Translocation kinetics and structural dynamics of ribosomes are modulated by the conformational plasticity of downstream pseudoknots.
ABSTRACT: Downstream stable mRNA secondary structures can stall elongating ribosomes by impeding the concerted movements of tRNAs and mRNA on the ribosome during translocation. The addition of a downstream mRNA structure, such as a stem-loop or a pseudoknot, is essential to induce -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (-1 PRF). Interestingly, previous studies revealed that -1 PRF efficiencies correlate with conformational plasticity of pseudoknots, defined as their propensity to form incompletely folded structures, rather than with the mechanical properties of pseudoknots. To elucidate the detailed molecular mechanisms of translocation and -1 PRF, we applied several smFRET assays to systematically examine how translocation rates and conformational dynamics of ribosomes were affected by different pseudoknots. Our results show that initial pseudoknot-unwinding significantly inhibits late-stage translocation and modulates conformational dynamics of ribosomal post-translocation complexes. The effects of pseudoknots on the structural dynamics of ribosomes strongly correlate with their abilities to induce -1 PRF. Our results lead us to propose a kinetic scheme for translocation which includes an initial power-stroke step and a following thermal-ratcheting step. This scheme provides mechanistic insights on how selective modulation of late-stage translocation by pseudoknots affects -1 PRF. Overall our findings advance current understanding of translocation and ribosome-induced mRNA structure unwinding.
Project description:Programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) serves as an intrinsic translational regulation mechanism employed by some viruses to control the ratio between structural and enzymatic proteins. Most viral mRNAs which use PRF adapt an H-type pseudoknot to stimulate -1 PRF. The relationship between the thermodynamic stability and the frameshifting efficiency of pseudoknots has not been fully understood. Recently, single-molecule force spectroscopy has revealed that the frequency of -1 PRF correlates with the unwinding forces required for disrupting pseudoknots, and that some of the unwinding work dissipates irreversibly due to the torsional restraint of pseudoknots. Complementary to single-molecule techniques, computational modeling provides insights into global motions of the ribosome, whose structural transitions during frameshifting have not yet been elucidated in atomic detail. Taken together, recent advances in biophysical tools may help to develop antiviral therapies that target the ubiquitous -1 PRF mechanism among viruses.
Project description:Programmed ribosomal frameshifting is often used by viral pathogens including HIV. Slippery sequences present in some mRNAs cause the ribosome to shift reading frame. The resulting protein is thus encoded by one reading frame upstream from the slippery sequence and by another reading frame downstream from the slippery sequence. Although the mechanism is not well understood, frameshifting is known to be stimulated by an mRNA structure such as a pseudoknot. Here, we show that the efficiency of frameshifting relates to the mechanical strength of the pseudoknot. Two pseudoknots derived from the Infectious Bronchitis Virus were used, differing by one base pair in the first stem. In Escherichia coli, these two pseudoknots caused frameshifting frequencies that differed by a factor of two. We used optical tweezers to unfold the pseudoknots. The pseudoknot giving rise to the highest degree of frameshifting required a nearly 2-fold larger unfolding force than the other. The observed energy difference cannot be accounted for by any existing model. We propose that the degree of ribosomal frameshifting is related to the mechanical strength of RNA pseudoknots. Our observations support the "9 A model" that predicts some physical barrier is needed to force the ribosome into the -1 frame. Also, our findings support the recent observation made by cryoelectron microscopy that mechanical interaction between a ribosome and a pseudoknot causes a deformation of the A-site tRNA. The result has implications for the understanding of genetic regulation, reading frame maintenance, tRNA movement, and unwinding of mRNA secondary structures by ribosomes.
Project description:-1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) is utilized by many viruses to synthesize their enzymatic (Pol) and structural (Gag) proteins at a defined ratio. For efficient -1 PRF, two cis-acting elements are required: a heptanucleotide frameshift site and a downstream stimulator such as a pseudoknot. We have analyzed the gag-pol junction sequences from 4254 HIV-1 strains. Approximately ninety-five percent of the sequences can form four pseudoknots PK1-PK4 (? 97% contain PK1, PK3, and PK4), covering ? 72 nt including the frameshift site. Some pseudoknots are mutually excluded due to sequence overlap. PK1 and PK3 arrange tandemly. Their stems form a quasi-continuous helix of ? 22 bp. We propose a novel mechanism for possible roles of these pseudoknots. Multiple alternative structures may exist at the gag-pol junction. In most strains, the PK1-PK3 tandem pseudoknots may dominate the structurally heterogeneous pool of RNA due to their greater overall stability. The tandem pseudoknots may function as a breaking system to slow down the ribosome. The ribosome unwinds PK1 and stem 1 of PK3 before it can reach the frameshift site. Then, PK4 can form rapidly because the intact stem 2 of PK3 makes up a large part of the stem 1 of PK4. The newly formed PK4 jams the entrance of the mRNA tunnel. The process then proceeds as in a typical case of -1 PRF. This mechanism incorporates several exquisite new features while still being consistent with the current paradigm of pseudoknot-dependent -1 PRF.
Project description:Specific structures in mRNA can stimulate programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF). PRF efficiency can vary enormously between different stimulatory structures, but the features that lead to efficient PRF stimulation remain uncertain. To address this question, we studied the structural dynamics of the frameshift signal from West Nile virus (WNV), which stimulates -1 PRF at very high levels and has been proposed to form several different structures, including mutually incompatible pseudoknots and a double hairpin. Using optical tweezers to apply tension to single mRNA molecules, mimicking the tension applied by the ribosome during PRF, we found that the WNV frameshift signal formed an unusually large number of different metastable structures, including all of those previously proposed. From force-extension curve measurements, we mapped 2 mutually exclusive pathways for the folding, each encompassing multiple intermediates. We identified the intermediates in each pathway from length changes and the effects of antisense oligomers blocking formation of specific contacts. Intriguingly, the number of transitions between the different conformers of the WNV frameshift signal was maximal in the range of forces applied by the ribosome during -1 PRF. Furthermore, the occupancy of the pseudoknotted conformations was far too low for static pseudoknots to account for the high levels of -1 PRF. These results support the hypothesis that conformational heterogeneity plays a key role in frameshifting and suggest that transitions between different conformers under tension are linked to efficient PRF stimulation.
Project description:Secondary or tertiary structure in an mRNA, such as a pseudoknot, can create a physical barrier that requires the ribosome to generate additional force to translocate. The presence of such a barrier can dramatically increase the probability that the ribosome will shift into an alternate reading frame, in which a different set of codons is recognized. The detailed biophysical mechanism by which frameshifting is induced remains unknown. Here we employ optical trapping techniques to investigate the structure of a -1 programmed ribosomal frameshift (-1 PRF) sequence element located in the CCR5 mRNA, which encodes a coreceptor for HIV-1 and is, to our knowledge, the first known human -1 PRF signal of nonviral origin. We begin by presenting a set of computationally predicted structures that include pseudoknots. We then employ what we believe to be new analytical techniques for measuring the effective free energy landscapes of biomolecules. We find that the -1 PRF element manifests several distinct unfolding pathways when subject to end-to-end force, one of which is consistent with a proposed pseudoknot conformation, and another of which we have identified as a folding intermediate. The dynamic ensemble of conformations that CCR5 mRNA exhibits in the single-molecule experiments may be a significant feature of the frameshifting mechanism.
Project description:Programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) and stop codon readthrough are two translational recoding mechanisms utilized by some RNA viruses to express their structural and enzymatic proteins at a defined ratio. Efficient recoding usually requires an RNA pseudoknot located several nucleotides downstream from the recoding site. To assess the strategic importance of the recoding pseudoknots, we have carried out a large scale genome-wide analysis in which we used an in-house developed program to detect all possible H-type pseudoknots within the genomic mRNAs of 81 animal viruses. Pseudoknots are detected downstream from ~85% of the recoding sites, including many previously unknown pseudoknots. ~78% of the recoding pseudoknots are the most stable pseudoknot within the viral genomes. However, they are not as strong as some designed pseudoknots that exhibit roadblocking effect on the translating ribosome. Strong roadblocking pseudoknots are not detected within the viral genomes. These results indicate that the decoding pseudoknots have evolved to possess optimal stability for efficient recoding. We also found that the sequence at the gag-pol frameshift junction of HIV1 harbors potential elaborated pseudoknots encompassing the frameshift site. A novel mechanism is proposed for possible involvement of the elaborated pseudoknots in the HIV1 PRF event.
Project description:Programmed -1 frameshifting, whereby the reading frame of a ribosome on messenger RNA is shifted in order to generate an alternate gene product, is often triggered by a pseudoknot structure in the mRNA in combination with an upstream slippery sequence. The efficiency of frameshifting varies widely for different sites, but the factors that determine frameshifting efficiency are not yet fully understood. Previous work has suggested that frameshifting efficiency is related to the resistance of the pseudoknot against mechanical unfolding. We tested this hypothesis by studying the mechanical properties of a panel of pseudoknots with frameshifting efficiencies ranging from 2% to 30%: four pseudoknots from retroviruses, two from luteoviruses, one from a coronavirus, and a nonframeshifting bacteriophage pseudoknot. Using optical tweezers to apply tension across the RNA, we measured the distribution of forces required to unfold each pseudoknot. We found that neither the average unfolding force, nor the unfolding kinetics, nor the parameters describing the energy landscape for mechanical unfolding of the pseudoknot (energy barrier height and distance to the transition state) could be correlated to frameshifting efficiency. These results indicate that the resistance of pseudoknots to mechanical unfolding is not a primary determinant of frameshifting efficiency. However, increased frameshifting efficiency was correlated with an increased tendency to form alternate, incompletely folded structures, suggesting a more complex picture of the role of the pseudoknot involving the conformational dynamics.
Project description:Programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF) is one of the multiple translational recoding processes that fundamentally alters triplet decoding of the messenger RNA by the elongating ribosome. The ability of the ribosome to change translational reading frames in the -1 direction (-1 PRF) is employed by many positive strand RNA viruses, including economically important plant viruses and many human pathogens, such as retroviruses, e.g., HIV-1, and coronaviruses, e.g., the causative agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), in order to properly express their genomes. -1 PRF is programmed by a bipartite signal embedded in the mRNA and includes a heptanucleotide "slip site" over which the paused ribosome "backs up" by one nucleotide, and a downstream stimulatory element, either an RNA pseudoknot or a very stable RNA stem-loop. These two elements are separated by six to eight nucleotides, a distance that places the 5' edge of the downstream stimulatory element in direct contact with the mRNA entry channel of the 30S ribosomal subunit. The precise mechanism by which the downstream RNA stimulates -1 PRF by the translocating ribosome remains unclear. This review summarizes the recent structural and biophysical studies of RNA pseudoknots and places this work in the context of our evolving mechanistic understanding of translation elongation. Support for the hypothesis that the downstream stimulatory element provides a kinetic barrier to the ribosome-mediated unfolding is discussed.
Project description:The molecular determinants of stimulation of -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (-1 PRF) by RNA pseudoknots are poorly understood. Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (ScYLV) encodes a 28-nt mRNA pseudoknot that promotes -1 PRF between the P1 (protease) and P2 (polymerase) genes in plant luteoviruses. The solution structure of the ScYLV pseudoknot reveals a well ordered loop 2 (L2) that exhibits continuous stacking of A20 through C27 in the minor groove of the upper stem 1 (S1), with C25 flipped out of the triple-stranded stack. Five consecutive triple base pairs flank the helical junction where the 3' nucleotide of L2, C27, adopts a cytidine 27 N3-cytidine 14 2'-OH hydrogen bonding interaction with the C14-G7 base pair. This interaction is isosteric with the adenosine N1-2'-OH interaction in the related mRNA from beet western yellows virus (BWYV); however, the ScYLV and BWYV mRNA structures differ in their detailed L2-S1 hydrogen bonding and L2 stacking interactions. Functional analyses of ScYLV/BWYV chimeric pseudoknots reveal that the ScYLV RNA stimulates a higher level of -1 PRF (15 +/- 2%) relative to the BWYV pseudoknot (6 +/- 1%), a difference traced largely to the identity of the 3' nucleotide of L2 (C27 vs. A25 in BWYV). Strikingly, C27A ScYLV RNA is a poor frameshift stimulator (2.0%) and is destabilized by approximately 1.5 kcal x mol(-1) (pH 7.0, 37 degrees C) with respect to the wild-type pseudoknot. These studies establish that the precise network of weak interactions nearest the helical junction in structurally similar pseudoknots make an important contribution to setting the frameshift efficiency in mRNAs.
Project description:Metabolite-responsive RNA pseudoknots derived from prokaryotic riboswitches have been shown to stimulate -1 programmed ribosomal frameshifting (PRF), suggesting -1 PRF as a promising gene expression platform to extend riboswitch applications in higher eukaryotes. However, its general application has been hampered by difficulty in identifying a specific ligand-responsive pseudoknot that also functions as a ligand-dependent -1 PRF stimulator. We addressed this problem by using the -1 PRF stimulation pseudoknot of SARS-CoV (SARS-PK) to build a ligand-dependent -1 PRF stimulator. In particular, the extra stem of SARS-PK was replaced by an RNA aptamer of theophylline and designed to couple theophylline binding with the stimulation of -1 PRF. Conformational and functional analyses indicate that the engineered theophylline-responsive RNA functions as a mammalian riboswitch with robust theophylline-dependent -1 PRF stimulation activity in a stable human 293T cell-line. Thus, RNA-ligand interaction repertoire provided by in vitro selection becomes accessible to ligand-specific -1 PRF stimulator engineering using SARS-PK as the scaffold for synthetic biology application.