Structure and Dynamics of DNA and RNA Double Helices of CAG and GAC Trinucleotide Repeats.
ABSTRACT: CAG trinucleotide repeats are known to cause 10 late-onset progressive neurodegenerative disorders as the repeats expand beyond a threshold, whereas GAC repeats are associated with skeletal dysplasias and expand from the normal five to a maximum of seven repeats. The TR secondary structure is believed to play a role in CAG expansions. We have carried out free energy and molecular dynamics studies to determine the preferred conformations of the A-A noncanonical pairs in (CAG)n and (GAC)n trinucleotide repeats (n = 1, 4) and the consequent changes in the overall structure of the RNA and DNA duplexes. We find that the global free energy minimum corresponds to A-A pairs stacked inside the core of the helix with anti-anti conformations in RNA and (high-anti)-(high-anti) conformations in DNA. The next minimum corresponds to anti-syn conformations, whereas syn-syn conformations are higher in energy. Transition rates of the A-A conformations are higher for RNA than DNA. Mechanisms for these various transitions are identified. Additional structural and dynamical aspects of the helical conformations are explored, with a focus on contrasting CAG and GAC duplexes. The neutralizing ion distribution around the noncanonical pairs is described.
Project description:In humans, neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington's disease (HD) and many spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) have been found to be associated with CAG trinucleotide repeat expansion. An important RNA-mediated mechanism that causes these diseases involves the binding of the splicing regulator protein MBNL1 (Muscleblind-like 1 protein) to expanded r(CAG) repeats. Moreover, mutant huntingtin protein translated from expanded r(CAG) also yields toxic effects. To discern the role of mutant RNA in these diseases, it is essential to gather information about its structure. Detailed insight into the different structures and conformations adopted by these mutant transcripts is vital for developing therapeutics targeting them. Here, we report the crystal structure of an RNA model with a r(CAG) motif, which is complemented by an NMR-based solution structure obtained from restrained Molecular Dynamics (rMD) simulation studies. Crystal structure data of the RNA model resolved at 2.3 Å reveals non-canonical pairing of adenine in 5´-CAG/3´-GAC motif samples in different syn and anti conformations. The overall RNA structure has helical parameters intermediate to the A- and B-forms of nucleic acids due to the global widening of major grooves and base-pair preferences near internal AA loops. The comprehension of structural behaviour by studying the spectral features and the dynamics also supports the flexible nature of the r(CAG) motif.
Project description:One class of functionally important RNA is repeating transcripts that cause disease through various mechanisms. For example, expanded CAG repeats can cause Huntington's and other disease through translation of toxic proteins. Herein, a crystal structure of r[5'UUGGGC(CAG)3GUCC]2, a model of CAG expanded transcripts, refined to 1.65 Å resolution is disclosed that shows both anti-anti and syn-anti orientations for 1 × 1 nucleotide AA internal loops. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations using AMBER force field in explicit solvent were run for over 500 ns on the model systems r(5'GCGCAGCGC)2 (MS1) and r(5'CCGCAGCGG)2 (MS2). In these MD simulations, both anti-anti and syn-anti AA base pairs appear to be stable. While anti-anti AA base pairs were dynamic and sampled multiple anti-anti conformations, no syn-anti ? anti-anti transformations were observed. Umbrella sampling simulations were run on MS2, and a 2D free energy surface was created to extract transformation pathways. In addition, an explicit solvent MD simulation over 800 ns was run on r[5'GGGC(CAG)3GUCC]2, which closely represents the refined crystal structure. One of the terminal AA base pairs (syn-anti conformation), transformed to anti-anti conformation. The pathway followed in this transformation was the one predicted by umbrella sampling simulations. Further analysis showed a binding pocket near AA base pairs in syn-anti conformations. Computational results combined with the refined crystal structure show that global minimum conformation of 1 × 1 nucleotide AA internal loops in r(CAG) repeats is anti-anti but can adopt syn-anti depending on the environment. These results are important to understand RNA dynamic-function relationships and to develop small molecules that target RNA dynamic ensembles.
Project description:RNA transcripts that include expanded CCUG repeats are associated with myotonic dystrophy type 2. Crystal structures of two CCUG-containing oligomers show that the RNA strands associate into slipped duplexes that contain noncanonical C-U pairs that have apparently undergone tautomeric transition or protonation resulting in an unusual Watson-Crick-like pairing. The overhanging ends of the duplexes interact forming U-U pairs, which also show tautomerism. Duplexes consisting of CCUG repeats are thermodynamically less stable than the trinucleotide repeats involved in the TRED genetic disorders, but introducing LNA residues increases their stability and raises the melting temperature of the studied oligomers by ?10°C, allowing detailed crystallographic studies. Quantum mechanical calculations were performed to test the possibility of the tautomeric transitions or protonation within the noncanonical pairs. The results indicate that tautomeric or ionic shifts of nucleobases can manifest themselves in biological systems, supplementing the canonical "rules of engagement."
Project description:Expansion of a trinucleotide repeat (TNR) sequence is the molecular signature of several neurological disorders. The formation of noncanonical structures by the TNR sequence is proposed to contribute to the expansion mechanism. Furthermore, it is known that the propensity for expansion increases with repeat length. In this work, we use calorimetry to describe the thermodynamic parameters (?H, T?S, and ?G) of the noncanonical stem-loop hairpins formed by the TNR sequences (CAG)n and (CTG)n, as well as the canonical (CAG)n/(CTG)n duplexes, for n = 6-14. Using a thermodynamic cycle, we calculated the same thermodynamic parameters describing the process of converting from noncanonical stem-loop hairpins to a canonical duplex. In addition to these thermodynamic analyses, we used spectroscopic techniques to determine the rate at which the noncanonical structures convert to duplex and the activation enthalpy ?H(?) describing this process. We report that the thermodynamic parameters of unfolding the stem-loop (CTG)n and (CAG)n hairpins, along with the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of hairpin to duplex conversion, do not proportionally correspond to the increase in length, but rather show a unique pattern that depends on whether the sequence has an even or odd number of repeats.
Project description:Conformational polymorphism of DNA is a major causative factor behind several incurable trinucleotide repeat expansion disorders that arise from overexpansion of trinucleotide repeats located in coding/non-coding regions of specific genes. Hairpin DNA structures that are formed due to overexpansion of CAG repeat lead to Huntington's disorder and spinocerebellar ataxias. Nonetheless, DNA hairpin stem structure that generally embraces B-form with canonical base pairs is poorly understood in the context of periodic noncanonical A…A mismatch as found in CAG repeat overexpansion. Molecular dynamics simulations on DNA hairpin stems containing A…A mismatches in a CAG repeat overexpansion show that A…A dictates local Z-form irrespective of starting glycosyl conformation, in sharp contrast to canonical DNA duplex. Transition from B-to-Z is due to the mechanistic effect that originates from its pronounced nonisostericity with flanking canonical base pairs facilitated by base extrusion, backbone and/or base flipping. Based on these structural insights we envisage that such an unusual DNA structure of the CAG hairpin stem may have a role in disease pathogenesis. As this is the first study that delineates the influence of a single A…A mismatch in reversing DNA helicity, it would further have an impact on understanding DNA mismatch repair.
Project description:CAG repeats occur predominantly in the coding regions of human genes, which suggests their functional importance. In some genes, these sequences can undergo pathogenic expansions leading to neurodegenerative polyglutamine (poly-Q) diseases. The mutant transcripts containing expanded CAG repeats possibly contribute to pathogenesis in addition to the well-known pathogenic effects of mutant proteins. We have analysed two crystal forms of RNA duplexes containing CAG repeats: (GGCAGCAGCC)(2). One of the structures has been determined at atomic resolution (0.95 Å) and the other at 1.9 Å. The duplexes include non-canonical A-A pairs that fit remarkably well within a regular A-helix. All the adenosines are in the anti-conformation and the only interaction within each A-A pair is a single C2-H2···N1 hydrogen bond. Both adenosines in each A-A pair are shifted towards the major groove, although to different extents; the A which is the H-bond donor stands out more (the 'thumbs-up' conformation). The main effect on the helix conformation is a local unwinding. The CAG repeats and the previously examined CUG structures share a similar pattern of electrostatic charge distribution in the minor groove, which could explain their affinity for the pathogenesis-related MBNL1 protein.
Project description:Expansions of both GGC and CCG sequences lead to a number of expandable, trinucleotide repeat (TR) neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding of these diseases involves, among other things, the structural characterization of the atypical DNA and RNA secondary structures. We have performed molecular dynamics simulations of (GCC) n and (GGC) n homoduplexes in order to characterize their conformations, stability, and dynamics. Each TR has two reading frames, which results in eight nonequivalent RNA/DNA homoduplexes, characterized by CpG or GpC steps between the Watson-Crick base pairs. Free energy maps for the eight homoduplexes indicate that the C-mismatches prefer anti-anti conformations, while G-mismatches prefer anti-syn conformations. Comparison between three modifications of the DNA AMBER force field shows good agreement for the mismatch free energy maps. The mismatches in DNA-GCC (but not CCG) are extrahelical, forming an extended e-motif. The mismatched duplexes exhibit characteristic sequence-dependent step twist, with strong variations in the G-rich sequences and the e-motif. The distribution of Na+ is highly localized around the mismatches, especially G-mismatches. In the e-motif, there is strong Na+ binding by two G(N7) atoms belonging to the pseudo GpC step created when cytosines are extruded and by extrahelical cytosines. Finally, we used a novel technique based on fast melting by means of an infrared laser pulse to classify the relative stability of the different DNA-CCG and -GGC homoduplexes.
Project description:The expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat (TNR) sequence has been linked to several neurological disorders, for example, Huntington's disease (HD). In HD, healthy individuals have 5-35 CAG repeats. Those with 36-39 repeats have the premutation allele, which is known to be prone to expansion. In the disease state, greater than 40 repeats are present. Interestingly, the formation of non-B DNA conformations by the TNR sequence is proposed to contribute to the expansion. Here we provide the first structural and thermodynamic analysis of a premutation length TNR sequence. Using chemical probes of nucleobase accessibility, we found that similar to (CAG)(10), the premutation length sequence (CAG)(36) forms a stem-loop hairpin and contains a hot spot for DNA damage. Additionally, calorimetric analysis of a series of (CAG)(n) sequences, that includes repeat tracts in both the healthy and premutation ranges, reveal that thermodynamic stability increases linearly with the number of repeats. Based on these data, we propose that while non-B conformations can be formed by TNR tracts found in both the healthy and premutation allele, only sequences containing at least 36 repeats have sufficient thermodynamic stability to contribute to expansion.
Project description:The CGG repeats are present in the 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) of the fragile X mental retardation gene FMR1 and are associated with two diseases: fragile X-associated tremor ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) and fragile X syndrome (FXS). FXTAS occurs when the number of repeats is 55-200 and FXS develops when the number exceeds 200. FXTAS is an RNA-mediated disease in which the expanded CGG tracts form stable structures and sequester important RNA binding proteins. We obtained and analysed three crystal structures of double-helical CGG repeats involving unmodified and 8-Br modified guanosine residues. Despite the presence of the non-canonical base pairs, the helices retain an A-form. In the G-G pairs one guanosine is always in the syn conformation, the other is anti. There are two hydrogen bonds between the Watson-Crick edge of G(anti) and the Hoogsteen edge of G(syn): O6·N1H and N7·N2H. The G(syn)-G(anti) pair shows affinity for binding ions in the major groove. G(syn) causes local unwinding of the helix, compensated elsewhere along the duplex. CGG helical structures appear relatively stable compared with CAG and CUG tracts. This could be an important factor in the RNA's ligand binding affinity and specificity.
Project description:DNA trinucleotide repeats (TRs) can exhibit dynamic expansions by integer numbers of trinucleotides that lead to neurodegenerative disorders. Strand slipped hairpins during DNA replication, repair and/or recombination may contribute to TR expansion. Here, we combine single-molecule FRET experiments and molecular dynamics studies to elucidate slipping dynamics and conformations of (CAG)n TR hairpins. We directly resolve slipping by predominantly two CAG units. The slipping kinetics depends on the even/odd repeat parity. The populated states suggest greater stability for 5'-AGCA-3' tetraloops, compared with alternative 5'-CAG-3' triloops. To accommodate the tetraloop, even(odd)-numbered repeats have an even(odd) number of hanging bases in the hairpin stem. In particular, a paired-end tetraloop (no hanging TR) is stable in (CAG)n = even, but such situation cannot occur in (CAG)n = odd, where the hairpin is "frustrated'' and slips back and forth between states with one TR hanging at the 5' or 3' end. Trinucleotide interrupts in the repeating CAG pattern associated with altered disease phenotypes select for specific conformers with favorable loop sequences. Molecular dynamics provide atomic-level insight into the loop configurations. Reducing strand slipping in TR hairpins by sequence interruptions at the loop suggests disease-associated variations impact expansion mechanisms at the level of slipped hairpins.