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NAR Top Articles - Structural Biology

Structural Biology

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February 2015


Structural studies of p53 inactivation by DNA-contact mutations and its rescue by suppressor mutations via alternative protein-DNA interactions
Eldar, A; Rozenberg, H; Diskin-Posner, Y; Rohs, R; Shakked, Z
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 8748-8759
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A p53 hot-spot mutation found frequently in human cancer is the replacement of R273 by histidine or cysteine residues resulting in p53 loss of function as a tumor suppressor. These mutants can be reactivated by the incorporation of second-site suppressor mutations. Here, we present high-resolution crystal structures of the p53 core domains of the cancer-related proteins, the rescued proteins and their complexes with DNA. The structures show that inactivation of p53 results from the incapacity of the mutated residues to form stabilizing interactions with the DNA backbone, and that reactivation is achieved through alternative interactions formed by the suppressor mutations. Detailed structural and computational analysis demonstrates that the rescued p53 complexes are not fully restored in terms of DNA structure and its interface with p53...

Phospho-dependent and phospho-independent interactions of the helicase UPF1 with the NMD factors SMG5-SMG7 and SMG6
Chakrabarti, S; Bonneau, F; Schussler, S; Eppinger, E; Conti, E
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 9447-9460
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Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a eukaryotic surveillance pathway that recognizes mRNAs with premature stop codons and targets them for rapid degradation. Evidence from previous studies has converged on UPF1 as the central NMD factor. In human cells, the SMG1 kinase phosphorylates UPF1 at the N-terminal and C-terminal tails, in turn allowing the recruitment of the NMD factors SMG5, SMG6 and SMG7. To understand the molecular mechanisms, we recapitulated these steps of NMD in vitro using purified components. We find that a short C-terminal segment of phosphorylated UPF1 containing the last two Ser-Gln motifs is recognized by the heterodimer of SMG5 and SMG7 14-3-3-like proteins. In contrast, the SMG6 14-3-3-like domain is a monomer. The crystal structure indicates that the phosphoserine binding site of the SMG6 14-3-3-like domain is similar to that of SMG5 and can mediate a weak phospho-dependent interaction with UPF1. The dominant SMG6-UPF1 interaction is mediated by a low-complexity region bordering the 14-3-3-like domain of SMG6 and by the helicase domain and C-terminal tail of UPF1. This interaction is phosphorylation independent...

Structural basis for inhibition of DNA replication by aphidicolin
Baranovskiy, AG; Babayeva, ND; Suwa, Y; Gu, JY; Pavlov, YI; Tahirov, TH
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 14013-14021
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Natural tetracyclic diterpenoid aphidicolin is a potent and specific inhibitor of B-family DNA polymerases, haltering replication and possessing a strong antimitotic activity in human cancer cell lines. Clinical trials revealed limitations of aphidicolin as an antitumor drug because of its low solubility and fast clearance from human plasma. The absence of structural information hampered the improvement of aphidicolin-like inhibitors: more than 50 modifications have been generated so far, but all have lost the inhibitory and antitumor properties. Here we report the crystal structure of the catalytic core of human DNA polymerase alpha (Pol alpha) in the ternary complex with an RNA-primed DNA template and aphidicolin. The inhibitor blocks binding of dCTP by docking at the Pol alpha active site and by rotating the template guanine. The structure provides a plausible mechanism for the selectivity of aphidicolin incorporation opposite template guanine and explains why previous modifications of aphidicolin failed to improve its affinity for Pol alpha...

Structural insights into Paf1 complex assembly and histone binding
Chu, XL; Qin, XH; Xu, HS; Li, L; Wang, Z; Li, FZ; Xie, XQ; Zhou, H; Shen, YQ; Long, JF
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 10619-10629
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The highly conserved Paf1 complex (PAF1C) plays critical roles in RNA polymerase II transcription elongation and in the regulation of histone modifications. It has also been implicated in other diverse cellular activities, including posttranscriptional events, embryonic development and cell survival and maintenance of embryonic stem cell identity. Here, we report the structure of the human Paf1/Leo1 subcomplex within PAF1C. The overall structure reveals that the Paf1 and Leo1 subunits form a tightly associated heterodimer through antiparallel beta-sheet interactions. Detailed biochemical experiments indicate that Leo1 binds to PAF1C through Paf1 and that the Ctr9 subunit is the key scaffold protein in assembling PAF1C. Furthermore, we show that the Paf1/Leo1 heterodimer is necessary for its binding to histone H3, the histone octamer, and nucleosome in vitro. Our results shed light on the PAF1C assembly process and substrate recognition during various PAF1C-coordinated histone modifications.

G-quadruplex conformation and dynamics are determined by loop length and sequence
Tippana, R; Xiao, WK; Myong, S
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 8106-8114
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The quadruplex forming G-rich sequences are unevenly distributed throughout the human genome. Their enrichment in oncogenic promoters and telomeres has generated interest in targeting G-quadruplex (GQ) for an anticancer therapy. Here, we present a quantitative analysis on the conformations and dynamics of GQ forming sequences measured by single molecule fluorescence. Additionally, we relate these properties to GQ targeting ligands and G4 resolvase 1 (G4R1) protein binding. Our result shows that both the loop (non-G components) length and sequence contribute to the conformation of the GQ. Real time single molecule traces reveal that the folding dynamics also depend on the loop composition. We demonstrate that GQ-stabilizing small molecules, N-methyl mesoporphyrin IX (NMM), its analog, NMP and the G4R1 protein bind selectively to the parallel GQ conformation. Our findings point to the complexity of GQ folding governed by the loop length and sequence and how the GQ conformation determines the small molecule and protein binding propensity.

Ribosomes in the balance: structural equilibrium ensures translational fidelity and proper gene expression
Musalgaonkar, S; Moomau, CA; Dinman, JD
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 13384-13392
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At equilibrium, empty ribosomes freely transit between the rotated and un-rotated states. In the cell, the binding of two translation elongation factors to the same general region of the ribosome stabilizes one state over the other. These stabilized states are resolved by expenditure of energy in the form of GTP hydrolysis. A prior study employing mutants of a late assembling peripheral ribosomal protein suggested that ribosome rotational status determines its affinity for elongation factors, and hence translational fidelity and gene expression. Here, mutants of the early assembling integral ribosomal protein uL2 are used to test the generality of this hypothesis. rRNA structure probing analyses reveal that mutations in the uL2 B7b bridge region shift the equilibrium toward the rotated state, propagating rRNA structural changes to all of the functional centers of ribosome. Structural disequilibrium unbalances ribosome biochemically: rotated ribosomes favor binding of the eEF2 translocase and disfavor that of the elongation ternary complex. This manifests as specific translational fidelity defects, impacting the expression of genes involved in telomere maintenance...

G-triplex structure and formation propensity
Cerofolini, L; Amato, J; Giachetti, A; Limongelli, V; Novellino, E; Parrinello, M; Fragai, M; Randazzo, A; Luchinat, C
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 13393-13404
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The occurrence of a G-triplex folding intermediate of thrombin binding aptamer (TBA) has been recently predicted by metadynamics calculations, and experimentally supported by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Circular Dichroism ( CD) and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) data collected on a 3' end TBA-truncated 11-mer oligonucleotide (11-mer-3 '-t-TBA). Here we present the solution structure of 11-mer-3'-t-TBA in the presence of potassium ions. This structure is the first experimental example of a G-triplex folding, where a network of Hoogsteen-like hydrogen bonds stabilizes six guanines to form two G: G: G triad planes. The G-triplex folding of 11-mer-3'-t-TBA is stabilized by the potassium ion and destabilized by increasing the temperature. The superimposition of the experimental structure with that predicted by metadynamics shows a great similarity, with only significant differences involving two loops. These new structural data show that 11-mer-3'-t-TBA assumes a G-triplex DNA conformation as its stable form, reinforcing the idea that G-triplex folding intermediates may occur in vivo in human guanine-rich sequences...

Architecture and ssDNA interaction of the Timeless-Tipin-RPA complex
Witosch, J; Wolf, E; Mizuno, N
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 12912-12927
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The Timeless-Tipin (Tim-Tipin) complex, also referred to as the fork protection complex, is involved in coordination of DNA replication. Tim-Tipin is suggested to be recruited to replication forks via Replication Protein A (RPA) but details of the interaction are unknown. Here, using cryo-EM and biochemical methods, we characterized complex formation of Tim-Tipin, RPA and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). Tim-Tipin and RPA form a 258 kDa complex with a 1:1:1 stoichiometry. The cryo-EM 3D reconstruction revealed a globular architecture of the Tim-Tipin-RPA complex with a ring-like and a U-shaped domain covered by a RPA lid. Interestingly, RPA in the complex adopts a horse shoe-like shape resembling its conformation in the presence of long ssDNA (>30 nucleotides). Furthermore, the recruitment of the TimTipin- RPA complex to ssDNA is modulated by the RPA conformation and requires RPA to be in the more compact 30 nt ssDNA binding mode. The dynamic formation and disruption of the Tim-Tipin-RPA-ssDNA complex implicates the RPA-based recruitment of Tim-Tipin to the replication fork.

Internally labeled Cy3/Cy5 DNA constructs show greatly enhanced photo-stability in single-molecule FRET experiments
Lee, W; von Hippel, PH; Marcus, AH
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 5967-5977
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DNA constructs labeled with cyanine fluorescent dyes are important substrates for single-molecule (sm) studies of the functional activity of protein-DNA complexes. We previously studied the local DNA backbone fluctuations of replication fork and primer-template DNA constructs labeled with Cy3/Cy5 donor-acceptor Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) chromophore pairs and showed that, contrary to dyes linked 'externally' to the bases with flexible tethers, direct 'internal' (and rigid) insertion of the chromophores into the sugar-phosphate backbones resulted in DNA constructs that could be used to study intrinsic and protein-induced DNA backbone fluctuations by both smFRET and sm Fluorescent Linear Dichroism (smFLD). Here we show that these rigidly inserted Cy3/Cy5 chromophores also exhibit two additional useful properties, showing both high photo-stability and minimal effects on the local thermodynamic stability of the DNA constructs. The increased photo-stability of the internal labels significantly reduces the proportion of false positive smFRET conversion 'background' signals...

The bacterial antitoxin HipB establishes a ternary complex with operator DNA and phosphorylated toxin HipA to regulate bacterial persistence
Wen, YR; Behiels, E; Felix, J; Elegheert, J; Vergauwen, B; Devreese, B; Savvides, SN
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 10134-10147
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Nearly all bacteria exhibit a type of phenotypic growth described as persistence that is thought to underlie antibiotic tolerance and recalcitrant chronic infections. The chromosomally encoded high-persistence (Hip) toxin-antitoxin proteins HipA(SO) and HipB(SO) from Shewanella oneidensis, a proteobacterium with unusual respiratory capacities, constitute a type II toxin-antitoxin protein module. Here we show that phosphorylated HipA(SO) can engage in an unexpected ternary complex with HipB(SO) and double-stranded operator DNA that is distinct from the prototypical counterpart complex from Escherichia coli. The structure of HipB(SO) in complex with operator DNA reveals a flexible C-terminus that is sequestered by HipA(SO) in the ternary complex, indicative of its role in binding HipA(SO) to abolish its function in persistence. The structure of HipA(SO) in complex with a non-hydrolyzable ATP analogue shows that HipA(SO) autophosphorylation is coupled to an unusual conformational change of its phosphorylation loop. However, HipA(SO) is unable to phosphorylate the translation factor Elongation factor Tu...

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