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NAR Top Articles - Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology

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June 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.

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...

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.

BRCA1 is a key regulator of breast differentiation through activation of Notch signalling with implications for anti-endocrine treatment of breast cancers
Buckley, NE; tSaoir, CBNA; Blayney, JK; Oram, LC; Crawford, NT; D'Costa, ZC; Quinn, JE; Kennedy, RD; Harkin, DP; Mullan, PB
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 8601-8614
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Here, we show for the first time, that the familial breast/ovarian cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 activates the Notch pathway in breast cells by transcriptional upregulation of Notch ligands and receptors in both normal and cancer cells. We demonstrate through chromatin immunoprecipitation assays that BRCA1 is localized to a conserved intronic enhancer region within the Notch ligand Jagged-1 (JAG1) gene, an event requiring delta Np63. We propose that this BRCA1/delta Np63-mediated induction of JAG1 may be important the regulation of breast stem/precursor cells, as knockdown of all three proteins resulted in increased tumoursphere growth and increased activity of stem cell markers such as Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1). Knockdown of Notch1 and JAG1 phenocopied BRCA1 knockdown resulting in the loss of Estrogen Receptor-alpha (ER-alpha) expression and other luminal markers. A Notch mimetic peptide could activate an ER-alpha promoter reporter in a BRCA1-dependent manner, whereas Notch inhibition using a gamma-secretase inhibitor reversed this process...

Differential regulation by ppGpp versus pppGpp in Escherichia coli
Mechold, U; Potrykus, K; Murphy, H; Murakami, KS; Cashel, M
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 6175-6189
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Both ppGpp and pppGpp are thought to function collectively as second messengers for many complex cellular responses to nutritional stress throughout biology. There are few indications that their regulatory effects might be different; however, this question has been largely unexplored for lack of an ability to experimentally manipulate the relative abundance of ppGpp and pppGpp. Here, we achieve preferential accumulation of either ppGpp or pppGpp with Escherichia coli strains through induction of different Streptococcal (p)ppGpp synthetase fragments. In addition, expression of E. coli GppA, a pppGpp 5'-gamma phosphate hydrolase that converts pppGpp to ppGpp, is manipulated to fine tune differential accumulation of ppGpp and pppGpp. In vivo and in vitro experiments show that pppGpp is less potent than ppGpp with respect to regulation of growth rate, RNA/DNA ratios, ribosomal RNA P1 promoter transcription inhibition, threonine operon promoter activation and RpoS induction. To provide further insights into regulation by (p)ppGpp, we have also determined crystal structures of E. coli RNA polymerase-Sigma(70) holoenzyme with ppGpp and pppGpp...

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.

Insulin-like growth factor-1 prevents miR-122 production in neighbouring cells to curtail its intercellular transfer to ensure proliferation of human hepatoma cells
Basu, S; Bhattacharyya, SN
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 7170-7185
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miRNAs are 20-22 nt long post-transcriptional regulators in metazoan cells that repress protein expression from their target mRNAs. These tiny regulatory RNAs follow tissue and cell-type specific expression pattern, aberrations of which are associated with various diseases. miR-122 is a liver-specific anti-proliferative miRNA that, we found, can be transferred via exosomes between human hepatoma cells, Huh7 and HepG2, grown in co-culture. Exosomal miR-122, expressed and released by Huh7 cells and taken by miR-122 deficient HepG2 cells, was found to be effective in repression of target mRNAs and to reduce growth and proliferation of recipient HepG2 cells. Interestingly, in a reciprocal process, HepG2 secretes Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF1) that decreases miR-122 expression in Huh7 cells. Our observations suggest existence of a reciprocal interaction between two different hepatic cells with distinct miR-122 expression profiles. This interaction is mediated via intercellular exosome-mediated miR-122 transfer and countered by a reciprocal IGF1-dependent anti-miR-122 signal...

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