Minimalism and functionality: Structural lessons from the heterodimeric N4 bacteriophage RNA polymerase II.
ABSTRACT: Genomes of phages, mitochondria, and chloroplasts are transcribed by a diverse group of transcriptional machineries with structurally related single-subunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs). Our understanding of transcription mechanisms of these enzymes is predominantly based on biochemical and structural studies of three most-studied members, transcription factor-independent phage T7 RNAP, transcription factor-dependent phage N4 virion-encapsidated RNAP, and transcription factor-dependent mitochondrial RNAPs (mtRNAP). Although these RNAPs employ completely different mechanisms for promoter recognition and transcription termination, these enzymes are relatively large and formed by single polypeptides. Historically being a model enzyme for studying the mechanisms of transcription by T7-like RNAPs, however, T7 RNAP represents only a small group of RNAPs in this family. The vast majority of T7-like RNAPs are transcription factor-dependent, and several of them are heterodimeric enzymes. Here, we report X-ray crystal structures of transcription complexes of the smallest and heterodimeric form of T7-like RNAP, bacteriophage N4 RNAPII, providing insights into the structural organization of a minimum RNAP in this family. We analyze structural and functional aspects of heterodimeric architecture of N4 RNAPII concerning the mechanisms of transcription initiation and transition to processive RNA elongation. Interestingly, N4 RNAPII maintains the same conformation in promoter-bound and elongation transcription complexes, revealing a novel transcription mechanism for single-subunit RNAPs. This work establishes a structural basis for studying mechanistic aspects of transcription by factor-dependent minimum RNAP.
Project description:Bacteriophage N4 regulates the temporal expression of its genome through the activity of three distinct RNA polymerases (RNAP). Expression of the early genes is carried out by a phage-encoded, virion-encapsidated RNAP (vRNAP) that is injected into the host at the onset of infection and transcribes the early genes. These encode the components of new transcriptional machinery (N4 RNAPII and cofactors) responsible for the synthesis of middle RNAs. Both N4 RNAPs belong to the T7-like "single-subunit" family of polymerases. Herein, we describe their mechanisms of promoter recognition, regulation, and roles in the phage life cycle.
Project description:The single-subunit RNA polymerases make up a widespread family of proteins found in phage, mitochondria, and chloroplasts. Unlike the phage RNAPs, the eukaryotic RNAPs require accessory factors to melt their promoters and diverge from the phage RNAPs in the regions where functions associated with promoter melting in the latter have been mapped, suggesting that promoter melting mechanisms in the eukaryotic RNAPs diverge from those in the phage enzymes. However, here we show that an element in the yeast mitochondrial RNAP, identified by sequence alignment with the T7 phage RNAP, fulfills a role in promoter melting similar to that filled by the T7RNAP "intercalating hairpin". The yeast mitochondrial RNAP intercalating hairpin appears to be as important in promoter melting as the mitochondrial transcription factor, MTF1, and both a structurally integral hairpin and MTF1 are required to achieve high levels of transcription on a duplex promoter. Deletions from the hairpin also relieve MTF1 inhibition of promoter escape on premelted promoters, likely because such deletions disrupt interactions with the upstream edge of the transcription bubble. These results are consistent with recent structural and functional studies of human mitochondrial RNAP and further reveal the surprising extent of mechanistic conservation between the eukaryotic and phage-encoded members of the single-subunit RNAP family.
Project description:Yeast mitochondrial (YMt) and phage T7 RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are two divergent representatives of a large family of single subunit RNAPs that are also found in the mitochondria and chloroplasts of higher eukaryotes, mammalian nuclei, and many other bacteriophage. YMt and phage T7 promoters differ greatly in sequence and length, and the YMt RNAP uses an accessory factor for initiation, whereas T7 RNAP does not. We obtain evidence here that, despite these apparent differences, both the YMt and T7 RNAPs utilize a similar promoter recognition loop to bind their respective promoters. Mutations in this element in YMt RNAP specifically disrupt mitochondrial promoter utilization, and experiments with site-specifically tethered chemical nucleases indicate that this element binds the mitochondrial promoter almost identically to how the promoter recognition loop from the phage RNAP binds its promoter. Sequence comparisons reveal that the other members of the single subunit RNAP family display loops of variable sequence and size at a position corresponding to the YMt and T7 RNAP promoter recognition loops. We speculate that these elements may be involved in promoter recognition in most or all of these enzymes and that this element's structure allows it to accommodate significant sequence and length variation to provide a mechanism for rapid evolution of new promoter specificities in this RNAP family.
Project description:<h4>Key message</h4>We identified sequence motifs, which enhance or reduce the ability of the Arabidopsis phage-type RNA polymerases RPOTm (mitochondrial RNAP), RPOTp (plastidial RNAP), and RPOTmp (active in both organelles) to recognize their promoters in vitro with help of a 'specificity loop'. The importance of this data for the evolution and function of the organellar RNA polymerases is discussed. The single-subunit RNA polymerase (RNAP) of bacteriophage T7 is able to perform all steps of transcription without additional transcription factors. Dicotyledonous plants possess three phage-type RNAPs, RPOTm-the mitochondrial RNAP, RPOTp-the plastidial RNAP, and RPOTmp-an RNAP active in both organelles. RPOTm and RPOTp, like the T7 polymerase, are able to recognize promoters, while RPOTmp displays no significant promoter specificity in vitro. To find out which promoter motifs are crucial for recognition by the polymerases we performed in vitro transcription assays with recombinant Arabidopsis RPOTm and RPOTp enzymes. By comparing different truncated and mutagenized promoter constructs, we observed the same minimal promoter sequence supposed to be needed in vivo for transcription initiation. Moreover, we identified elements of core and flanking sequences, which are of critical importance for promoter recognition and activity in vitro. We further intended to reveal why RPOTmp does not efficiently recognize promoters in vitro and if promoter recognition is based on a structurally defined specificity loop of the plant enzymes as described for the yeast and T7 RNAPs. Interestingly, the exchange of only three amino acids within the putative specificity loop of RPOTmp enabled the enzyme for specific promoter transcription in vitro. Thus, also in plant phage-type RNAPs the specificity loop is engaged in promoter recognition. The results are discussed with respect to their relevance for transcription in organello and to the evolution of RPOT enzymes including the divergence of their functions.
Project description:Cyclic interactions occurring between a core RNA polymerase (RNAP) and its initiation factors are critical for transcription initiation, but little is known about subunit interaction. In this work we have identified regions of the single-subunit yeast mitochondrial RNAP (Rpo41p) important for interaction with its sigma-like specificity factor (Mtf1p). Previously we found that the whole folded structure of both polypeptides as well as specific amino acids in at least three regions of Mtf1p are required for interaction. In this work we started with an interaction-defective point mutant in Mtf1p (V135A) and used a two-hybrid selection to isolate suppressing mutations in the core polymerase. We identified suppressors in three separate regions of the RNAP which, when modeled on the structure of the closely related phage T7 RNAP, appear to lie on one surface of the protein. Additional point mutations and biochemical assays were used to confirm the importance of each region for Rpo41p-Mtf1p interactions. Remarkably, two of the three suppressors are found in regions required by T7 RNAP for DNA sequence recognition and promoter melting. Although these essential regions of the phage RNAP are poorly conserved with the mitochondrial RNAPs, they are conserved among the mitochondrial enzymes. The organellar RNAPs appear to use this surface in an alternative way for interactions with their separate sigma-like specificity factor, which, like its bacterial counterpart, provides promoter recognition and DNA melting functions to the holoenzyme.
Project description:Mitochondrial RNA polymerases (MtRNAPs) are members of the single-subunit RNAP family, the most well-characterized member being the RNAP from T7 bacteriophage. MtRNAPs are, however, functionally distinct in that they depend on one or more transcription factors to recognize and open the promoter and initiate transcription, while the phage RNAPs are capable of performing these tasks alone. Since the transcriptional mechanisms that are conserved in phage and mitochondrial RNAPs have been so effectively characterized in the phage enzymes, outstanding structure-mechanism questions concern those aspects that are distinct in the MtRNAPs, particularly the role of the mitochondrial transcription factor(s). To address these questions we have used both negative staining and cryo-EM to generate three-dimensional reconstructions of yeast MtRNAP initiation complexes with and without the mitochondrial transcription factor (MTF1), and of the elongation complex. Together with biochemical experiments, these data indicate that MTF1 uses multiple mechanisms to drive promoter opening, and that its interactions with the MtRNAP regulate the conformational changes undergone by the latter enzyme as it traverses the template strand.
Project description:RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribe genes through the barrier of nucleoproteins and site-specific DNA-binding proteins on their own or with the aid of accessory factors. Proteins are often covalently trapped on DNA by DNA damaging agents, forming DNA-protein cross-links (DPCs). However, little is known about how immobilized proteins affect transcription. To elucidate the effect of DPCs on transcription, we constructed DNA templates containing site-specific DPCs and performed in vitro transcription reactions using phage T7 RNAP. We show here that DPCs constitute strong but not absolute blocks to in vitro transcription catalyzed by T7 RNAP. More importantly, sequence analysis of transcripts shows that RNAPs roadblocked not only by DPCs but also by the stalled leading RNAP become highly error prone and generate mutations in the upstream intact template regions. This contrasts with the transcriptional mutations induced by conventional DNA lesions, which are delivered to the active site or its proximal position in RNAPs and cause direct misincorporation. Our data also indicate that the trailing RNAP stimulates forward translocation of the stalled leading RNAP, promoting the translesion bypass of DPCs. The present results provide new insights into the transcriptional fidelity and mutual interactions of RNAPs that encounter persistent roadblocks.
Project description:Bacteriophage N4 middle genes are transcribed by a phage-coded, heterodimeric, rifampin-resistant RNA polymerase, N4 RNA polymerase II (N4 RNAPII). Sequencing and transcriptional analysis revealed that the genes encoding the two subunits comprising N4 RNAPII are translated from a common transcript initiating at the N4 early promoter Pe3. These genes code for proteins of 269 and 404 amino acid residues with sequence similarity to the single-subunit, phage-like RNA polymerases. The genes encoding the N4 RNAPII subunits, as well as a synthetic construct encoding a fusion polypeptide, have been cloned and expressed. Both the individually expressed subunits and the fusion polypeptide reconstitute functional enzymes in vivo and in vitro.
Project description:RNA polymerase (RNAP) from bacteriophage T7 is a representative single-subunit viral RNAP that can transcribe with high promoter activities without assistances from transcription factors. We accordingly studied this small transcription machine computationally as a model system to understand underlying mechanisms of mechano-chemical coupling and fidelity control in the RNAP transcription elongation. Here we summarize our computational work from several recent publications to demonstrate first how T7 RNAP translocates via Brownian alike motions along DNA right after the catalytic product release. Then we show how the backward translocation motions are prevented at post-translocation upon successful nucleotide incorporation, which is also subject to stepwise nucleotide selection and acts as a pawl for "selective ratcheting". The structural dynamics and energetics features revealed from our atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and related analyses on the single-subunit T7 RNAP thus provided detailed and quantitative characterizations on the Brownian-ratchet working scenario of a prototypical transcription machine with sophisticated nucleotide selectivity for fidelity control. The presented mechanisms can be more or less general for structurally similar viral or mitochondrial RNAPs and some of DNA polymerases, or even for the RNAP engine of the more complicated transcription machinery in higher organisms.
Project description:The construction of synthetic gene circuits relies on our ability to engineer regulatory architectures that are orthogonal to the host's native regulatory pathways. However, as synthetic gene circuits become larger and more complicated, we are limited by the small number of parts, especially transcription factors, that work well in the context of the circuit. The current repertoire of transcription factors consists of a limited selection of activators and repressors, making the implementation of transcriptional logic a complicated and component-intensive process. To address this, we modified bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase (T7 RNAP) to create a library of transcriptional AND gates for use in Escherichia coli by first splitting the protein and then mutating the DNA recognition domain of the C-terminal fragment to alter its promoter specificity. We first demonstrate that split T7 RNAP is active in vivo and compare it with full-length enzyme. We then create a library of mutant split T7 RNAPs that have a range of activities when used in combination with a complimentary set of altered T7-specific promoters. Finally, we assay the two-input function of both wild-type and mutant split T7 RNAPs and find that regulated expression of the N- and C-terminal fragments of the split T7 RNAPs creates AND logic in each case. This work demonstrates that mutant split T7 RNAP can be used as a transcriptional AND gate and introduces a unique library of components for use in synthetic gene circuits.