RNA Structural Modules Control the Rate and Pathway of RNA Folding and Assembly.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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: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: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: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:RNA tertiary motifs play an important role in RNA folding and biochemical functions. To help interpret the complex organization of RNA tertiary interactions, we comprehensively analyze a data set of 54 high-resolution RNA crystal structures for motif occurrence and correlations. Specifically, we search seven recognized categories of RNA tertiary motifs (coaxial helix, A-minor, ribose zipper, pseudoknot, kissing hairpin, tRNA D-loop/T-loop, and tetraloop-tetraloop receptor) by various computer programs. For the nonredundant RNA data set, we find 613 RNA tertiary interactions, most of which occur in the 16S and 23S rRNAs. An analysis of these motifs reveals the diversity and variety of A-minor motif interactions and the various possible loop-loop receptor interactions that expand upon the tetraloop-tetraloop receptor. Correlations between motifs, such as pseudoknot or coaxial helix with A-minor, reveal higher-order patterns. These findings may ultimately help define tertiary structure restraints for RNA tertiary structure prediction. A complete annotation of the RNA diagrams for our data set is available at http://www.biomath.nyu.edu/motifs/.
Project description:RNA hairpins are the most commonly occurring secondary structural elements in RNAs and serve as nucleation sites for RNA folding, RNA-RNA, and RNA-protein interactions. RNA hairpins are frequently capped by tetraloops, and based on sequence similarity, three broad classes of RNA tetraloops have been defined: GNRA, UNCG, and CUYG. Other classes such as the UYUN tetraloop in histone mRNAs, the UGAA in 16S rRNA, the AUUA tetraloop from the MS2 bacteriophage, and the AGNN tetraloop that binds RNase III have also been characterized. The tetraloop structure is compact and is usually characterized by a paired interaction between the first and fourth nucleotides. The two unpaired nucleotides in the loop are usually involved in base-stacking or base-phosphate hydrogen bonding interactions. Several structures of RNA tetraloops, free and complexed to other RNAs or proteins, are now available and these studies have increased our understanding of the diverse mechanisms by which this motif is recognized. RNA tetraloops can mediate RNA-RNA contacts via the tetraloop-receptor motif, kissing hairpin loops, A-minor interactions, and pseudoknots. While these RNA-RNA interactions are fairly well understood, how RNA-binding proteins recognize RNA tetraloops and tetraloop-like motifs remains unclear. In this review, we summarize the structures of RNA tetraloop-protein complexes and the general themes that have emerged on sequence- and structure-specific recognition of RNA tetraloops. We highlight how proteins achieve molecular recognition of this nucleic acid motif, the structural adaptations observed in the tetraloop to accommodate the protein-binding partner, and the role of dynamics in recognition.
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.
Project description:The conserved catalytic core of the Tetrahymena group I ribozyme is encircled by peripheral elements. We have conducted a detailed structure-function study of the five long-range tertiary contacts that fasten these distal elements together. Mutational ablation of each of the tertiary contacts destabilizes the folded ribozyme, indicating a role of the peripheral elements in overall stability. Once folded, three of the five tertiary contact mutants exhibit defects in overall catalysis that range from 20- to 100-fold. These and the subsequent results indicate that the structural ring of peripheral elements does not act as a unitary element; rather, individual connections have distinct roles as further revealed by kinetic and thermodynamic dissection of the individual reaction steps. Ablation of P14 or the metal ion core/metal ion core receptor (MC/MCR) destabilizes docking of the substrate-containing P1 helix into tertiary interactions with the ribozyme's conserved core. In contrast, ablation of the L9/P5 contact weakens binding of the guanosine nucleophile by slowing its association, without affecting P1 docking. The P13 and tetraloop/tetraloop receptor (TL/TLR) mutations had little functional effect and small, local structural changes, as revealed by hydroxyl radical footprinting, whereas the P14, MC/MCR, and L9/P5 mutants show structural changes distal from the mutation site. These changes extended into regions of the catalytic core involved in docking or guanosine binding. Thus, distinct allosteric pathways couple the long-range tertiary contacts to functional sites within the conserved core. This modular functional specialization may represent a fundamental strategy in RNA structure-function interrelationships.
Project description:Tetraloops are a common building block for RNA tertiary structure, and most tetraloops fall into one of three well-characterized classes: GNRA, UNCG, and CUYG. Here, we present the sequence and structure of a fourth highly conserved class of tetraloop that occurs only within the zeta-zeta' interaction of group IIC introns. This GANC tetraloop was identified, along with an unusual cognate receptor, in the crystal structure of the group IIC intron and through phylogenetic analysis of intron RNA sequence alignments. Unlike conventional tetraloop-receptor interactions, which are stabilized by extensive hydrogen-bonding interactions, the GANC-receptor interaction is limited to a single base stack between the conserved adenosine of the tetraloop and a single purine of the receptor, which consists of a one- to three-nucleotide bulge and does not contain an A-platform. Unlike GNRA tetraloops, the GANC tetraloop forms a sharp angle relative to the adjacent helix, bending by approximately 45 degrees toward the major groove side of the helix. These structural attributes allow GANC tetraloops to fit precisely within the group IIC intron core, thereby demonstrating that structural motifs can adapt to function in a specific niche.