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NAR Top Articles - Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology

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March 2015


Programmable repression and activation of bacterial gene expression using an engineered CRISPR-Cas system
Bikard, D; Jiang, WY; Samai, P; Hochschild, A; Zhang, F; Marraffini, LA
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 7429-7437
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The ability to artificially control transcription is essential both to the study of gene function and to the construction of synthetic gene networks with desired properties. Cas9 is an RNA-guided double-stranded DNA nuclease that participates in the CRISPR-Cas immune defense against prokaryotic viruses. We describe the use of a Cas9 nuclease mutant that retains DNA-binding activity and can be engineered as a programmable transcription repressor by preventing the binding of the RNA polymerase (RNAP) to promoter sequences or as a transcription terminator by blocking the running RNAP. In addition, a fusion between the omega subunit of the RNAP and a Cas9 nuclease mutant directed to bind upstream promoter regions can achieve programmable transcription activation. The simple and efficient modulation of gene expression achieved by this technology is a useful asset for the study of gene networks and for the development of synthetic biology and biotechnological applications.

Rolling circle replication requires single-stranded DNA binding protein to avoid termination and production of double-stranded DNA
Ducani, C; Bernardinelli, G; Hogberg, B
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 10596-10604
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In rolling circle replication, a circular template of DNA is replicated as a long single-stranded DNA concatamer that spools off when a strand displacing polymerase traverses the circular template. The current view is that this type of replication can only produce single-stranded DNA, because the only 3'-ends available are the ones being replicated along the circular templates. In contrast to this view, we find that rolling circle replication in vitro generates large amounts of double stranded DNA and that the production of single-stranded DNA terminates after some time. These properties can be suppressed by adding single-stranded DNA-binding proteins to the reaction. We conclude that amodel in which the polymerase switches templates to the already produced single-stranded DNA, with an exponential distribution of template switching, can explain the observed data. From this, we also provide an estimate value of the switching rate constant.

Landscape of target:guide homology effects on Cas9-mediated cleavage
Fu, BXH; Hansen, LL; Artiles, KL; Nonet, ML; Fire, AZ
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 13778-13787
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To study target sequence specificity, selectivity, and reaction kinetics of Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 activity, we challenged libraries of random variant targets with purified Cas9:: guide RNA complexes in vitro. Cleavage kinetics were nonlinear, with a burst of initial activity followed by slower sustained cleavage. Consistent with other recent analyses of Cas9 sequence specificity, we observe considerable (albeit incomplete) impairment of cleavage for targets mutated in the PAM sequence or in 'seed' sequences matching the proximal 8 bp of the guide. A second target region requiring close homology was located at the other end of the guide:: target duplex (positions 13-18 relative to the PAM). Sequences flanking the guide+PAM region had measurable (albeit modest) effects on cleavage. In addition, the first-base Guanine constraint commonly imposed by gRNA expression systems has little effect on overall cleavage efficiency. Taken together, these studies provide an in vitro understanding of the complexities of Cas9-gRNA interaction and cleavage beyond the general paradigm of site determination based on the 'seed' sequence and PAM.

The centrosomal kinase NEK2 is a novel splicing factor kinase involved in cell survival
Naro, C; Barbagallo, F; Chieffi, P; Bourgeois, CF; Paronetto, MP; Sette, C
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 3218-3227
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NEK2 is a serine/threonine kinase that promotes centrosome splitting and ensures correct chromosome segregation during the G2/M phase of the cell cycle, through phosphorylation of specific substrates. Aberrant expression and activity of NEK2 in cancer cells lead to dysregulation of the centrosome cycle and aneuploidy. Thus, a tight regulation of NEK2 function is needed during cell cycle progression. In this study, we found that NEK2 localizes in the nucleus of cancer cells derived from several tissues. In particular, NEK2 co-localizes in splicing speckles with SRSF1 and SRSF2. Moreover, NEK2 interacts with several splicing factors and phosphorylates some of them, including the oncogenic SRSF1 protein. Overexpression of NEK2 induces phosphorylation of endogenous SR proteins and affects the splicing activity of SRSF1 toward reporter minigenes and endogenous targets, independently of SRPK1. Conversely, knockdown of NEK2, like that of SRSF1, induces expression of pro-apoptotic variants from SRSF1-target genes and sensitizes cells to apoptosis. Our results identify NEK2 as a novel splicing factor kinase...

Detection and characterization of spacer integration intermediates in type I-E CRISPR-Cas system
Arslan, Z; Hermanns, V; Wurm, R; Wagner, R; Pul, U
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 7884-7893
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The adaptation against foreign nucleic acids by the CRISPR-Cas system (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated proteins) depends on the insertion of foreign nucleic acid-derived sequences into the CRISPR array as novel spacers by still unknown mechanism. We identified and characterized in Escherichia coli intermediate states of spacer integration and mapped the integration site at the chromosomal CRISPR array in vivo. The results show that the insertion of new spacers occurs by site-specific nicking at both strands of the leader proximal repeat in a staggered way and is accompanied by joining of the resulting 5 '-ends of the repeat strands with the 3 '-ends of the incoming spacer. This concerted cleavage-ligation reaction depends on the metal-binding center of Cas1 protein and requires the presence of Cas2. By acquisition assays using plasmid-located CRISPR array with mutated repeat sequences, we demonstrate that the primary sequence of the first repeat is crucial for cleavage of the CRISPR array and the ligation of new spacer DNA.

The H19/let-7 double-negative feedback loop contributes to glucose metabolism in muscle cells
Gao, Y; Wu, FJ; Zhou, JC; Yan, L; Jurczak, MJ; Lee, HY; Yang, LH; Mueller, M; Zhou, XB; Dandolo, L; Szendroedi, J; Roden, M; Flannery, C; Taylor, H; Carmichael, GG; Shulman, GI; Huang, YQ
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 13799-13811
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The H19 lncRNA has been implicated in development and growth control and is associated with human genetic disorders and cancer. Acting as a molecular sponge, H19 inhibits microRNA (miRNA) let-7. Here we report that H19 is significantly decreased in muscle of human subjects with type-2 diabetes and insulin resistant rodents. This decrease leads to increased bioavailability of let-7, causing diminished expression of let-7 targets, which is recapitulated in vitro where H19 depletion results in impaired insulin signaling and decreased glucose uptake. Furthermore, acute hyperinsulinemia down-regulates H19, a phenomenon that occurs through PI3K/AKT-dependent phosphorylation of the miRNA processing factor KSRP, which promotes biogenesis of let-7 and its mediated H19 destabilization. Our results reveal a previously undescribed double-negative feedback loop between sponge lncRNA and target miRNA that contributes to glucose regulation in muscle cells.

LncRNA loc285194 is a p53-regulated tumor suppressor
Liu, Q; Huang, JG; Zhou, NJ; Zhang, ZQ; Zhang, AL; Lu, ZH; Wu, FT; Mo, YY
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 4976-4987
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Protein-coding genes account for only a small part of the human genome, whereas the vast majority of transcripts make up the non-coding RNAs including long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Accumulating evidence indicates that lncRNAs could play a critical role in regulation of cellular processes such as cell growth and apoptosis as well as cancer progression and metastasis. LncRNA loc285194 was previously shown to be within a tumor suppressor unit in osteosarcoma and to suppress tumor cell growth. However, it is unknown regarding the regulation of loc285194. Moreover, the underlying mechanism by which loc285194 functions as a potential tumor suppressor is elusive. In this study, we show that loc285194 is a p53 transcription target; ectopic expression of loc285194 inhibits tumor cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. Through deletion analysis, we identify an active region responsible for tumor cell growth inhibition within exon 4, which harbors two miR-211 binding sites. Importantly, this loc285194-mediated growth inhibition is in part due to specific suppression of miR-211. We further demonstrate a reciprocal repression between loc285194 and miR-211; in contrast to loc285194, miR-211 promotes cell growth...

A novel AP-1/miR-101 regulatory feedback loop and its implication in the migration and invasion of hepatoma cells
Liu, JJ; Lin, XJ; Yang, XJ; Zhou, LJ; He, S; Zhuang, SM; Yang, J
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 12041-12051
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MicroRNA-101 (miR-101) is frequently downregulated in various cancers. To date, the regulatory networks of miR-101 remain obscure. In this study, we demonstrated that miR-101 was mainly transcribed from human miR-101-2 and mouse miR-101-bgene loci. Subsequent analyses revealed that activator protein-1 (AP-1) directly binded to the -17.4 to -16.4 k region upstream of pre-miR-101-2 and activated the expression of miR-101. On the other hand, miR-101 could inhibit the expression of ERK2 and c-Fos, two key factors of the AP-1 pathway, by binding to their 3'-UTRs. Furthermore, reintroduction of miR-101 efficiently suppressed the AP-1 activity and pri-miR-101-2 transcription. These data thus suggest a novel AP-1/miR-101 regulatory circuitry, that is, AP-1 promotes the transcription of miR-101, whereas the expression of miR-101 reduces the level of ERK2 and c-Fos and thereby attenuates the AP-1 signaling. Further investigation disclosed that the AP-1 activator TPA-induced MMP9 activity and the TPA-promoted migration and invasion of hepatoma cells were significantly attenuated by miR-101 but were enhanced by miR-101 inhibitor...

Selective recognition of parallel and anti-parallel thrombin-binding aptamer G-quadruplexes by different fluorescent dyes
Zhao, D; Dong, XW; Jiang, N; Zhang, D; Liu, CL
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 11612-11621
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G-quadruplexes (G4) have been found increasing potential in applications, such as molecular therapeutics, diagnostics and sensing. Both Thioflavin T (ThT) and N-Methyl mesoporphyrin IX (NMM) become fluorescent in the presence of most G4, but thrombinbinding aptamer (TBA) has been reported as the only exception of the known G4-forming oligonucleotides when ThT is used as a high-throughput assay to identify G4 formation. Here, we investigate the interactions between ThT/NMM and TBA through fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism and molecular docking simulation experiments in the absence or presence of cations. The results display that a large ThT fluorescence enhancement can be observed only when ThT bind to the parallel TBA quadruplex, which is induced to form by ThT in the absence of cations. On the other hand, great promotion in NMM fluorescence can be obtained only in the presence of anti-parallel TBA quadruplex, which is induced to fold by K+ or thrombin. The highly selective recognition of TBA quadruplex with different topologies by the two probes may be useful to investigate the interactions between conformation-specific G4 and the associated proteins..

MiR-138 downregulates miRNA processing in HeLa cells by targeting RMND5A and decreasing Exportin-5 stability
Li, J; Chen, Y; Qin, XL; Wen, JZ; Ding, HM; Xia, W; Li, SH; Su, XT; Wang, W; Li, H; Zhao, Q; Fang, T; Qu, LH; Shao, NS
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 458-474
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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding small RNAs that consist of similar to 22 nt and are involved in several biological processes by regulating target gene expression. MiR-138 has many biological functions and is often downregulated in cancers. Our results showed that overexpression of miR-138 downregulated target RMND5A (required for meiotic nuclear division 5 homolog A) and reduced Exportin-5 stability, which results in decreased levels of pre-miRNA nuclear export in HeLa cells. We also found that miR-138 could significantly inhibit HeLa cell migration by targeting RMND5A. Our study therefore identifies miR-138-RMND5A-Exportin-5 as a previously unknown miRNA processing regulatory pathway in HeLa cells.

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