Crystal structures of transcription factor NusG in light of its nucleic acid- and protein-binding activities.
ABSTRACT: Microbial transcription modulator NusG interacts with RNA polymerase and termination factor rho, displaying striking functional homology to eukaryotic Spt5. The protein is also a translational regulator. We have determined crystal structures of Aquifex aeolicus NusG showing a modular design: an N-terminal RNP-like domain, a C-terminal element with a KOW sequence motif and a species-specific immunoglobulin-like fold. The structures reveal bona fide nucleic acid binding sites, and nucleic acid binding activities can be detected for NusG from three organisms and for the KOW element alone. A conserved KOW domain is defined as a new class of nucleic acid binding folds. This module is a close structural homolog of tudor protein-protein interaction motifs. Putative protein binding sites for the RNP and KOW domains can be deduced, which differ from the areas implicated in nucleic acid interactions. The results strongly argue that both protein and nucleic acid contacts are important for NusG's functions and that the factor can act as an adaptor mediating indirect protein-nucleic acid associations.
Project description:The human transcription elongation factor DSIF is highly conserved throughout all kingdoms of life and plays multiple roles during transcription. DSIF is a heterodimer, consisting of Spt4 and Spt5 that interacts with RNA polymerase II (RNAP II). DSIF binds to the elongation complex and induces promoter-proximal pausing of RNAP II. Human Spt5 consists of a NusG N-terminal (NGN) domain motif, which is followed by several KOW domains. We determined the solution structures of the human Spt5 KOW4 and the C-terminal domain by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In addition to the typical KOW fold, the solution structure of KOW4 revealed an N-terminal four-stranded ?-sheet, previously designated as the KOW3-KOW4 linker. In solution, the C-terminus of Spt5 consists of two ?-barrel folds typical for KOW domains, designated KOW6 and KOW7. We also analysed the nucleic acid and RNAP II binding properties of the KOW domains. KOW4 variants interacted with nucleic acids, preferentially single stranded RNA, whereas no nucleic acid binding could be detected for KOW6-7. Weak binding of KOW4 to the RNAP II stalk, which is comprised of Rpb4/7, was also detected, consistent with transient interactions between Spt5 and these RNAP II subunits.
Project description:NusG/RfaH/Spt5 transcription elongation factors are the only transcription regulators conserved across all life. Bacterial NusG regulates RNA polymerase (RNAP) elongation complexes (ECs) across most genes, enhancing elongation by suppressing RNAP backtracking and coordinating ?-dependent termination and translation. The NusG paralog RfaH engages the EC only at operon polarity suppressor (ops) sites and suppresses both backtrack and hairpin-stabilized pausing. We used single-particle cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine structures of ECs at ops with NusG or RfaH. Both factors chaperone base-pairing of the upstream duplex DNA to suppress backtracking, explaining stimulation of elongation genome-wide. The RfaH-opsEC structure reveals how RfaH confers operon specificity through specific recognition of an ops hairpin in the single-stranded nontemplate DNA and tighter binding to the EC to exclude NusG. Tight EC binding by RfaH sterically blocks the swiveled RNAP conformation necessary for hairpin-stabilized pausing. The universal conservation of NusG/RfaH/Spt5 suggests that the molecular mechanisms uncovered here are widespread.
Project description:Spt5 is a transcription factor conserved in all three domains of life. Spt5 homologues from bacteria and archaea bind the largest subunit of their respective RNA polymerases. Here we demonstrate that Spt5 directly associates with RNA polymerase (Pol) I and RNA Pol II in yeast through its central region containing conserved NusG N-terminal homology and KOW domains. Deletion analysis of SPT5 supports our biochemical data, demonstrating the importance of the KOW domains in Spt5 function. Far Western blot analysis implicates A190 of Pol I as well as Rpb1 of Pol II in binding Spt5. Three additional subunits of Pol I may also participate in this interaction. One of these subunits, A49, has known roles in transcription elongation by Pol I. Interestingly, spt5 truncation mutations suppress the cold-sensitive phenotype of rpa49? strain, which lacks the A49 subunit in the Pol I complex. Finally, we observed that Spt5 directly binds to an essential Pol I transcription initiation factor, Rrn3, and to the ribosomal RNA. Based on these data, we propose a model in which Spt5 is recruited to the rDNA early in transcription and propose that it plays an important role in ribosomal RNA synthesis through direct binding to the Pol I complex.
Project description:In all organisms, RNA polymerase (RNAP) relies on accessory factors to complete synthesis of long RNAs. These factors increase RNAP processivity by reducing pausing and termination, but their molecular mechanisms remain incompletely understood. We identify the ? gate loop as an RNAP element required for antipausing activity of a bacterial virulence factor RfaH, a member of the universally conserved NusG family. Interactions with the gate loop are necessary for suppression of pausing and termination by RfaH, but are dispensable for RfaH binding to RNAP mediated by the ?' clamp helices. We hypothesize that upon binding to the clamp helices and the gate loop RfaH bridges the gap across the DNA channel, stabilizing RNAP contacts with nucleic acid and disfavoring isomerization into a paused state. We show that contacts with the gate loop are also required for antipausing by NusG and propose that most NusG homologs use similar mechanisms to increase RNAP processivity.
Project description:NusG, referred to as Spt5 in archaeal and eukaryotic organisms, is the only transcription factor conserved in all three domains of life. This general transcription elongation factor binds to RNA polymerase (RNAP) soon after transcription initiation and dissociation of the RNA polymerase ? factor. Escherichia coli NusG increases transcription processivity by suppressing RNAP pausing, whereas Bacillus subtilis NusG dramatically stimulates pausing at two sites in the untranslated leader of the trpEDCFBA operon. These two regulatory pause sites participate in transcription attenuation and translational control mechanisms, respectively. Here we report that B. subtilis NusG makes sequence-specific contacts with a T-rich sequence in the non-template DNA (ntDNA) strand within the paused transcription bubble. NusG protects T residues of the recognition sequence from permanganate oxidation, and these T residues increase the affinity of NusG to the elongation complex. Binding of NusG to RNAP does not require interaction with RNA. These results indicate that bound NusG prevents forward movement of RNA polymerase by simultaneously contacting RNAP and the ntDNA strand. Mutational studies indicate that amino acid residues of two short regions within the NusG N-terminal domain are primarily responsible for recognition of the trp operon pause signals. Structural modeling indicates that these two regions are adjacent to each another in the protein. We propose that recognition of specific sequences in the ntDNA and stimulation of RNAP pausing is a conserved function of NusG-like transcription factors.
Project description:RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) undergoes structural changes during the transitions from initiation, elongation, and termination, which are aided by a collection of proteins called elongation factors. NusG/Spt5 is the only elongation factor conserved in all domains of life. Although much information exists about the interactions between NusG/Spt5 and RNA polymerase in prokaryotes, little is known about how the binding of eukaryotic Spt4/5 affects the biochemical activities of RNAPII. We characterized the activities of Spt4/5 and interrogated the structural features of Spt5 required for it to interact with elongation complexes, bind nucleic acids, and promote transcription elongation. The eukaryotic specific regions of Spt5 containing the Kyrpides, Ouzounis, Woese domains are involved in stabilizing the association with the RNAPII elongation complex, which also requires the presence of the nascent transcript. Interestingly, we identify a region within the conserved NusG N-terminal (NGN) domain of Spt5 that contacts the non-template strand of DNA both upstream of RNAPII and in the transcription bubble. Mutating charged residues in this region of Spt5 did not prevent Spt4/5 binding to elongation complexes, but abrogated the cross-linking of Spt5 to DNA and the anti-arrest properties of Spt4/5, thus suggesting that contact between Spt5 (NGN) and DNA is required for Spt4/5 to promote elongation. We propose that the mechanism of how Spt5/NGN promotes elongation is fundamentally conserved; however, the eukaryotic specific regions of the protein evolved so that it can serve as a platform for other elongation factors and maintain its association with RNAPII as it navigates genomes packaged into chromatin.
Project description:Evolutionary related multisubunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribe the genomes of all living organisms. Whereas the core subunits of RNAPs are universally conserved in all three domains of life-indicative of a common evolutionary descent-this only applies to one RNAP-associated transcription factor-Spt5, also known as NusG in bacteria. All other factors that aid RNAP during the transcription cycle are specific for the individual domain or only conserved between archaea and eukaryotes. Spt5 and its bacterial homologue NusG regulate gene expression in several ways by (i) modulating transcription processivity and promoter proximal pausing, (ii) coupling transcription and RNA processing or translation, and (iii) recruiting termination factors and thereby silencing laterally transferred DNA and protecting the genome against double-stranded DNA breaks. This review discusses recent discoveries that identify Spt5-like factors as evolutionary conserved nexus for the regulation and coordination of the machineries responsible for information processing in the cell.
Project description:The only universally conserved family of transcription factors comprises housekeeping regulators and their specialized paralogs, represented by well-studied NusG and RfaH. Despite their ubiquity, little information is available on the evolutionary origins, functions, and gene targets of the NusG family members. We built a hidden Markov model profile of RfaH and identified its homologs in sequenced genomes. While NusG is widespread among bacterial phyla and coresides with genes encoding RNA polymerase and ribosome in all except extremely reduced genomes, RfaH is mostly limited to Proteobacteria and lacks common gene neighbors. RfaH activates only a few xenogeneic operons that are otherwise silenced by NusG and Rho. Phylogenetic reconstructions reveal extensive duplications and horizontal transfer of rfaH genes, including those borne by plasmids, and the molecular evolution pathway of RfaH, from "early" exclusion of the Rho terminator and tightened RNA polymerase binding to "late" interactions with the ops DNA element and autoinhibition, which together define the RfaH regulon. Remarkably, NusG is not only ubiquitous in Bacteria but also common in plants, where it likely modulates the transcription of plastid genes.IMPORTANCE In all domains of life, NusG-like proteins make contacts similar to those of RNA polymerase and promote pause-free transcription yet may play different roles, defined by their divergent interactions with nucleic acids and accessory proteins, in the same cell. This duality is illustrated by Escherichia coli NusG and RfaH, which silence and activate xenogenes, respectively. We combined sequence analysis and recent functional and structural insights to envision the evolutionary transformation of NusG, a core regulator that we show is present in all cells using bacterial RNA polymerase, into a virulence factor, RfaH. Our results suggest a stepwise conversion of a NusG duplicate copy into a sequence-specific regulator which excludes NusG from its targets but does not compromise the regulation of housekeeping genes. We find that gene duplication and lateral transfer give rise to a surprising diversity within the only ubiquitous family of transcription factors.
Project description:Numerous accessory factors modulate RNA polymerase response to regulatory signals and cellular cues and establish communications with co-transcriptional RNA processing. Transcription regulators are astonishingly diverse, with similar mechanisms arising via convergent evolution. NusG/Spt5 elongation factors comprise the only universally conserved and ancient family of regulators. They bind to the conserved clamp helices domain of RNA polymerase, which also interacts with non-homologous initiation factors in all domains of life, and reach across the DNA channel to form processivity clamps that enable uninterrupted RNA chain synthesis. In addition to this ubiquitous function, NusG homologs exert diverse, and sometimes opposite, effects on gene expression by competing with each other and other regulators for binding to the clamp helices and by recruiting auxiliary factors that facilitate termination, antitermination, splicing, translation, etc. This surprisingly diverse range of activities and the underlying unprecedented structural changes make studies of these "transformer" proteins both challenging and rewarding.
Project description:The eukaryotic Spt4-Spt5 heterodimer forms a higher-order complex with RNA polymerase II (and I) to regulate transcription elongation. Extensive genetic and functional data have revealed diverse roles of Spt4-Spt5 in coupling elongation with chromatin modification and RNA-processing pathways. A mechanistic understanding of the diverse functions of Spt4-Spt5 is hampered by challenges in resolving the distribution of functions among its structural domains, including the five KOW domains in Spt5, and a lack of their high-resolution structures. We present high-resolution crystallographic results demonstrating that distinct structures are formed by the first through third KOW domains (KOW1-Linker1 [K1L1] and KOW2-KOW3) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Spt5. The structure reveals that K1L1 displays a positively charged patch (PCP) on its surface, which binds nucleic acids in vitro, as shown in biochemical assays, and is important for in vivo function, as shown in growth assays. Furthermore, assays in yeast have shown that the PCP has a function that partially overlaps that of Spt4. Synthesis of our results with previous evidence suggests a model in which Spt4 and the K1L1 domain of Spt5 form functionally overlapping interactions with nucleic acids upstream of the transcription bubble, and this mechanism may confer robustness on processes associated with transcription elongation.