Co-translational targeting of membrane and secretory proteins is mediated by the universally conserved Signal Recognition Particle (SRP). Together with its receptor (SR), SRP mediates the GTP-dependent delivery of translating ribosomes bearing signal sequences to translocons on the target membrane. Here we present the crystal structure of the SRP:SR complex at 3.9 Å resolution and biochemical data revealing that the activated SRP:SR GTPase complex bind the distal end of the SRP hairpin RNA where GTP hydrolysis is stimulated. Combined with previous findings, these results suggest that the SRP:SR GTPase complex initially assembles at the tetraloop end of the SRP RNA and then relocalizes to the opposite end of the RNA. This rearrangement provides a mechanism for coupling GTP hydrolysis to the handover of cargo to the translocon.
The 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of hepatitis C virus (HCV) messenger RNA stimulates viral translation by an undetermined mechanism. We identified a high affinity interaction, conserved among different HCV genotypes, between the HCV 3′UTR and the host ribosome. The 3′UTR interacts with 40S ribosomal subunit proteins residing primarily in a localized region on the 40S solvent-accessible surface near the messenger RNA entry and exit sites. This region partially overlaps with the site where the HCV internal ribosome entry site was found to bind, with the internal ribosome entry site-40S subunit interaction being dominant. Despite its ability to bind to 40S subunits independently, the HCV 3′UTR only stimulates translation in cis, without affecting the first round translation rate. These observations support a model in which the HCV 3′UTR retains ribosome complexes during translation termination to facilitate efficient initiation of subsequent rounds of translation.
The initiation of protein synthesis plays an essential regulatory role in human biology. At the center of the initiation pathway, the 13-subunit eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 (eIF3) controls access of other initiation factors and mRNA to the ribosome by unknown mechanisms. Using electron microscopy (EM), bioinformatics and biochemical experiments, we identify two highly conserved RNA-binding motifs in eIF3 that direct translation initiation from the hepatitis C virus internal ribosome entry site (HCV IRES) RNA. Mutations in the RNA-binding motif of subunit eIF3a weaken eIF3 binding to the HCV IRES and the 40S ribosomal subunit, thereby suppressing eIF2-dependent recognition of the start codon. Mutations in the eIF3c RNA-binding motif also reduce 40S ribosomal subunit binding to eIF3, and inhibit eIF5B-dependent steps downstream of start codon recognition. These results provide the first connection between the structure of the central translation initiation factor eIF3 and recognition of the HCV genomic RNA start codon, molecular interactions that likely extend to the human transcriptome.
Targeted gene regulation on a genome-wide scale is a powerful strategy for interrogating, perturbing, and engineering cellular systems. Here, we develop a method for controlling gene expression based on Cas9, an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease from a type II CRISPR system. We show that a catalytically dead Cas9 lacking endonuclease activity, when coexpressed with a guide RNA, generates a DNA recognition complex that can specifically interfere with transcriptional elongation, RNA polymerase binding, or transcription factor binding. This system, which we call CRISPR interference (CRISPRi), can efficiently repress expression of targeted genes in Escherichia coli, with no detectable off-target effects. CRISPRi can be used to repress multiple target genes simultaneously, and its effects are reversible. We also show evidence that the system can be adapted for gene repression in mammalian cells. This RNA-guided DNA recognition platform provides a simple approach for selectively perturbing gene expression on a genome-wide scale.
During RNA interference and related gene regulatory pathways, the endonuclease Dicer cleaves precursor RNA molecules to produce microRNAs (miRNAs) and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Human cells encode a single Dicer enzyme that can associate with two different double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-binding proteins, protein activator of PKR (PACT) and trans-activation response RNA-binding protein (TRBP). However, the functional redundancy or differentiation of PACT and TRBP in miRNA and siRNA biogenesis is not well understood. Using a reconstituted system, we show here that PACT and TRBP have distinct effects on Dicer-mediated dsRNA processing. In particular, we found that PACT in complex with Dicer inhibits the processing of pre-siRNA substrates when compared with Dicer and a Dicer–TRBP complex. In addition, PACT and TRBP show non-redundant effects on the production of different-sized miRNAs (isomiRs), which in turn alter target-binding specificities. Experiments using chimeric versions of PACT and TRBP suggest that the two N-terminal RNA-binding domains of each protein confer the observed differences in dsRNA substrate recognition and processing behavior of Dicer–dsRNA-binding protein complexes. These results support the conclusion that in humans, Dicer-associated dsRNA-binding proteins are important regulatory factors that contribute both substrate and cleavage specificity during miRNA and siRNA production.
The conserved ribonuclease Dicer generates microRNAs and short interfering RNAs that guide gene silencing in eukaryotes. The specific contributions of human Dicer's structural domains to RNA product length and substrate preference are incompletely understood, due in part to the difficulties of Dicer purification. Here we show that active forms of human Dicer can be assembled from recombinant polypeptides expressed in bacteria. Using this system, we find that three distinct modes of RNA recognition give rise to Dicer's fidelity and product length specificity. The first involves anchoring one end of a dsRNA helix within the PAZ domain, which can assemble in trans with Dicer's catalytic domains to reconstitute an accurate but non-substrate-selective dicing activity. The second entails non-specific RNA binding by the double-stranded RNA binding domain (dsRBD), an interaction that is essential for substrate recruitment in the absence of the PAZ domain. The third mode of recognition involves hairpin RNA loop recognition by the helicase domain, which ensures efficient processing of specific substrates. These results reveal distinct interactions of each Dicer domain with different RNA structural features, and provide a facile system for investigating the molecular mechanisms of human miRNA biogenesis.
Ribonuclease; Dicer; RNAi
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) typically downregulate protein expression from target mRNAs through limited base-pairing interactions between the 5′ ‘seed’ region of the miRNA and the mRNA 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR). In contrast to this established mode of action, the liver-specific human miR-122 binds at two sites within the hepatitis C viral (HCV) 5′UTR, leading to increased production of infectious virions. We show here that two copies of miR-122 interact with the HCV 5′UTR at partially overlapping positions near the 5′ end of the viral transcript to form a stable ternary complex. Both miR-122 binding sites involve extensive base pairing outside of the seed sequence; yet, they have substantially different interaction affinities. Structural probing reveals changes in the architecture of the HCV 5′UTR that occur on interaction with miR-122. In contrast to previous reports, however, results using both the recombinant cytoplasmic exonuclease Xrn1 and liver cell extracts show that miR-122-mediated protection of the HCV RNA from degradation does not correlate with stimulation of viral propagation in vivo. Thus, the miR-122:HCV ternary complex likely functions at other steps critical to the viral life cycle.
Type II CRISPR immune systems in bacteria use a dual RNA-guided DNA endonuclease, Cas9, to cleave foreign DNA at specific sites. We show here that Cas9 assembles with hybrid guide RNAs in human cells and can induce the formation of double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) at a site complementary to the guide RNA sequence in genomic DNA. This cleavage activity requires both Cas9 and the complementary binding of the guide RNA. Experiments using extracts from transfected cells show that RNA expression and/or assembly into Cas9 is the limiting factor for Cas9-mediated DNA cleavage. In addition, we find that extension of the RNA sequence at the 3′ end enhances DNA targeting activity in vivo. These results show that RNA-programmed genome editing is a facile strategy for introducing site-specific genetic changes in human cells.
The ability to make specific changes to DNA—such as changing, inserting or deleting sequences that encode proteins—allows researchers to engineer cells, tissues and organisms for therapeutic and practical applications. Until now, such genome engineering has required the design and production of proteins with the ability to recognize a specific DNA sequence. The bacterial protein, Cas9, has the potential to enable a simpler approach to genome engineering because it is a DNA-cleaving enzyme that can be programmed with short RNA molecules to recognize specific DNA sequences, thus dispensing with the need to engineer a new protein for each new DNA target sequence.
Now Jinek et al. demonstrate the capability of RNA-programmed Cas9 to introduce targeted double-strand breaks into human chromosomal DNA, thereby inducing site-specific genome editing reactions. Cas9 assembles with engineered single-guide RNAs in human cells and the resulting Cas9-RNA complex can induce the formation of double-strand breaks in genomic DNA at a site complementary to the guide RNA sequence. Experiments using extracts from transfected cells show that RNA expression and/or assembly into Cas9 is the limiting factor for the DNA cleavage, and that extension of the RNA sequence at the 3′ end enhances DNA targeting activity in vivo.
These results show that RNA-programmed genome editing is a straightforward strategy for introducing site-specific genetic changes in human cells, and the ease with which it can programmed means that it is likely to become competitive with existing approaches based on zinc finger nucleases and transcription activator-like effector nucleases, and could lead to a new generation of experiments in the field of genome engineering for humans and other species with complex genomes.
Cas9; endonuclease; genome editing; Human
Cell survival in changing environments requires appropriate regulation of gene expression, including post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. From reporter gene studies in glucose-starved yeast, it was proposed that translationally silenced eukaryotic mRNAs accumulate in P-bodies and can return to active translation. We present evidence contradicting the notion that reversible storage of non-translating mRNAs is a widespread and general phenomenon. First, genome-wide measurements of mRNA abundance, translation, and ribosome occupancy following glucose withdrawal show that most mRNAs are depleted from the cell coincident with their depletion from polysomes. Second, only a limited sub-population of translationally repressed transcripts, comprising fewer than 400 genes, can be reactivated for translation upon glucose re-addition in the absence of new transcription. This highly selective post-transcriptional regulation could be a mechanism for cells to minimize the energetic costs of reversing gene-regulatory decisions in rapidly changing environments by transiently preserving a pool of transcripts whose translation is rate-limiting for growth.
In bacterial and archaeal CRISPR immune pathways, DNA sequences from invading bacteriophage or plasmids are integrated into CRISPR loci within the host genome, conferring immunity against subsequent infections. The ribonucleoprotein complex Cascade utilizes RNAs generated from these loci to target complementary “non-self” DNA sequences for destruction, while avoiding binding to “self” sequences within the CRISPR locus. Here we show that CasA, the largest protein subunit of Cascade, is required for non-self target recognition and binding. Combining a 2.3 Å crystal structure of CasA with cryo-EM structures of Cascade, we have identified a loop that is required for viral defense. This loop contacts a conserved 3-base pair motif that is required for non-self target selection. Our data suggest a model in which the CasA loop scans DNA for this short motif prior to target destabilization and binding, maximizing the efficiency of DNA surveillance by Cascade.
We have initiated a broad-based program aimed at understanding the molecular basis of fluorine specificity in enzymatic systems, and in this context, we report crystallographic and biochemical studies on a fluoroacetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) specific thioesterase (FlK) from Streptomyces cattleya. Our data establish that FlK is competent to protect its host from fluoroacetate toxicity in vivo and demonstrate a 106-fold discrimination between fluoroacetyl-CoA(kcat/KM=5×107M−1 s−1) and acetyl-CoA(kcat/KM=30 M−1 s−1) based on a single fluorine substitution that originates from differences in both substrate reactivity and binding. We show that Thr 42, Glu 50, and His 76 are key catalytic residues and identify several factors that influence substrate selectivity. We propose that FlK minimizes interaction with the thioester carbonyl, leading to selection against acetyl-CoA binding that can be recovered in part by new C=O interactions in the T42S and T42C mutants. We hypothesize that the loss of these interactions is compensated by the entropic driving force for fluorinated substrate binding in a hydrophobic binding pocket created by a lid structure, containing Val 23, Leu 26, Phe 33, and Phe 36, that is not found in other structurally characterized members of this superfamily. We further suggest that water plays a critical role in fluorine specificity based on biochemical and structural studies focused on the unique Phe 36 “gate” residue, which functions to exclude water from the active site. Taken together, the findings from these studies offer molecular insights into organofluorine recognition and design of fluorine-specific enzymes.
The emergence of new pandemic influenza A viruses requires overcoming barriers to cross-species transmission as viruses move from animal reservoirs into humans. This complicated process is driven by both individual gene mutations and genome reassortments. The viral polymerase complex, composed of the proteins PB1, PB2, and PA, is a major factor controlling host adaptation, and reassortment events involving polymerase gene segments occurred with past pandemic viruses. Here we investigate the ability of polymerase reassortment to restore the activity of an avian influenza virus polymerase that is normally impaired in human cells. Our data show that the substitution of human-origin PA subunits into an avian influenza virus polymerase alleviates restriction in human cells and increases polymerase activity in vitro. Reassortants with 2009 pandemic H1N1 PA proteins were the most active. Mutational analyses demonstrated that the majority of the enhancing activity in human PA results from a threonine-to-serine change at residue 552. Reassortant viruses with avian polymerases and human PA subunits, or simply the T552S mutation, displayed faster replication kinetics in culture and increased pathogenicity in mice compared to those containing a wholly avian polymerase complex. Thus, the acquisition of a human PA subunit, or the signature T552S mutation, is a potential mechanism to overcome the species-specific restriction of avian polymerases and increase virus replication. Our data suggest that the human, avian, swine, and 2009 H1N1-like viruses that are currently cocirculating in pig populations set the stage for PA reassortments with the potential to generate novel viruses that could possess expanded tropism and enhanced pathogenicity.
Translation of Hepatitis C viral proteins requires an internal ribosome entry site (IRES) located in the 5′ untranslated region of the viral mRNA. The core domain of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) IRES contains a four-way helical junction that is integrated within a predicted pseudoknot. This domain is required for positioning the mRNA start codon correctly on the 40S ribosomal subunit during translation initiation. Here we present the crystal structure of this RNA, revealing a complex double-pseudoknot fold that establishes the alignment of two helical elements on either side of the four-helix junction. The conformation of this core domain constrains the open reading frame’s orientation for positioning on the 40S ribosomal subunit. This structure, representing the last major domain of HCV-like IRESs to be determined at near-atomic resolution, provides the basis for a comprehensive cryo-electron microscopy-guided model of the intact HCV IRES and its interaction with 40S ribosomal subunits.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a considerable global health problem for which new classes of therapeutics are needed. We developed a high-throughput assay to identify compounds that selectively block translation initiation from the HCV internal ribosome entry site (HCV IRES). Rabbit reticulocyte lysate conditions were optimized to faithfully report on authentic HCV IRES-dependent translation relative to a 5′ capped mRNA control. We screened a library of ~430,000 small molecules for IRES inhibition, leading to ~1,700 initial hits. After secondary counter screening the vast majority of hits proved to be luciferase and general translation inhibitors. Despite well-optimized in vitro translation conditions, in the end we found no selective HCV IRES inhibitors but did discover a new scaffold of general translation inhibitor. The analysis of these molecules, and the finding that a large fraction of false positives resulted from off-target effects, highlights the challenges inherent in screens for RNA-specific inhibitors.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV); IRES; luciferase; high-throughput screen; rabbit reticulocyte lysate
The human ribonuclease Dicer and its double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) binding protein (dsRBP) partners TRBP and PACT play important roles in the biogenesis of regulatory RNAs. Following dicing, one dsRNA product strand is preferentially assembled into an RNA-Induced Silencing Complex (RISC). The mechanism of strand selection in humans and the possible role of Dicer in this process remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that dsRNAs undergo significant repositioning within Dicer complexes following dicing. This repositioning enables directional binding of RNA duplexes, thereby biasing their orientation for guide strand selection according to the thermodynamic properties of the helix. Our findings indicate that Dicer is itself capable of sensing siRNA thermodynamic asymmetry regardless of the dsRBP to which it is bound. These results support a model in which Dicer employs two distinct RNA binding sites – one for dsRNA processing and the other for sensing of siRNA thermodynamic asymmetry – during RISC loading in humans.
Messenger RNA decay plays a central role in the regulation and surveillance of eukaryotic gene expression. The conserved multi-domain exoribonuclease Xrn1 targets cytoplasmic RNA substrates marked by a 5′ monophosphate for processive 5′-to-3′ degradation by an unknown mechanism. Here we report the crystal structure of an Xrn1-substrate complex. The single-stranded substrate is held in place by stacking of the 5′-terminal trinucleotide between aromatic side chains while a highly basic pocket specifically recognizes the 5′ phosphate. Mutations of residues involved in binding the 5′-terminal nucleotide impair Xrn1 processivity. The substrate recognition mechanism allows Xrn1 to couple processive hydrolysis to duplex melting in RNA substrates with sufficiently long single-stranded 5′ overhangs. The Xrn1-substrate complex structure thus rationalizes the exclusive specificity of Xrn1 for 5′-monophosphorylated substrates, ensuring fidelity of mRNA turnover, and posits a model for translocation-coupled unwinding of structured RNA substrates.
Many prokaryotes contain genomic clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) that confer resistance to invasive genetic elements. Central to this immune system is the production of CRISPR-derived RNAs (crRNAs) following transcription of the CRISPR locus. Here we identify the endoribonuclease (Csy4) responsible for pre-crRNA processing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A 1.8 Å crystal structure of Csy4 in complex with its cognate RNA reveals an unexpected recognition mechanism whereby Csy4 makes sequence-specific interactions in the major groove of the CRISPR repeat stem-loop. Together with electrostatic contacts to the phosphate backbone, these enable Csy4 to selectively bind and cleave pre-crRNAs. The active site of Csy4 comprises two invariant residues, a serine and a histidine. The RNA recognition mechanism identified here explains sequence- and structure-specific processing by a large family of CRISPR-specific endoribonucleases.
The specialized ribonuclease Dicer plays a central role in eukaryotic gene expression by producing small regulatory RNAs – miRNAs and siRNAs – from larger double stranded RNA (dsRNA) substrates. Although Dicer will cleave both imperfectly base-paired hairpin structures (pre-miRNAs) and perfect duplexes (pre-siRNAs) in vitro, it has not been clear whether these are mechanistically equivalent substrates and how dsRNA binding proteins such as TRBP influence substrate selection and RNA processing efficiency. We show here that human Dicer is much faster at processing a pre-miRNA substrate compared to a pre-siRNA substrate under both single and multiple turnover conditions. Maximal cleavage rates (Vmax) calculated by Michaelis-Menten analysis differed by more than 100-fold under multiple turnover conditions. TRBP was found to enhance dicing of both substrates to similar extents, and this stimulation required the two N-terminal dsRNA binding domains of TRBP. These results demonstrate that multiple factors influence dicing kinetics. While TRBP stimulates dicing by enhancing the stability of Dicer-substrate complexes, Dicer itself generates product RNAs at rates determined at least in part by the structural properties of the substrate.
Dicer, a member of the Ribonuclease III family of enzymes, processes double-stranded RNA substrates into ~21-27 nucleotide products that trigger sequence-directed gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi). Although the mechanism of RNA recognition and length-specific cleavage by Dicer has been established, the way in which dicing activity is regulated is unclear. Here we show that the N-terminal domain of human Dicer, which is homologous to DExD/H-box helicases, substantially attenuates the rate of substrate cleavage. Deletion or mutation of this domain activates human Dicer in both single- and multiple-turnover assays. The catalytic efficiency (kcat/Km) of the deletion construct is increased by 65-fold over that exhibited by the intact enzyme. Kinetic analysis shows that this activation is almost entirely due to an enhancement in kcat. Modest stimulation of catalysis by the full-length Dicer enzyme was observed in the presence of the TAR-RNA binding protein (TRBP), which physically interacts with the DExD/H-box domain. These results suggest that the DExD/H-box domain likely disrupts the functionality of the Dicer active site until a structural rearrangement occurs, perhaps upon assembly with its molecular partners.
Ribonuclease; Dicer; RNAi; helicase
We have expanded the application of antibody phage display to a new type of antigen: ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. We describe a simple and efficient method for screening antibodies specific for large intact RNPs and individual components. We also describe a fast and easy method to overcome the abundance of amber stop codons in the positive phage clones. The resulting antibodies have been used in ELISA and Western blot analysis.
Antibody phage display; scFv; Macromolecular complexes; ribonucleoprotein
GW182-family proteins are essential for microRNA-mediated translational repression and deadenylation in animal cells. Here we show that a conserved motif in the human GW182 paralog TNRC6C interacts with the C-terminal domain of polyadenylate binding protein 1 (PABC) and present the crystal structure of the complex. Mutations at the complex interface impair mRNA deadenylation in mammalian cell extracts, suggesting that the GW182-PABC interaction contributes to microRNA-mediated gene silencing.
Virtually all animals and plants utilize small RNA molecules to control protein expression during different developmental stages and in response to viral infection. Structural and mechanistic studies have begun to illuminate three fundamental aspects of these pathways: small RNA biogenesis, formation of RNA-induced silencing complexes (RISCs) and targeting of complementary mRNAs. Here we review exciting recent progress in understanding how regulatory RNAs are produced and how they trigger specific destruction of mRNAs during RNA interference (RNAi).
Targeted gene silencing by RNA interference (RNAi) requires loading of a short guide RNA (siRNA or miRNA) into an Argonaute protein to form the functional center of an RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC). In humans, Argonaute2 (Ago2) assembles with the guide RNA-generating enzyme Dicer and the RNA-binding protein TRBP to form a RISC-loading complex (RLC) necessary for efficient transfer of nascent siRNAs and miRNAs from Dicer to Ago2. Here we show, using single-particle electron microscopy analysis, that human Dicer exhibits an L-shaped structure. Withn the RLC Dicer's N-terminal DExH/D domain, located at the short base branch, interacts with TRBP, while its C-terminal catalytic domains in the main body are proximal to Ago2. A model generated by docking the available atomic structures of Dicer and Argonaute homologs into the RLC reconstruction suggests a mechanism for siRNA transfer from Dicer to Ago2.
Initiation factor eIF4G is a key regulator of eukaryotic protein synthesis, recognizing proteins bound at both ends of an mRNA to help recruit messages to the small (40S) ribosomal subunit. Notably, the genomes of a wide variety of eukaryotes encode multiple distinct variants of eIF4G. We found that deletion of eIF4G1, but not eIF4G2, impairs growth and global translation initiation rates in budding yeast under standard laboratory conditions. Not all mRNAs are equally sensitive to loss of eIF4G1; genes that encode messages with longer poly(A) tails are preferentially affected. However, eIF4G1-deletion strains contain significantly lower levels of total eIF4G, relative to eIF4G2-delete or wild type strains. Homogenic strains, which encode two copies of either eIF4G1 or eIF4G2 under native promoter control, express a single isoform at levels similar to the total amount of eIF4G in a wild type cell and have a similar capacity to support normal translation initiation rates. Polysome microarray analysis of these strains and the wild type parent showed that translationally active mRNAs are similar. These results suggest that total eIF4G levels, but not isoform-specific functions, determine mRNA-specific translational efficiency.
A new series of genetic screens begins to illuminate the interaction between influenza virus and the infected cell.