• Optical Tweezers to Study RNA-Protein Interactions in Translation Regulation

      Pekarek, Lukas; Buck, Stefan; Caliskan, Neva; Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI), Helmholtz Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research), Germany (JOVE, 2022-02-12)
      RNA adopts diverse structural folds, which are essential for its functions and thereby can impact diverse processes in the cell. In addition, the structure and function of an RNA can be modulated by various trans-acting factors, such as proteins, metabolites or other RNAs. Frameshifting RNA molecules, for instance, are regulatory RNAs located in coding regions, which direct translating ribosomes into an alternative open reading frame, and thereby act as gene switches. They may also adopt different folds after binding to proteins or other trans-factors. To dissect the role of RNA-binding proteins in translation and how they modulate RNA structure and stability, it is crucial to study the interplay and mechanical features of these RNA-protein complexes simultaneously. This work illustrates how to employ single-molecule-fluorescence-coupled optical tweezers to explore the conformational and thermodynamic landscape of RNA-protein complexes at a high resolution. As an example, the interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 programmed ribosomal frameshifting element with the trans-acting factor short isoform of zinc-finger antiviral protein is elaborated. In addition, fluorescence-labeled ribosomes were monitored using the confocal unit, which would ultimately enable the study of translation elongation. The fluorescence coupled OT assay can be widely applied to explore diverse RNA-protein complexes or trans-acting factors regulating translation and could facilitate studies of RNA-based gene regulation.
    • Structural and molecular basis for Cardiovirus 2A protein as a viral gene expression switch.

      Hill, Chris H; Pekarek, Lukas; Napthine, Sawsan; Kibe, Anuja; Firth, Andrew E; Graham, Stephen C; Caliskan, Neva; Brierley, Ian; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Publishing Group (NPG), 2021-12-09)
      rogrammed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) in cardioviruses is activated by the 2A protein, a multi-functional virulence factor that also inhibits cap-dependent translational initiation. Here we present the X-ray crystal structure of 2A and show that it selectively binds to a pseudoknot-like conformation of the PRF stimulatory RNA element in the viral genome. Using optical tweezers, we demonstrate that 2A stabilises this RNA element, likely explaining the increase in PRF efficiency in the presence of 2A. Next, we demonstrate a strong interaction between 2A and the small ribosomal subunit and present a cryo-EM structure of 2A bound to initiated 70S ribosomes. Multiple copies of 2A bind to the 16S rRNA where they may compete for binding with initiation and elongation factors. Together, these results define the structural basis for RNA recognition by 2A, show how 2A-mediated stabilisation of an RNA pseudoknot promotes PRF, and reveal how 2A accumulation may shut down translation during virus infection. © 2021. The Au
    • The SARS-CoV-2 RNA-protein interactome in infected human cells.

      Schmidt, Nora; Lareau, Caleb A; Keshishian, Hasmik; Ganskih, Sabina; Schneider, Cornelius; Hennig, Thomas; Melanson, Randy; Werner, Simone; Wei, Yuanjie; Zimmer, Matthias; et al. (Nature research, 2020-12-21)
      Characterizing the interactions that SARS-CoV-2 viral RNAs make with host cell proteins during infection can improve our understanding of viral RNA functions and the host innate immune response. Using RNA antisense purification and mass spectrometry, we identified up to 104 human proteins that directly and specifically bind to SARS-CoV-2 RNAs in infected human cells. We integrated the SARS-CoV-2 RNA interactome with changes in proteome abundance induced by viral infection and linked interactome proteins to cellular pathways relevant to SARS-CoV-2 infections. We demonstrated by genetic perturbation that cellular nucleic acid-binding protein (CNBP) and La-related protein 1 (LARP1), two of the most strongly enriched viral RNA binders, restrict SARS-CoV-2 replication in infected cells and provide a global map of their direct RNA contact sites. Pharmacological inhibition of three other RNA interactome members, PPIA, ATP1A1, and the ARP2/3 complex, reduced viral replication in two human cell lines. The identification of host dependency factors and defence strategies as presented in this work will improve the design of targeted therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2.
    • Thermodynamic control of -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting.

      Bock, Lars V; Caliskan, Neva; Korniy, Natalia; Peske, Frank; Rodnina, Marina V; Grubmüller, Helmut; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Research, 2019-10-10)
      mRNA contexts containing a 'slippery' sequence and a downstream secondary structure element stall the progression of the ribosome along the mRNA and induce its movement into the -1 reading frame. In this study we build a thermodynamic model based on Bayesian statistics to explain how -1 programmed ribosome frameshifting can work. As training sets for the model, we measured frameshifting efficiencies on 64 dnaX mRNA sequence variants in vitro and also used 21 published in vivo efficiencies. With the obtained free-energy difference between mRNA-tRNA base pairs in the 0 and -1 frames, the frameshifting efficiency of a given sequence can be reproduced and predicted from the tRNA-mRNA base pairing in the two frames. Our results further explain how modifications in the tRNA anticodon modulate frameshifting and show how the ribosome tunes the strength of the base-pair interactions.
    • Small synthetic molecule-stabilized RNA pseudoknot as an activator for -1 ribosomal frameshifting.

      Matsumoto, Saki; Caliskan, Neva; Rodnina, Marina V; Murata, Asako; Nakatani, Kazuhiko; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-08-02)
      Programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1PRF) is a recoding mechanism to make alternative proteins from a single mRNA transcript. -1PRF is stimulated by cis-acting signals in mRNA, a seven-nucleotide slippery sequence and a downstream secondary structure element, which is often a pseudoknot. In this study we engineered the frameshifting pseudoknot from the mouse mammary tumor virus to respond to a rationally designed small molecule naphthyridine carbamate tetramer (NCTn). We demonstrate that NCTn can stabilize the pseudoknot structure in mRNA and activate -1PRF both in vitro and in human cells. The results illustrate how NCTn-inducible -1PRF may serve as an important component of the synthetic biology toolbox for the precise control of gene expression using small synthetic molecules.