Nucleic Acids Research

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The role of sequence context, nucleotide pool balance and stress in 2'-deoxynucleotide misincorporation in viral, bacterial and mammalian RNA

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

The misincorporation of 2'-deoxyribonucleotides (dNs) into RNA has important implications for the function of non-coding RNAs, the translational fidelity of coding RNAs and the mutagenic evolution of viral RNA genomes. However, quantitative appreciation for the degree to which dN misincorporation occurs is limited by the lack of analytical tools. Here, we report a method to hydrolyze RNA to release 2'-deoxyribonucleotide-ribonucleotide pairs (dNrN) that are then quantified by chromatography-coupled mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Using this platform, we found misincorporated dNs occurring at 1 per 103 to 105 ribonucleotide (nt) in mRNA, rRNAs and tRNA in human cells, Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and, most abundantly, in the RNA genome of dengue virus. The frequency of dNs varied widely among organisms and sequence contexts, and partly reflected the in vitro discrimination efficiencies of different RNA polymerases against 2'-deoxyribonucleoside 5'-triphosphates (dNTPs). Further, we demonstrate a strong link between dN frequencies in RNA and the balance of dNTPs and ribonucleoside 5'-triphosphates (rNTPs) in the cellular pool, with significant stress-induced variation of dN incorporation. Potential implications of dNs in RNA are discussed, including the possibilities of dN incorporation in RNA as a contributing factor in viral evolution and human disease, and as a host immune defense mechanism against viral infections.

Box C/D sRNA stem ends act as stabilizing anchors for box C/D di-sRNPs

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) modifications are essential for ribosome function in all cellular organisms. Box C/D small (nucleolar) ribonucleoproteins [s(no)RNPs] catalyze 2'-O-methylation, one rRNA modification type in Eukarya and Archaea. Negatively stained electron microscopy (EM) models of archaeal box C/D sRNPs have demonstrated the dimeric sRNP (di-sRNP) architecture, which has been corroborated by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studies. Due to limitations of the structural techniques, the orientation of the box C/D sRNAs has remained unclear. Here, we have used cryo-EM to elucidate the sRNA orientation in a M. jannaschii box C/D di-sRNP. The cryo-EM reconstruction suggests a parallel orientation of the two sRNAs. Biochemical and structural analyses of sRNPs assembled with mutant sRNAs indicate a potential interaction between the sRNA stem ends. Our results suggest that the parallel arrangement of the sRNAs juxtaposes their stem ends into close proximity to allow for a stabilizing interaction that helps maintain the di-sRNP architecture.

Structures of mithramycin analogues bound to DNA and implications for targeting transcription factor FLI1

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Transcription factors have been considered undruggable, but this paradigm has been recently challenged. DNA binding natural product mithramycin (MTM) is a potent antagonist of oncogenic transcription factor EWS–FLI1. Structural details of MTM recognition of DNA, including the FLI1 binding sequence GGA(A/T), are needed to understand how MTM interferes with EWS–FLI1. We report a crystal structure of an MTM analogue MTM SA–Trp bound to a DNA oligomer containing a site GGCC, and two structures of a novel analogue MTM SA–Phe in complex with DNA. MTM SA–Phe is bound to sites AGGG and GGGT on one DNA, and to AGGG and GGGA(T) (a FLI1 binding site) on the other, revealing how MTM recognizes different DNA sequences. Unexpectedly, at sub-micromolar concentrations MTMs stabilize FLI1–DNA complex on GGAA repeats, which are critical for the oncogenic function of EWS–FLI1. We also directly demonstrate by nuclear magnetic resonance formation of a ternary FLI1–DNA–MTM complex on a single GGAA FLI1/MTM binding site. These biochemical and structural data and a new FLI1–DNA structure suggest that MTM binds the minor groove and perturbs FLI1 bound nearby in the major groove. This ternary complex model may lead to development of novel MTM analogues that selectively target EWS–FLI1 or other oncogenic transcription factors, as anti-cancer therapeutics.

Rational design of a synthetic mammalian riboswitch as a ligand-responsive -1 ribosomal frame-shifting stimulator

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Metabolite-responsive RNA pseudoknots derived from prokaryotic riboswitches have been shown to stimulate –1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF), suggesting –1 PRF as a promising gene expression platform to extend riboswitch applications in higher eukaryotes. However, its general application has been hampered by difficulty in identifying a specific ligand-responsive pseudoknot that also functions as a ligand-dependent -1 PRF stimulator. We addressed this problem by using the –1 PRF stimulation pseudoknot of SARS-CoV (SARS-PK) to build a ligand-dependent –1 PRF stimulator. In particular, the extra stem of SARS-PK was replaced by an RNA aptamer of theophylline and designed to couple theophylline binding with the stimulation of –1 PRF. Conformational and functional analyses indicate that the engineered theophylline-responsive RNA functions as a mammalian riboswitch with robust theophylline-dependent –1 PRF stimulation activity in a stable human 293T cell-line. Thus, RNA–ligand interaction repertoire provided by in vitro selection becomes accessible to ligand-specific –1 PRF stimulator engineering using SARS-PK as the scaffold for synthetic biology application.

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Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Mitochondrial DNA exhibits resistance to induced point and deletion mutations

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

The accumulation of somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations contributes to the pathogenesis of human disease. Currently, mitochondrial mutations are largely considered results of inaccurate processing of its heavily damaged genome. However, mainly from a lack of methods to monitor mtDNA mutations with sufficient sensitivity and accuracy, a link between mtDNA damage and mutation has not been established. To test the hypothesis that mtDNA-damaging agents induce mtDNA mutations, we exposed MutaTMMouse mice to benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) or N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU), daily for 28 consecutive days, and quantified mtDNA point and deletion mutations in bone marrow and liver using our newly developed Digital Random Mutation Capture (dRMC) and Digital Deletion Detection (3D) assays. Surprisingly, our results demonstrate mutagen treatment did not increase mitochondrial point or deletion mutation frequencies, despite evidence both compounds increase nuclear DNA mutations and demonstrated B[a]P adduct formation in mtDNA. These findings contradict models of mtDNA mutagenesis that assert the elevated rate of mtDNA mutation stems from damage sensitivity and abridged repair capacity. Rather, our results demonstrate induced mtDNA damage does not readily convert into mutation. These findings suggest robust mitochondrial damage responses repress induced mutations after mutagen exposure.

RNA damage in biological conflicts and the diversity of responding RNA repair systems

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

RNA is targeted in biological conflicts by enzymatic toxins or effectors. A vast diversity of systems which repair or ‘heal’ this damage has only recently become apparent. Here, we summarize the known effectors, their modes of action, and RNA targets before surveying the diverse systems which counter this damage from a comparative genomics viewpoint. RNA-repair systems show a modular organization with extensive shuffling and displacement of the constituent domains; however, a general ‘syntax’ is strongly maintained whereby systems typically contain: a RNA ligase (either ATP-grasp or RtcB superfamilies), nucleotidyltransferases, enzymes modifying RNA-termini for ligation (phosphatases and kinases) or protection (methylases), and scaffold or cofactor proteins. We highlight poorly-understood or previously-uncharacterized repair systems and components, e.g. potential scaffolding cofactors (Rot/TROVE and SPFH/Band-7 modules) with their respective cognate non-coding RNAs (YRNAs and a novel tRNA-like molecule) and a novel nucleotidyltransferase associating with diverse ligases. These systems have been extensively disseminated by lateral transfer between distant prokaryotic and microbial eukaryotic lineages consistent with intense inter-organismal conflict. Components have also often been ‘institutionalized’ for non-conflict roles, e.g. in RNA-splicing and in RNAi systems (e.g. in kinetoplastids) which combine a distinct family of RNA-acting prim-pol domains with DICER-like proteins.

Allosteric control of mammalian DNA methyltransferases - a new regulatory paradigm

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

In mammals, DNA methylation is introduced by the DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B methyltransferases, which are all large multi-domain proteins containing a catalytic C-terminal domain and an N-terminal part with regulatory functions. Recently, two novel regulatory principles of DNMTs were uncovered. It was shown that their catalytic activity is under allosteric control of N-terminal domains with autoinhibitory function, the RFT and CXXC domains in DNMT1 and the ADD domain in DNMT3. Moreover, targeting and activity of DNMTs were found to be regulated in a concerted manner by interactors and posttranslational modifications (PTMs). In this review, we describe the structures and domain composition of the DNMT1 and DNMT3 enzymes, their DNA binding, catalytic mechanism, multimerization and the processes controlling their stability in cells with a focus on their regulation and chromatin targeting by PTMs, interactors and chromatin modifications. We propose that the allosteric regulation of DNMTs by autoinhibitory domains acts as a general switch for the modulation of the function of DNMTs, providing numerous possibilities for interacting proteins, nucleic acids or PTMs to regulate DNMT activity and targeting. The combined regulation of DNMT targeting and catalytic activity contributes to the precise spatiotemporal control of DNMT function and genome methylation in cells.

Using NMR and molecular dynamics to link structure and dynamics effects of the universal base 8-aza, 7-deaza, N8 linked adenosine analog

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

A truly universal nucleobase enables a host of novel applications such as simplified templates for PCR primers, randomized sequencing and DNA based devices. A universal base must pair indiscriminately to each of the canonical bases with little or preferably no destabilization of the overall duplex. In reality, many candidates either destabilize the duplex or do not base pair indiscriminatingly. The novel base 8-aza-7-deazaadenine (pyrazolo[3,4-d]pyrimidin- 4-amine) N8-(2'deoxyribonucleoside), a deoxyadenosine analog (UB), pairs with each of the natural DNA bases with little sequence preference. We have utilized NMR complemented with molecular dynamic calculations to characterize the structure and dynamics of a UB incorporated into a DNA duplex. The UB participates in base stacking with little to no perturbation of the local structure yet forms an unusual base pair that samples multiple conformations. These local dynamics result in the complete disappearance of a single UB proton resonance under native conditions. Accommodation of the UB is additionally stabilized via heightened backbone conformational sampling. NMR combined with various computational techniques has allowed for a comprehensive characterization of both structural and dynamic effects of the UB in a DNA duplex and underlines that the UB as a strong candidate for universal base applications.

Correlation of bistranded clustered abasic DNA lesion processing with structural and dynamic DNA helix distortion

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Clustered apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP; abasic) DNA lesions produced by ionizing radiation are by far more cytotoxic than isolated AP lesion entities. The structure and dynamics of a series of seven 23-bp oligonucleotides featuring simple bistranded clustered damage sites, comprising of two AP sites, zero, one, three or five bases 3' or 5' apart from each other, were investigated through 400 ns explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations. They provide representative structures of synthetically engineered multiply damage sites-containing oligonucleotides whose repair was investigated experimentally (Nucl. Acids Res. 2004, 32:5609-5620; Nucl. Acids Res. 2002, 30: 2800–2808). The inspection of extrahelical positioning of the AP sites, bulge and non Watson–Crick hydrogen bonding corroborates the experimental measurements of repair efficiencies by bacterial or human AP endonucleases Nfo and APE1, respectively. This study provides unprecedented knowledge into the structure and dynamics of clustered abasic DNA lesions, notably rationalizing the non-symmetry with respect to 3' to 5' position. In addition, it provides strong mechanistic insights and basis for future studies on the effects of clustered DNA damage on the recognition and processing of these lesions by bacterial or human DNA repair enzymes specialized in the processing of such lesions.

A novel method for the identification of conserved structural patterns in RNA: From small scale to high-throughput applications

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Functional RNA regions are often related to recurrent secondary structure patterns (or motifs), which can exert their role in several different ways, particularly in dictating the interaction with RNA-binding proteins, and acting in the regulation of a large number of cellular processes. Among the available motif-finding tools, the majority focuses on sequence patterns, sometimes including secondary structure as additional constraints to improve their performance. Nonetheless, secondary structures motifs may be concurrent to their sequence counterparts or even encode a stronger functional signal. Current methods for searching structural motifs generally require long pipelines and/or high computational efforts or previously aligned sequences. Here, we present BEAM (BEAr Motif finder), a novel method for structural motif discovery from a set of unaligned RNAs, taking advantage of a recently developed encoding for RNA secondary structure named BEAR (Brand nEw Alphabet for RNAs) and of evolutionary substitution rates of secondary structure elements. Tested in a varied set of scenarios, from small- to large-scale, BEAM is successful in retrieving structural motifs even in highly noisy data sets, such as those that can arise in CLIP-Seq or other high-throughput experiments.

Molecular signatures associated with ZIKV exposure in human cortical neural progenitors

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection causes microcephaly and has been linked to other brain abnormalities. How ZIKV impairs brain development and function is unclear. Here we systematically profiled transcriptomes of human neural progenitor cells exposed to Asian ZIKVC, African ZIKVM, and dengue virus (DENV). In contrast to the robust global transcriptome changes induced by DENV, ZIKV has a more selective and larger impact on expression of genes involved in DNA replication and repair. While overall expression profiles are similar, ZIKVC, but not ZIKVM, induces upregulation of viral response genes and TP53. P53 inhibitors can block the apoptosis induced by both ZIKVC and ZIKVM in hNPCs, with higher potency against ZIKVC-induced apoptosis. Our analyses reveal virus- and strain-specific molecular signatures associated with ZIKV infection. These datasets will help to investigate ZIKV-host interactions and identify neurovirulence determinants of ZIKV.

MyoD reprogramming requires Six1 and Six4 homeoproteins: genome-wide cis-regulatory module analysis

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Myogenic regulatory factors of the MyoD family have the ability to reprogram differentiated cells toward a myogenic fate. In this study, we demonstrate that Six1 or Six4 are required for the reprogramming by MyoD of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). Using microarray experiments, we found 761 genes under the control of both Six and MyoD. Using MyoD ChIPseq data and a genome-wide search for Six1/4 MEF3 binding sites, we found significant co-localization of binding sites for MyoD and Six proteins on over a thousand mouse genomic DNA regions. The combination of both datasets yielded 82 genes which are synergistically activated by Six and MyoD, with 96 associated MyoD+MEF3 putative cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). Fourteen out of 19 of the CRMs that we tested demonstrated in Luciferase assays a synergistic action also observed for their cognate gene. We searched putative binding sites on these CRMs using available databases and de novo search of conserved motifs and demonstrated that the Six/MyoD synergistic activation takes place in a feedforward way. It involves the recruitment of these two families of transcription factors to their targets, together with partner transcription factors, encoded by genes that are themselves activated by Six and MyoD, including Mef2, Pbx-Meis and EBF.

Explaining the disease phenotype of intergenic SNP through predicted long range regulation

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Thousands of disease-associated SNPs (daSNPs) are located in intergenic regions (IGR), making it difficult to understand their association with disease phenotypes. Recent analysis found that non-coding daSNPs were frequently located in or approximate to regulatory elements, inspiring us to try to explain the disease phenotypes of IGR daSNPs through nearby regulatory sequences. Hence, after locating the nearest distal regulatory element (DRE) to a given IGR daSNP, we applied a computational method named INTREPID to predict the target genes regulated by the DRE, and then investigated their functional relevance to the IGR daSNP's disease phenotypes. 36.8% of all IGR daSNP-disease phenotype associations investigated were possibly explainable through the predicted target genes, which were enriched with, were functionally relevant to, or consisted of the corresponding disease genes. This proportion could be further increased to 60.5% if the LD SNPs of daSNPs were also considered. Furthermore, the predicted SNP-target gene pairs were enriched with known eQTL/mQTL SNP-gene relationships. Overall, it's likely that IGR daSNPs may contribute to disease phenotypes by interfering with the regulatory function of their nearby DREs and causing abnormal expression of disease genes.

LSD1 engages a corepressor complex for the activation of the estrogen receptor {alpha} by estrogen and cAMP

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

The estrogen receptor α (ERα) is a transcription factor that can be directly activated by estrogen or indirectly by other signaling pathways. We previously reported that activation of the unliganded ERα by cAMP is mediated by phosphorylation of the transcriptional coactivator CARM1 by protein kinase A (PKA), allowing CARM1 to bind ERα directly. This being insufficient by itself to activate ERα, we looked for additional factors and identified the histone H3 demethylase LSD1 as a substrate of PKA and an important mediator of this signaling crosstalk as well as of the response to estrogen. Surprisingly, ERα engages not only LSD1, but its partners of the CoREST corepressor complex and the molecular chaperone Hsp90. The recruitment of Hsp90 to promote ERα transcriptional activity runs against the steroid receptor paradigm and suggests that it might be involved as an assembly factor or scaffold. In a breast cancer cell line, which is resistant to the anti-estrogen tamoxifen because of constitutively activated PKA, some interactions are constitutive and drug combinations partially rescue tamoxifen sensitivity. In ERα-positive breast cancer patients, high expression of the genes encoding some of these factors correlates with poor prognosis. Thus, these mechanisms might contribute to ERα-driven breast cancer.

Differential sensitivity to methylated DNA by ETS-family transcription factors is intrinsically encoded in their DNA-binding domains

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Transactivation by the ETS family of transcription factors, whose members share structurally conserved DNA-binding domains, is variably sensitive to methylation of their target genes. The mechanism by which DNA methylation controls ETS proteins remains poorly understood. Uncertainly also pervades the effects of hemi-methylated DNA, which occurs following DNA replication and in response to hypomethylating agents, on site recognition by ETS proteins. To address these questions, we measured the affinities of two sequence-divergent ETS homologs, PU.1 and Ets-1, to DNA sites harboring a hemi- and fully methylated CpG dinucleotide. While the two proteins bound unmethylated DNA with indistinguishable affinity, their affinities to methylated DNA are markedly heterogeneous and exhibit major energetic coupling between the two CpG methylcytosines. Analysis of simulated DNA and existing co-crystal structures revealed that hemi-methylation induced non-local backbone and groove geometries that were not conserved in the fully methylated state. Indirect readout of these perturbations was differentially achieved by the two ETS homologs, with the distinctive interfacial hydration in PU.1/DNA binding moderating the inhibitory effects of DNA methylation on binding. This data established a biophysical basis for the pioneering properties associated with PU.1, which robustly bound fully methylated DNA, but not Ets-1, which was substantially inhibited.

A primary role of TET proteins in establishment and maintenance of De Novo bivalency at CpG islands

Wed, 2016-10-12 15:43

Ten Eleven Translocation (TET) protein-catalyzed 5mC oxidation not only creates novel DNA modifications, such as 5hmC, but also initiates active or passive DNA demethylation. TETs’ role in the crosstalk with specific histone modifications, however, is largely elusive. Here, we show that TET2-mediated DNA demethylation plays a primary role in the de novo establishment and maintenance of H3K4me3/H3K27me3 bivalent domains underlying methylated DNA CpG islands (CGIs). Overexpression of wild type (WT), but not catalytic inactive mutant (Mut), TET2 in low-TET-expressing cells results in an increase in the level of 5hmC with accompanying DNA demethylation at a subset of CGIs. Most importantly, this alteration is sufficient in making de novo bivalent domains at these loci. Genome-wide analysis reveals that these de novo synthesized bivalent domains are largely associated with a subset of essential developmental gene promoters, which are located within CGIs and are previously silenced due to DNA methylation. On the other hand, deletion of Tet1 and Tet2 in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells results in an apparent loss of H3K27me3 at bivalent domains, which are associated with a particular set of key developmental gene promoters. Collectively, this study demonstrates the critical role of TET proteins in regulating the crosstalk between two key epigenetic mechanisms, DNA methylation and histone methylation (H3K4me3 and H3K27me3), particularly at CGIs associated with developmental genes.