Deletion of the P5abc peripheral element accelerates early and late folding steps of the Tetrahymena group I ribozyme.
ABSTRACT: The P5abc peripheral element stabilizes the Tetrahymena group I ribozyme and enhances its catalytic activity. Despite its beneficial effects on the native structure, prior studies have shown that early formation of P5abc structure during folding can slow later folding steps. Here we use a P5abc deletion variant E(deltaP5abc) to systematically probe the role of P5abc throughout tertiary folding. Time-resolved hydroxyl radical footprinting shows that E(deltaP5abc) forms its earliest stable tertiary structure on the millisecond time scale, approximately 5-fold faster than the wild-type ribozyme, and stable structure spreads throughout E(deltaP5abc) in seconds. Nevertheless, activity measurements show that the earliest detectable formation of native E(deltaP5abc) ribozyme is much slower (approximately 0.6 min(-1)), in a manner similar to that of the wild type. Also similar, only a small fraction of E(deltaP5abc) attains the native state on this time scale under standard conditions at 25 degrees C, whereas the remainder misfolds; footprinting experiments show that the misfolded conformer shares structural features with the long-lived misfolded conformer of the wild-type ribozyme. Thus, P5abc does not have a large overall effect on the rate-limiting step(s) along this pathway. However, once misfolded, E(deltaP5abc) refolds to the native state 80-fold faster than the wild-type ribozyme and is less accelerated by urea, indicating that P5abc stabilizes the misfolded structure relative to the less-ordered transition state for refolding. Together, the results suggest that, under these conditions, even the earliest tertiary folding intermediates of the wild-type ribozyme represent misfolded species and that P5abc is principally a liability during the tertiary folding process.
Project description:The Neurospora crassa CYT-18 protein is a mitochondrial tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase that also promotes self-splicing of group I intron RNAs by stabilizing the functional structure in the conserved core. CYT-18 binds the core along the same surface as a common peripheral element, P5abc, suggesting that CYT-18 can replace P5abc functionally. In addition to stabilizing structure generally, P5abc stabilizes the native conformation of the Tetrahymena group I intron relative to a globally similar misfolded conformation that has only local differences within the core and is populated significantly at equilibrium by a ribozyme variant lacking P5abc (E(DeltaP5abc)). Here, we show that CYT-18 specifically promotes formation of the native group I intron core from this misfolded conformation. Catalytic activity assays demonstrate that CYT-18 shifts the equilibrium of E(DeltaP5abc) toward the native state by at least 35-fold, and binding assays suggest an even larger effect. Thus, similar to P5abc, CYT-18 preferentially recognizes the native core, despite the global similarity of the misfolded core and despite forming crudely similar complexes, as revealed by dimethyl sulfate footprinting. Interestingly, the effects of CYT-18 and P5abc on folding kinetics differ. Whereas P5abc inhibits refolding of the misfolded conformation by forming peripheral contacts that must break during refolding, CYT-18 does not display analogous inhibition, most likely because it relies to a greater extent on direct interactions with the core. Although CYT-18 does not encounter this RNA in vivo, our results suggest that it stabilizes its cognate group I introns relative to analogous misfolded intermediates. By specifically recognizing native structural features, CYT-18 may also interact with earlier folding intermediates to avoid RNA misfolding or to trap native contacts as they form. More generally, our results highlight the ability of a protein cofactor to stabilize a functional RNA structure specifically without incurring associated costs in RNA folding kinetics.
Project description:Structured RNAs fold through multiple pathways, but we have little understanding of the molecular features that dictate folding pathways and determine rates along a given pathway. Here, we asked whether folding of a complex RNA can be understood from its structural modules. In a two-piece version of the Tetrahymena group I ribozyme, the separated P5abc subdomain folds to local native secondary and tertiary structure in a linked transition and assembles with the ribozyme core via three tertiary contacts: a kissing loop (P14), a metal core-receptor interaction, and a tetraloop-receptor interaction, the first two of which are expected to depend on native P5abc structure from the local transition. Native gel, NMR, and chemical footprinting experiments showed that mutations that destabilize the native P5abc structure slowed assembly up to 100-fold, indicating that P5abc folds first and then assembles with the core by conformational selection. However, rate decreases beyond 100-fold were not observed because an alternative pathway becomes dominant, with nonnative P5abc binding the core and then undergoing an induced-fit rearrangement. P14 is formed in the rate-limiting step along the conformational selection pathway but after the rate-limiting step along the induced-fit pathway. Strikingly, the assembly rate along the conformational selection pathway resembles that of an isolated kissing loop similar to P14, and the rate along the induced-fit pathway resembles that of an isolated tetraloop-receptor interaction. Our results indicate substantial modularity in RNA folding and assembly and suggest that these processes can be understood in terms of underlying structural modules.
Project description:Structured RNAs encode native conformations that are more stable than the vast ensembles of alternative conformations, but how this specificity is evolved is incompletely understood. Here we show that a variant of the Tetrahymena group I intron ribozyme that was generated previously by in vitro selection for enhanced thermostability also displays modestly enhanced specificity against a stable misfolded structure that is globally similar to the native state, despite the absence of selective pressure to increase the energy gap between these structures. The enhanced specificity for native folding arises from mutations in two nucleotides that are close together in space in the native structure, and additional experiments show that these two mutations do not affect the stability of the misfolded conformation relative to the largely unstructured transition state ensemble for interconversion between the native and misfolded conformers. Thus, they selectively stabilize the native state, presumably by strengthening a local tertiary contact network that cannot form in the misfolded conformation. The stabilization is larger in the presence of the peripheral element P5abc, suggesting that cooperative tertiary structure formation plays a key role in the enhanced stability. The increased specificity in the absence of explicit selection suggests that the large energy gap in the wild-type RNA may have arisen analogously, a consequence of selective pressure for stability of the functional structure. More generally, the structural rigidity and intricate networks of contacts in structured RNAs may allow them to evolve substantial structural specificity without explicit negative selection, even against closely related alternative structures.
Project description:Intermediates play important roles in RNA folding but can be difficult to characterize when short-lived or not significantly populated. By combining (15)N relaxation dispersion NMR with chemical probing, we visualized a fast (kex=k1+k-1≈423 s(-1)) secondary structural switch directed towards a low-populated (∼3%) partially folded intermediate in tertiary folding of the P5abc subdomain of the 'Tetrahymena' group I intron ribozyme. The secondary structure switch changes the base-pairing register across the P5c hairpin, creating a native-like structure, and occurs at rates of more than two orders of magnitude faster than tertiary folding. The switch occurs robustly in the absence of tertiary interactions, Mg(2+) or even when the hairpin is excised from the three-way junction. Fast, highly modular secondary structural switches may be quite common during RNA tertiary folding where they may help smoothen the folding landscape by allowing folding to proceed efficiently via additional pathways.
Project description:Folding mechanisms in which secondary structures are stabilized through the formation of tertiary interactions are well documented in protein folding but challenge the folding hierarchy normally assumed for RNA. However, it is increasingly clear that RNA could fold by a similar mechanism. P5abc, a small independently folding tertiary domain of the Tetrahymena thermophila group I ribozyme, is known to fold by a secondary structure rearrangement involving helix P5c. However, the extent of this rearrangement and the precise stage of folding that triggers it are unknown. We use experiments and simulations to show that the P5c helix switches to the native secondary structure late in the folding pathway and is directly coupled to the formation of tertiary interactions in the A-rich bulge. P5c mutations show that the switch in P5c is not rate-determining and suggest that non-native interactions in P5c aid folding rather than impede it. Our study illustrates that despite significant differences in the building blocks of proteins and RNA, there may be common ways in which they self-assemble.
Project description:Despite the ubiquitous nature of misfolded intermediates in RNA folding, little is known about their physical properties or the folding transitions that allow them to continue folding productively. Folding of the Tetrahymena group I ribozyme includes sequential accumulation of two intermediates, termed I(trap) and misfolded (M). Here, we probe the structure and folding transition of I(trap) and compare them to those of M. Hydroxyl radical and dimethyl sulfate footprinting show that both I(trap) and M are extensively structured and crudely resemble the native RNA. However, regions of the core P3-P8 domain are more exposed to solvent in I(trap) than in M. I(trap) rearranges to continue folding nearly 1000-fold faster than M, and urea accelerates folding of I(trap) much less than M. Thus, the rate-limiting transition from I(trap) requires a smaller increase in exposed surface. Mutations that disrupt peripheral tertiary contacts give large and nearly uniform increases in re-folding of M, whereas the same mutations give at most modest increases in folding from I(trap). Intriguingly, mutations within the peripheral element P5abc give 5- to 10-fold accelerations in escape from I(trap), whereas ablation of P13, which lies on the opposite surface in the native structure, near the P3-P8 domain, has no effect. Thus, the unfolding required from I(trap) appears to be local, whereas the unfolding of M appears to be global. Further, the modest effects from several mutations suggest that there are multiple pathways for escape from I(trap) and that escape is aided by loosening nearby native structural constraints, presumably to facilitate local movements of nucleotides or segments that have not formed native contacts. Overall, these and prior results suggest a model in which the global architecture and peripheral interactions of the RNA are achieved relatively early in folding. Multiple folding and re-folding events occur on the predominant pathway to the native state, with increasing native core interactions and cooperativity as folding progresses.
Project description:RNAs must fold into unique three-dimensional structures to function in the cell, but how each polynucleotide finds its native structure is not understood. To investigate whether the stability of the tertiary structure determines the speed and accuracy of RNA folding, docking of a tetraloop with its receptor in a bacterial group I ribozyme was perturbed by site-directed mutagenesis. Disruption of the tetraloop or its receptor destabilizes tertiary interactions throughout the ribozyme by 2-3 kcal/mol, demonstrating that tertiary interactions form cooperatively in the transition from a native-like intermediate to the native state. Nondenaturing PAGE and RNase T1 digestion showed that base pairs form less homogeneously in the mutant RNAs during the transition from the unfolded state to the intermediate. Thus, tertiary interactions between helices bias the ensemble of secondary structures toward native-like conformations. Time-resolved hydroxyl radical footprinting showed that the wild-type ribozyme folds completely within 5-20 ms. By contrast, only 40-60% of a tetraloop mutant ribozyme folds in 30-40 ms, with the remainder folding in 30-200 s via nonnative intermediates. Therefore, destabilization of tetraloop-receptor docking introduces an alternate folding pathway in the otherwise smooth energy landscape of the wild-type ribozyme. Our results show that stable tertiary structure increases the flux through folding pathways that lead directly and rapidly to the native structure.
Project description:We explore the interactions of CYT-19, a DExD/H-box protein that functions in folding of group I RNAs, with a well characterized misfolded species of the Tetrahymena ribozyme. Consistent with its function, CYT-19 accelerates refolding of the misfolded RNA to its native state. Unexpectedly, CYT-19 performs another reaction much more efficiently; it unwinds the 6-bp P1 duplex formed between the ribozyme and its oligonucleotide substrate. Furthermore, CYT-19 performs this reaction 50-fold more efficiently than it unwinds the same duplex free in solution, suggesting that it forms additional interactions with the ribozyme, most likely using a distinct RNA binding site from the one responsible for unwinding. This site can apparently bind double-stranded RNA, as attachment of a simple duplex adjacent to P1 recapitulates much of the activation provided by the ribozyme. Unwinding the native P1 duplex does not accelerate refolding of the misfolded ribozyme, implying that CYT-19 can disrupt multiple contacts on the RNA, consistent with its function in folding of multiple RNAs. Further experiments showed that the P1 duplex unwinding activity is virtually the same whether the ribozyme is misfolded or native but is abrogated by formation of tertiary contacts between the P1 duplex and the body of the ribozyme. Together these results suggest a mechanism for CYT-19 and other general DExD/H-box RNA chaperones in which the proteins bind to structured RNAs and efficiently unwind loosely associated duplexes, which biases the proteins to disrupt nonnative base pairs and gives the liberated strands an opportunity to refold.
Project description:A requirement for specific RNA folding is that the free-energy landscape discriminate against non-native folds. While tertiary interactions are critical for stabilizing the native fold, they are relatively non-specific, suggesting additional mechanisms contribute to tertiary folding specificity. In this study, we use coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations to explore how secondary structure shapes the tertiary free-energy landscape of the Azoarcus ribozyme. We show that steric and connectivity constraints posed by secondary structure strongly limit the accessible conformational space of the ribozyme, and that these so-called topological constraints in turn pose strong free-energy penalties on forming different tertiary contacts. Notably, native A-minor and base-triple interactions form with low conformational free energy, while non-native tetraloop/tetraloop-receptor interactions are penalized by high conformational free energies. Topological constraints also give rise to strong cooperativity between distal tertiary interactions, quantitatively matching prior experimental measurements. The specificity of the folding landscape is further enhanced as tertiary contacts place additional constraints on the conformational space, progressively funneling the molecule to the native state. These results indicate that secondary structure assists the ribozyme in navigating the otherwise rugged tertiary folding landscape, and further emphasize topological constraints as a key force in RNA folding.
Project description:Like proteins, structured RNAs must specify a native conformation that is more stable than all other possible conformations. Local structure is much more stable for RNA than for protein, so it is likely that the principal challenge for RNA is to stabilize the native structure relative to misfolded and partially folded intermediates rather than unfolded structures. Many structured RNAs contain peripheral structural elements, which surround the core elements. Although it is clear that peripheral elements stabilize structure within RNAs that contain them, it has not yet been explored whether they specifically stabilize the native states relative to alternative folds. A two-piece version of the group I intron RNA from Tetrahymena is used here to show that the peripheral element P5abc binds to the native conformation of the rest of the RNA 50,000 times more tightly than it binds to a long-lived misfolded conformation. Thus, P5abc stabilizes the native conformation by approximately 6 kcal/mol relative to this misfolded conformation. Further, activity measurements show that for the RNA lacking P5abc, the native conformation is only marginally preferred over the misfolded conformation (<0.5 kcal/mol), indicating that the peripheral structure of this RNA is required to achieve a significant thermodynamic preference for the native state. Such "structural specificity" may be a general function of RNA peripheral domains.