes differ in flexibility from analogous bacterial and eukaryotic DNA-bending proteins.
PMCID: PMC3592393  PMID: 23155062
19.  The CRISPR Associated Protein Cas4 Is a 5′ to 3′ DNA Exonuclease with an Iron-Sulfur Cluster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47232.
The Cas4 protein is one of the core CRISPR-associated (Cas) proteins implicated in the prokaryotic CRISPR system for antiviral defence. Cas4 is thought to play a role in the capture of new viral DNA sequences for incorporation into the host genome. No biochemical activity has been reported for Cas4, but it is predicted to include a RecB nuclease domain. We show here that Cas4 family proteins from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus utilise four conserved cysteine residues to bind an iron-sulfur cluster in an arrangement reminiscent of the AddB nuclease of Bacillus subtilis. The Cas4 family protein Sso0001 is a 5′ to 3′ single stranded DNA exonuclease in vitro that is stalled by extrahelical DNA adducts. A role for Cas4 in DNA duplex strand resectioning to generate recombinogenic 3′ single stranded DNA overhangs is proposed. Comparison of the AddB structure with that of a related bacterial nuclease from Eubacterium rectales reveals that the iron-sulfur cluster can be replaced by a zinc ion without disrupting the protein structure, with implications for the evolution of iron-sulfur binding proteins.
PMCID: PMC3466216  PMID: 23056615
20.  Protein-induced changes in DNA structure and dynamics observed with noncovalent site-directed spin labeling and PELDOR 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(1):e11.
Site-directed spin labeling and pulsed electron–electron double resonance (PELDOR or DEER) have previously been applied successfully to study the structure and dynamics of nucleic acids. Spin labeling nucleic acids at specific sites requires the covalent attachment of spin labels, which involves rather complicated and laborious chemical synthesis. Here, we use a noncovalent label strategy that bypasses the covalent labeling chemistry and show that the binding specificity and efficiency are large enough to enable PELDOR or DEER measurements in DNA duplexes and a DNA duplex bound to the Lac repressor protein. In addition, the rigidity of the label not only allows resolution of the structure and dynamics of oligonucleotides but also the determination of label orientation and protein-induced conformational changes. The results prove that this labeling strategy in combination with PELDOR has a great potential for studying both structure and dynamics of oligonucleotides and their complexes with various ligands.
PMCID: PMC3592447  PMID: 22941643
21.  Structure and mechanism of the CMR complex for CRISPR-mediated antiviral immunity 
Molecular cell  2012;45(3):303-313.
The prokaryotic Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) system utilizes genomically-encoded CRISPR RNA (crRNA), derived from invading viruses and incorporated into ribonucleoprotein complexes with CRISPR-associated (CAS) proteins, to target and degrade viral DNA or RNA on subsequent infection. RNA is targeted by the CMR complex. In Sulfolobus solfataricus, this complex is composed of seven CAS protein subunits (Cmr1-7) and carries a diverse “payload” of targeting crRNA. The crystal structure of Cmr7 and low resolution structure of the complex are presented. S. solfataricus CMR cleaves RNA targets in an endonucleolytic reaction at UA dinucleotides. This activity is dependent on the 8-nucleotide repeat-derived 5′ sequence in the crRNA, but not on the presence of a proto-spacer associated motif (PAM) in the target. Both target and guide RNAs can be cleaved, although a single molecule of guide RNA can support the degradation of multiple targets.
PMCID: PMC3381847  PMID: 22227115
22.  Structural and functional characterisation of a conserved archaeal RadA paralog with antirecombinase activity 
Journal of molecular biology  2009;389(4):661-673.
DNA recombinases (RecA in bacteria, Rad51 in eukarya and RadA in archaea) catalyse strand-exchange between homologous DNA molecules, the central reaction of homologous recombination, and are among the most conserved DNA repair proteins known. In bacteria, RecA is the sole protein responsible for this reaction, whereas, in eukaryotes, there are several RAD51 paralogs that cooperate to catalyse strand exchange. All archaea have at least one (and as many as four) RadA paralogs, but their function remains unclear. Here we show the three RadA paralogs encoded by the Sulfolobus solfataricus genome are expressed under normal growth conditions, and are not UV-inducible. We demonstrate that one of these proteins, Sso2452, which is representative of the large aRadC sub-family of archaeal RadA paralogs, functions as an ATPase that binds tightly to ssDNA. However, Sso2452 is not an active recombinase in vitro, and inhibits D-loop formation by RadA. We present the high-resolution crystal structure of Sso2452, which reveals key structural differences from the canonical RecA family recombinases that may explain its functional properties. The possible roles of the archaeal RadA paralogs in vivo are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3387904  PMID: 19414020
Archaea; Recombinase; RadA; Homologous Recombination; Strand Exchange
23.  An unusual chromophore and novel crosslinks in ranasmurfin - a blue protein from the foam nests of a tropical frog 
Ranasmurfin is an unusual blue protein isolated from the nests of a Malaysian tree frog, Polypedates leucomystax,[1] showing the rich chemical diversity displayed by biomolecular foams. Many species of tropical frogs use foams to protect delicate eggs and developing embryos against environmental challenges. These nests act as miniature ecosystems containing a spectrum of novel proteins and other macromolecules with functions related to foam stabilization and adhesion, resistance to microbial degradation, predation, or dehydration, providing a biocompatible environment for embryonic development.Thisworkformspartofourwiderstudyofthe intriguing physical and chemical properties of biofoams as unusual examples of biological soft matter.[2]
PMCID: PMC3313644  PMID: 18781570
24.  Staphylococcus aureus DinG, a helicase that has evolved into a nuclease 
Biochemical Journal  2012;442(Pt 1):77-84.
DinG (damage inducible gene G) is a bacterial superfamily 2 helicase with 5′→3′ polarity. DinG is related to the XPD (xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group D) helicase family, and they have in common an FeS (iron–sulfur)-binding domain that is essential for the helicase activity. In the bacilli and clostridia, the DinG helicase has become fused with an N-terminal domain that is predicted to be an exonuclease. In the present paper we show that the DinG protein from Staphylococcus aureus lacks an FeS domain and is not a DNA helicase, although it retains DNA-dependent ATP hydrolysis activity. Instead, the enzyme is an active 3′→5′ exonuclease acting on single-stranded DNA and RNA substrates. The nuclease activity can be modulated by mutation of the ATP-binding cleft of the helicase domain, and is inhibited by ATP or ADP, suggesting a modified role for the inactive helicase domain in the control of the nuclease activity. By degrading rather than displacing RNA or DNA strands, the S. aureus DinG nuclease may accomplish the same function as the canonical DinG helicase.
PMCID: PMC3270479  PMID: 22166102
damage inducible gene G (DinG); DNA repair; helicase; iron–sulfur; nuclease; xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group D (XPD); CRISPR, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; DinG, damage inducible gene G; DTT, dithiothreitol; FAM, 6-carboxyfluorescein; FeS, iron–sulfur; sarDinG, Staphylococcus aureus DinG; ssDNA, single-stranded DNA; ssRNA, single-stranded RNA; TBE, Tris/borate/EDTA; TEV, tobacco etch virus; XPD, xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group D; XPF, xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group F; WT, wild-type
25.  A Dimeric Rep Protein Initiates Replication of a Linear Archaeal Virus Genome: Implications for the Rep Mechanism and Viral Replication ▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(2):925-931.
The Rudiviridae are a family of rod-shaped archaeal viruses with covalently closed, linear double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genomes. Their replication mechanisms remain obscure, although parallels have been drawn to the Poxviridae and other large cytoplasmic eukaryotic viruses. Here we report that a protein encoded in the 34-kbp genome of the rudivirus SIRV1 is a member of the replication initiator (Rep) superfamily of proteins, which initiate rolling-circle replication (RCR) of diverse viruses and plasmids. We show that SIRV Rep nicks the viral hairpin terminus, forming a covalent adduct between an active-site tyrosine and the 5′ end of the DNA, releasing a 3′ DNA end as a primer for DNA synthesis. The enzyme can also catalyze the joining reaction that is necessary to reseal the DNA hairpin and terminate replication. The dimeric structure points to a simple mechanism through which two closely positioned active sites, each with a single tyrosine residue, work in tandem to catalyze DNA nicking and joining. We propose a novel mechanism for rudivirus DNA replication, incorporating the first known example of a Rep protein that is not linked to RCR. The implications for Rep protein function and viral replication are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3019997  PMID: 21068244

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