Internal disulfide bond acts as a switch for intein activity.
ABSTRACT: Inteins are intervening polypeptides that catalyze their own removal from flanking exteins, concomitant to the ligation of the exteins. The intein that interrupts the DP2 (large) subunit of DNA polymerase II from Methanoculleus marisnigri (Mma) can promote protein splicing. However, protein splicing can be prevented or reduced by overexpression under nonreducing conditions because of the formation of a disulfide bond between two internal intein Cys residues. This redox sensitivity leads to differential activity in different strains of E. coli as well as in different cell compartments. The redox-dependent control of in vivo protein splicing in an intein derived from an anaerobe that can occupy multiple environments hints at a possible physiological role for protein splicing.
Project description:In protein splicing, an intervening protein sequence (intein) in the host protein excises itself out and ligates two split host protein sequences (exteins) to produce a mature host protein. Inteins require the involvement for the splicing of the first residue of the extein that follows the intein (which is Cys, Ser, or Thr). Other extein residues near the splicing junctions could modulate splicing efficiency even when they are not directly involved in catalysis. Mutual interdependence between this molecular parasite (intein) and its host protein (exteins) is not beneficial for intein spread but could be advantageous for intein survival during evolution. Elucidating extein-intein dependency has increasingly become important since inteins are recognized as useful biotechnological tools for protein ligation. We determined the structures of one of inteins with high splicing efficiency, the RadA intein from Pyrococcus horikoshii (PhoRadA). The solution NMR structure and the crystal structures elucidated the structural basis for its high efficiency and directed our efforts of engineering that led to rational design of a functional minimized RadA intein. The crystal structure of the minimized RadA intein also revealed the precise interactions between N-extein and the intein. We systematically analyzed the effects at the -1 position of N-extein and were able to significantly improve the splicing efficiency of a less robust splicing variant by eliminating the unfavorable extein-intein interactions observed in the structure. This work provides an example of how unveiling structure-function relationships of inteins offer a promising way of improving their properties as better tools for protein engineering.
Project description:Protein splicing is a self-catalyzed and spontaneous post-translational process in which inteins excise themselves out of precursor proteins while the exteins are ligated together. We report the first discovery of an intramolecular disulfide bond between the two active-site cysteines, Cys1 and Cys+1, in an intein precursor composed of the hyperthermophilic Pyrococcus abyssi PolII intein and extein. The existence of this intramolecular disulfide bond is demonstrated by the effect of reducing agents on the precursor, mutagenesis, and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) with tandem MS (MS/MS) of the tryptic peptide containing the intramolecular disulfide bond. The disulfide bond inhibits protein splicing, and splicing can be induced by reducing agents such as tris(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine (TCEP). The stability of the intramolecular disulfide bond is enhanced by electrostatic interactions between the N- and C-exteins but is reduced by elevated temperature. The presence of this intramolecular disulfide bond may contribute to the redox control of splicing activity in hypoxia and at low temperature and point to the intriguing possibility that inteins may act as switches to control extein function.
Project description:Inteins comprise a large family of phylogenetically widespread self-splicing protein catalysts that colonize diverse host proteins. The evolutionary and functional relationship between the intein and the split-host protein, the exteins, is largely unknown. To probe an association, we developed an in vivo and in vitro intein assay based on FRET. The FRET assay reports cleavage of the intein from its N-terminal extein. Applying this assay to randomized extein libraries, we show that the nature of the extein substrate bordering the intein can profoundly influence intein activity. Residues proximal to the intein-splicing junction in both N- and C-terminal exteins can accelerate the N-terminal cleavage rate by >4-fold or attenuate cleavage by 1,000-fold, both resulting in compromised self-splicing efficiency. The existence and the magnitude of extein effects require consideration for maximizing the utility of inteins in biotechnological applications, and they predict biases in intein integration sites in nature.
Project description:Inteins are intervening proteins that undergo an autocatalytic splicing reaction that ligates flanking host protein sequences termed exteins. Some intein-containing proteins have evolved to couple splicing to environmental signals; this represents a new form of posttranslational regulation. Of particular interest is RadA from the archaeon Pyrococcus horikoshii, for which long-range intein-extein interactions block splicing, requiring temperature and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) substrate to splice rapidly and accurately. Here, we report that splicing of the intein-containing RadA from another archaeon, Thermococcus sibericus, is activated by significantly lower temperatures than is P. horikoshii RadA, consistent with differences in their growth environments. Investigation into variations between T. sibericus and P. horikoshii RadA inteins led to the discovery that a nonconserved region (NCR) of the intein, a flexible loop where a homing endonuclease previously resided, is critical to splicing. Deletion of the NCR leads to a substantial loss in the rate and accuracy of P. horikoshii RadA splicing only within native exteins. The influence of the NCR deletion can be largely overcome by ssDNA, demonstrating that the splicing-competent conformation can be achieved. We present a model whereby the NCR is a flexible hinge which acts as a switch by controlling distant intein-extein interactions that inhibit active site assembly. These results speak to the repurposing of the vestigial endonuclease loop to control an intein-extein partnership, which ultimately allows exquisite adaptation of protein splicing upon changes in the environment.IMPORTANCE Inteins are mobile genetic elements that interrupt coding sequences (exteins) and are removed by protein splicing. They are abundant elements in microbes, and recent work has demonstrated that protein splicing can be controlled by environmental cues, including the substrate of the intein-containing protein. Here, we describe an intein-extein collaboration that controls temperature-induced splicing of RadA from two archaea and how variation in this intein-extein partnership results in fine-tuning of splicing to closely match the environment. Specifically, we found that a small sequence difference between the two inteins, a flexible loop that likely once housed a homing endonuclease used for intein mobility, acts as a switch to control intein-extein interactions that block splicing. Our results argue strongly that some inteins have evolved away from a purely parasitic lifestyle to control the activity of host proteins, representing a new form of posttranslational regulation that is potentially widespread in the microbial world.
Project description:Post-translational control based on an environmentally sensitive intervening intein sequence is described. Inteins are invasive genetic elements that self-splice at the protein level from the flanking host protein, the exteins. Here we show in Escherichia coli and in vitro that splicing of the RadA intein located in the ATPase domain of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus horikoshii is strongly regulated by the native exteins, which lock the intein in an inactive state. High temperature or solution conditions can unlock the intein for full activity, as can remote extein point mutations. Notably, this splicing trap occurs through interactions between distant residues in the native exteins and the intein, in three-dimensional space. The exteins might thereby serve as an environmental sensor, releasing the intein for full activity only at optimal growth conditions for the native organism, while sparing ATP consumption under conditions of cold-shock. This partnership between the intein and its exteins, which implies coevolution of the parasitic intein and its host protein may provide a novel means of post-translational control.
Project description:Protein splicing is a post-translational process by which an intein catalyzes its own excision from flanking polypeptides, or exteins, concomitant with extein ligation. Many inteins have nested homing endonuclease domains that facilitate their propagation into intein-less alleles, whereas other inteins lack the homing endonuclease (HEN) and are called mini-inteins. The mini-intein that interrupts the DNA PolII of Pyrococcus horikoshii has a linker region in place of the HEN domain that is shorter than the linker in a closely related intein from Pyrococcus abyssi. The P. horikoshii PolII intein requires a higher temperature for catalytic activity and is more stable to digestion by the thermostable protease thermolysin, suggesting that it is more rigid than the P. abyssi intein. We solved a crystal structure of the intein precursor that revealed a domain-swapped dimer. Inteins found as domain swapped dimers have been shown to promote intein-mediated protein alternative splicing, but the solved P. horikoshii PolII intein structure has an active site unlikely to be catalytically competent.
Project description:Inteins are naturally occurring intervening sequences that catalyze a protein splicing reaction resulting in intein excision and concatenation of the flanking polypeptides (exteins) with a native peptide bond. Inteins display a diversity of catalytic mechanisms within a highly conserved fold that is shared with hedgehog autoprocessing proteins. The unusual chemistry of inteins has afforded powerful biotechnology tools for controlling enzyme function upon splicing and allowing peptides of different origins to be coupled in a specific, time-defined manner. The extein sequences immediately flanking the intein affect splicing and can be defined as the intein substrate. Because of the enormous potential complexity of all possible flanking sequences, studying intein substrate specificity has been difficult. Therefore, we developed a genetic selection for splicing-dependent kanamycin resistance with no significant bias when six amino acids that immediately flanked the intein insertion site were randomized. We applied this selection to examine the sequence space of residues flanking the Nostoc punctiforme Npu DnaE intein and found that this intein efficiently splices a much wider range of sequences than previously thought, with little N-extein specificity and only two important C-extein positions. The novel selected extein sequences were sufficient to promote splicing in three unrelated proteins, confirming the generalizable nature of the specificity data and defining new potential insertion sites for any target. Kinetic analysis showed splicing rates with the selected exteins that were as fast or faster than the native extein, refuting past assumptions that the naturally selected flanking extein sequences are optimal for splicing.
Project description:Inteins, or intervening proteins, are mobile genetic elements translated within host polypeptides and removed through protein splicing. This self-catalyzed process breaks two peptide bonds and rejoins the flanking sequences, called N- and C-exteins, with the intein scarlessly escaping the host protein. As these elements have traditionally been viewed as purely selfish genetic elements, recent work has demonstrated that the conditional protein splicing (CPS) of several naturally occurring inteins can be regulated by a variety of environmental cues relevant to the survival of the host organism or crucial to the invading protein function. The RadA recombinase from the archaeon <i>Pyrococcus horikoshii</i> represents an intriguing example of CPS, whereby protein splicing is inhibited by interactions between the intein and host protein C-extein. Single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), a natural substrate of RadA as well as signal that recombinase activity is needed by the cell, dramatically improves the splicing rate and accuracy. Here, we investigate the mechanism by which ssDNA exhibits this influence and find that ssDNA strongly promotes a specific step of the splicing reaction, cyclization of the terminal asparagine of the intein. Interestingly, inhibitory interactions between the host protein and intein that block splicing localize to this asparagine, suggesting that ssDNA binding alleviates this inhibition to promote splicing. We also find that ssDNA directly influences the position of catalytic nucleophiles required for protein splicing, implying that ssDNA promotes assembly of the intein active site. This work advances our understanding of how ssDNA accelerates RadA splicing, providing important insights into this intriguing example of CPS.
Project description:We report the first detailed investigation of the kinetics of protein splicing by the Methanococcus jannaschii KlbA (Mja KlbA) intein. This intein has an N-terminal Ala in place of the nucleophilic Cys or Ser residue that normally initiates splicing but nevertheless splices efficiently in vivo [Southworth, M. W., Benner, J., and Perler, F. B. (2000) EMBO J.19, 5019-5026]. To date, the spontaneous nature of the cis splicing reaction has hindered its examination in vitro. For this reason, we constructed an Mja KlbA intein-mini-extein precursor using intein-mediated protein ligation and engineered a disulfide redox switch that permits initiation of the splicing reaction by the addition of a reducing agent such as dithiothreitol (DTT). A fluorescent tag at the C-terminus of the C-extein permits monitoring of the progress of the reaction. Kinetic analysis of the splicing reaction of the wild-type precursor (with no substitutions in known nucleophiles or assisting groups) at various DTT concentrations shows that formation of the branched intermediate from the precursor is reversible (forward rate constant of 1.5 × 10(-3) s(-1) and reverse rate constant of 1.7 × 10(-5) s(-1) at 42 °C), whereas the productive decay of this intermediate to form the ligated exteins is faster and occurs with a rate constant of 2.2 × 10(-3) s(-1). This finding conflicts with reports about standard inteins, for which Asn cyclization has been assigned as the rate-determining step of the splicing reaction. Despite being the slowest step of the reaction, branched intermediate formation in the Mja KlbA intein is efficient in comparison with those of other intein systems. Interestingly, it also appears that this intermediate is protected against thiolysis by DTT, in contrast to other inteins. Evidence is presented in support of a tight coupling between the N-terminal and C-terminal cleavage steps, despite the fact that the C-terminal single-cleavage reaction occurs in variant Mja KlbA inteins in the absence of N-terminal cleavage. We posit that the splicing events in the Mja KlbA system are tightly coordinated by a network of intra- and interdomain noncovalent interactions, rendering its function particularly sensitive to minor disruptions in the intein or extein environments.
Project description:Protein splicing is an autocatalytic process involving self-excision of an internal protein domain, the intein, and concomitant ligation of the two flanking sequences, the exteins, with a peptide bond. Protein splicing can also take place in trans by naturally split inteins or artificially split inteins, ligating the exteins on two different polypeptide chains into one polypeptide chain. Protein trans-splicing could work in foreign contexts by replacing the native extein sequences with other protein sequences. Protein ligation using protein trans-splicing increasingly becomes a useful tool for biotechnological applications such as semi-synthesis of proteins, segmental isotopic labeling, and in vivo protein engineering. However, only a few split inteins have been successfully applied for protein ligation. Naturally split inteins have been widely used, but they are cross-reactive to each other, limiting their applications to multiple-fragment ligation. Based on the three-dimensional structures including two newly determined intein structures, we derived 21 new split inteins from four highly efficient cis-splicing inteins, in order to develop novel split inteins suitable for protein ligation. We systematically compared trans-splicing of 24 split inteins and tested the cross-activities among them to identify orthogonal split intein fragments that could be used in chemical biology and biotechnological applications.