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1.  Plant Coilin: Structural Characteristics and RNA-Binding Properties 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53571.
Cajal bodies (CBs) are dynamic subnuclear compartments involved in the biogenesis of ribonucleoproteins. Coilin is a major structural scaffolding protein necessary for CB formation, composition and activity. The predicted secondary structure of Arabidopsis thaliana coilin (Atcoilin) suggests that the protein is composed of three main domains. Analysis of the physical properties of deletion mutants indicates that Atcoilin might consist of an N-terminal globular domain, a central highly disordered domain and a C-terminal domain containing a presumable Tudor-like structure adjacent to a disordered C terminus. Despite the low homology in amino acid sequences, a similar type of domain organization is likely shared by human and animal coilin proteins and coilin-like proteins of various plant species. Atcoilin is able to bind RNA effectively and in a non-specific manner. This activity is provided by three RNA-binding sites: two sets of basic amino acids in the N-terminal domain and one set in the central domain. Interaction with RNA induces the multimerization of the Atcoilin molecule, a consequence of the structural alterations in the N-terminal domain. The interaction with RNA and subsequent multimerization may facilitate coilin’s function as a scaffolding protein. A model of the N-terminal domain is also proposed.
PMCID: PMC3539977  PMID: 23320094
2.  Novel Bacteriophages Containing a Genome of Another Bacteriophage within Their Genomes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40683.
A novel bacteriophage infecting Staphylococus pasteuri was isolated during a screen for phages in Antarctic soils. The phage named SpaA1 is morphologically similar to phages of the family Siphoviridae. The 42,784 bp genome of SpaA1 is a linear, double-stranded DNA molecule with 3′ protruding cohesive ends. The SpaA1 genome encompasses 63 predicted protein-coding genes which cluster within three regions of the genome, each of apparently different origin, in a mosaic pattern. In two of these regions, the gene sets resemble those in prophages of Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki str. T03a001 (genes involved in DNA replication/transcription, cell entry and exit) and B. cereus AH676 (additional regulatory and recombination genes), respectively. The third region represents an almost complete genome (except for the short terminal segments) of a distinct bacteriophage, MZTP02. Nearly the same gene module was identified in prophages of B. thuringiensis serovar monterrey BGSC 4AJ1 and B. cereus Rock4-2. These findings suggest that MZTP02 can be shuttled between genomes of other bacteriophages and prophages, leading to the formation of chimeric genomes. The presence of a complete phage genome in the genome of other phages apparently has not been described previously and might represent a ‘fast track’ route of virus evolution and horizontal gene transfer. Another phage (BceA1) nearly identical in sequence to SpaA1, and also including the almost complete MZTP02 genome within its own genome, was isolated from a bacterium of the B. cereus/B. thuringiensis group. Remarkably, both SpaA1 and BceA1 phages can infect B. cereus and B. thuringiensis, but only one of them, SpaA1, can infect S. pasteuri. This finding is best compatible with a scenario in which MZTP02 was originally contained in BceA1 infecting Bacillus spp, the common hosts for these two phages, followed by emergence of SpaA1 infecting S. pasteuri.
PMCID: PMC3398947  PMID: 22815791
3.  Two RNA-binding sites in plant fibrillarin provide interactions with various RNA substrates 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(20):8869-8880.
Fibrillarin, one of the major proteins of the nucleolus, plays several essential roles in ribosome biogenesis including pre-rRNA processing and 2′-O-ribose methylation of rRNA and snRNAs. Recently, it has been shown that fibrillarin plays a role in virus infections and is associated with viral RNPs. Here, we demonstrate the ability of recombinant fibrillarin 2 from Arabidopsis thaliana (AtFib2) to interact with RNAs of different lengths and types including rRNA, snoRNA, snRNA, siRNA and viral RNAs in vitro. Our data also indicate that AtFib2 possesses two RNA-binding sites in the central (138–179 amino acids) and C-terminal (225–281 amino acids) parts of the protein, respectively. The conserved GCVYAVEF octamer does not bind RNA directly as suggested earlier, but may assist with the proper folding of the central RNA-binding site.
PMCID: PMC3203579  PMID: 21785141
4.  An Umbraviral Protein, Involved in Long-Distance RNA Movement, Binds Viral RNA and Forms Unique, Protective Ribonucleoprotein Complexes 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(5):3031-3040.
Umbraviruses are different from most other viruses in that they do not encode a conventional capsid protein (CP); therefore, no recognizable virus particles are formed in infected plants. Their lack of a CP is compensated for by the ORF3 protein, which fulfils functions that are provided by the CPs of other viruses, such as protection and long-distance movement of viral RNA. When the Groundnut rosette virus (GRV) ORF3 protein was expressed from Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) in place of the TMV CP [ΤMV(ORF3)], in infected cells it interacted with the TMV RNA to form filamentous ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles that had elements of helical structure but were not as uniform as classical virions. These RNP particles were observed in amorphous inclusions in the cytoplasm, where they were embedded within an electron-dense matrix material. The inclusions were detected in all types of cells and were abundant in phloem-associated cells, in particular companion cells and immature sieve elements. RNP-containing complexes similar in appearance to the inclusions were isolated from plants infected with ΤMV(ORF3) or with GRV itself. In vitro, the ORF3 protein formed oligomers and bound RNA in a manner consistent with its role in the formation of RNP complexes. It is suggested that the cytoplasmic RNP complexes formed by the ORF3 protein serve to protect viral RNA and may be the form in which it moves through the phloem. Thus, the RNP particles detected here represent a novel structure which may be used by umbraviruses as an alternative to classical virions.
PMCID: PMC149777  PMID: 12584328

Results 1-4 (4)