The complex formed between a synthetic RNA aptamer and the transcription repressor TetR is a structural and functional twin of the operator DNA-TetR regulator complex.
ABSTRACT: RNAs play major roles in the regulation of gene expression. Hence, designer RNA molecules are increasingly explored as regulatory switches in synthetic biology. Among these, the TetR-binding RNA aptamer was selected by its ability to compete with operator DNA for binding to the bacterial repressor TetR. A fortuitous finding was that induction of TetR by tetracycline abolishes both RNA aptamer and operator DNA binding in TetR. This enabled numerous applications exploiting both the specificity of the RNA aptamer and the efficient gene repressor properties of TetR. Here, we present the crystal structure of the TetR-RNA aptamer complex at 2.7 Å resolution together with a comprehensive characterization of the TetR-RNA aptamer versus TetR-operator DNA interaction using site-directed mutagenesis, size exclusion chromatography, electrophoretic mobility shift assays and isothermal titration calorimetry. The fold of the RNA aptamer bears no resemblance to regular B-DNA, and neither does the thermodynamic characterization of the complex formation reaction. Nevertheless, the functional aptamer-binding epitope of TetR is fully contained within its DNA-binding epitope. In the RNA aptamer complex, TetR adopts the well-characterized DNA-binding-competent conformation of TetR, thus revealing how the synthetic TetR-binding aptamer strikes the chords of the bimodal allosteric behaviour of TetR to function as a synthetic regulator.
Project description:Fine-tuning of gene expression is desirable for a wide range of applications in synthetic biology. In this context, RNA regulatory devices provide a powerful and highly functional tool. We developed a versatile, robust and reversible device to control gene expression by splicing regulation in human cells using an aptamer that is recognized by the Tet repressor TetR. Upon insertion in proximity to the 5' splice site, intron retention can be controlled via the binding of TetR to the aptamer. Although we were able to demonstrate regulation for different introns, the genomic context had a major impact on regulation. In consequence, we advanced the aptamer to develop a splice device. Our novel device contains the aptamer integrated into a context of exonic and intronic sequences that create and maintain an environment allowing a reliable and robust splicing event. The exon-born, additional amino acids will then be cleaved off by a self-cleaving peptide. This design allows portability of the splicing device, which we confirmed by demonstrating its functionality in different gene contexts. Intriguingly, our splicing device shows a high dynamic range and low basal activity, i.e. desirable features that often prove a major challenge when implementing synthetic biology in mammalian cell lines.
Project description:Correct cellular localization is essential for the function of many eukaryotic proteins and hence cell physiology. Here, we present a synthetic genetic device that allows the control of nuclear and cytosolic localization based on controlled alternative splicing in human cells. The device is based on the fact that an alternative 3' splice site is located within a TetR aptamer that in turn is positioned between the branch point and the canonical splice site. The novel splice site is only recognized when the TetR repressor is bound. Addition of doxycycline prevents TetR aptamer binding and leads to recognition of the canonical 3' splice site. It is thus possible to produce two independent splice isoforms. Since the terminal loop of the aptamer may be replaced with any sequence of choice, one of the two isoforms may be extended by the respective sequence of choice depending on the presence of doxycycline. In a proof-of-concept study, we fused a nuclear localization sequence to a cytosolic target protein, thus directing the protein into the nucleus. However, the system is not limited to the control of nuclear localization. In principle, any target sequence can be integrated into the aptamer, allowing not only the production of a variety of different isoforms on demand, but also to study the function of mislocalized proteins. Moreover, it also provides a valuable tool for investigating the mechanism of alternative splicing in human cells.
Project description:Today's proteome is the result of innumerous gene duplication, mutagenesis, drift and selection processes. Whereas random mutagenesis introduces predominantly only gradual changes in protein function, a case can be made that an abrupt switch in function caused by single amino acid substitutions will not only considerably further evolution but might constitute a prerequisite for the appearance of novel functionalities for which no promiscuous protein intermediates can be envisaged. Recently, tetracycline repressor (TetR) variants were identified in which binding of tetracycline triggers the repressor to associate with and not to dissociate from the operator DNA as in wild-type TetR. We investigated the origin of this activity reversal by limited proteolysis, CD spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. We show that the TetR mutant Leu17Gly switches its function via a disorder-order mechanism that differs completely from the allosteric mechanism of wild-type TetR. Our study emphasizes how single point mutations can engender unexpected leaps in protein function thus enabling the appearance of new functionalities in proteins without the need for promiscuous intermediates.
Project description:Fatty acid metabolism and its regulation are known to play important roles in bacteria and eukaryotes. By contrast, although certain archaea appear to metabolize fatty acids, the regulation of the underlying pathways in these organisms remains unclear. Here, we show that a TetR-family transcriptional regulator (FadRSa) is involved in regulation of fatty acid metabolism in the crenarchaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. Functional and structural analyses show that FadRSa binds to DNA at semi-palindromic recognition sites in two distinct stoichiometric binding modes depending on the operator sequence. Genome-wide transcriptomic and chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses demonstrate that the protein binds to only four genomic sites, acting as a repressor of a 30-kb gene cluster comprising 23 open reading frames encoding lipases and ?-oxidation enzymes. Fatty acyl-CoA molecules cause dissociation of FadRSa binding by inducing conformational changes in the protein. Our results indicate that, despite its similarity in overall structure to bacterial TetR-family FadR regulators, FadRSa displays a different acyl-CoA binding mode and a distinct regulatory mechanism.
Project description:FadR is a fatty acyl-CoA dependent transcription factor that regulates genes encoding proteins involved in fatty-acid degradation and synthesis pathways. In this study, the crystal structures of Bacillus halodurans FadR, which belong to the TetR family, have been determined in three different forms: ligand-bound, ligand-free and DNA-bound at resolutions of 1.75, 2.05 and 2.80 Å, respectively. Structural and functional data showed that B. halodurans FadR was bound to its operator site without fatty acyl-CoAs. Structural comparisons among the three different forms of B. halodurans FadR revealed that the movement of DNA binding domains toward the operator DNA was blocked upon binding of ligand molecules. These findings suggest that the TetR family FadR negatively regulates the genes involved in fatty acid metabolism by binding cooperatively to the operator DNA as a dimer of dimers.
Project description:PfmR is one of four TetR family transcriptional regulators found in the extremely thermophilic bacterium, Thermus thermophilus HB8. We identified three promoters with strong negative regulation by PfmR, both in vivo and in vitro. PfmR binds pseudopalindromic sequences, with the consensus sequence of 5'-TACCGACCGNTNGGTN-3' surrounding the promoters. According to the amino acid sequence and three-dimensional structure analyses of the PfmR-regulated gene products, they are predicted to be involved in phenylacetic acid and fatty acid metabolism. In vitro analyses revealed that PfmR weakly cross-regulated with the TetR family repressor T. thermophilus PaaR, which controls the expression of the paa gene cluster putatively involved in phenylacetic acid degradation but not with another functionally identified TetR family repressor, T. thermophilus FadR, which is involved in fatty acid degradation. The X-ray crystal structure of the N-terminal DNA-binding domain of PfmR and the nucleotide sequence of the predicted PfmR-binding site are quite similar to those of the TetR family repressor QacR from Staphylococcus aureus. Similar to QacR, two PfmR dimers bound per target DNA. The bases recognized by QacR within the QacR-binding site are conserved in the predicted PfmR-binding site, and they were important for PfmR to recognize the binding site and properly assemble on it. The center of the PfmR molecule contains a tunnel-like pocket, which may be the ligand-binding site of this regulator.
Project description:We have developed a general profile for the proteins of the TetR family of repressors. The stretch that best defines the profile of this family is made up of 47 amino acid residues that correspond to the helix-turn-helix DNA binding motif and adjacent regions in the three-dimensional structures of TetR, QacR, CprB, and EthR, four family members for which the function and three-dimensional structure are known. We have detected a set of 2,353 nonredundant proteins belonging to this family by screening genome and protein databases with the TetR profile. Proteins of the TetR family have been found in 115 genera of gram-positive, alpha-, beta-, and gamma-proteobacteria, cyanobacteria, and archaea. The set of genes they regulate is known for 85 out of the 2,353 members of the family. These proteins are involved in the transcriptional control of multidrug efflux pumps, pathways for the biosynthesis of antibiotics, response to osmotic stress and toxic chemicals, control of catabolic pathways, differentiation processes, and pathogenicity. The regulatory network in which the family member is involved can be simple, as in TetR (i.e., TetR bound to the target operator represses tetA transcription and is released in the presence of tetracycline), or more complex, involving a series of regulatory cascades in which either the expression of the TetR family member is modulated by another regulator or the TetR family member triggers a cell response to react to environmental insults. Based on what has been learned from the cocrystals of TetR and QacR with their target operators and from their three-dimensional structures in the absence and in the presence of ligands, and based on multialignment analyses of the conserved stretch of 47 amino acids in the 2,353 TetR family members, two groups of residues have been identified. One group includes highly conserved positions involved in the proper orientation of the helix-turn-helix motif and hence seems to play a structural role. The other set of less conserved residues are involved in establishing contacts with the phosphate backbone and target bases in the operator. Information related to the TetR family of regulators has been updated in a database that can be accessed at www.bactregulators.org.
Project description:Regulation of the DNA binding affinity of an oligomeric protein can be considered to consist of an intrinsic component, in which the affinity of an individual DNA-binding domain is modulated in response to effector binding, and an extrinsic component, in which the relative position of the protein's two DNA-binding domains are altered so that they can or cannot contact both half-site operators simultaneously. We demonstrated directly that the TetR repressor utilizes an extrinsic mechanism and CAP, the catabolite activator protein, utilizes an intrinsic mechanism.
Project description:There are a number of genetic tools available for studying Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia; however, there is no effective inducible or repressible gene expression system. Here, we describe inducible and repressible gene expression systems for F. tularensis based on the Tet repressor, TetR. For the inducible system, a tet operator sequence was cloned into a modified F. tularensis groESL promoter sequence and carried in a plasmid that constitutively expressed TetR. To monitor regulation the luminescence operon, luxCDABE, was cloned under the hybrid Francisella tetracycline-regulated promoter (FTRp), and transcription was initiated with addition of anhydrotetracycline (ATc), which binds TetR and alleviates TetR association with tetO. Expression levels measured by luminescence correlated with ATc inducer concentrations ranging from 20 to 250 ng ml(-1). In the absence of ATc, luminescence was below the level of detection. The inducible system was also functional during the infection of J774A.1 macrophages, as determined by both luminescence and rescue of a mutant strain with an intracellular growth defect. The repressible system consists of FTRp regulated by a reverse TetR mutant (revTetR), TetR r1.7. Using this system with the lux reporter, the addition of ATc resulted in decreased luminescence, while in the absence of ATc the level of luminescence was not significantly different from that of a construct lacking TetR r1.7. Utilizing both systems, the essentiality of SecA, the protein translocase ATPase, was confirmed, establishing that they can effectively regulate gene expression. These two systems will be invaluable in exploring F. tularensis protein function.
Project description:The development of synthetic biological systems requires modular biomolecular components to flexibly alter response pathways. In previous studies, we have established a module-swapping design principle to engineer allosteric response and DNA recognition properties among regulators in the LacI family, in which the engineered regulators served as effective components for implementing new cellular behavior. Here we introduced this protein engineering strategy to two regulators in the TetR family: TetR (UniProt Accession ID: P04483) and MphR (Q9EVJ6). The TetR DNA-binding module and the MphR ligand-binding module were used to create the TetR-MphR. This resulting hybrid regulator possesses DNA-binding properties of TetR and ligand response properties of MphR, which is able to control gene expression in response to a molecular signal in cells. Furthermore, we studied molecular interactions between the TetR DNA-binding module and MphR ligand-binding module by using mutant analysis. Together, we demonstrated that TetR family regulators contain discrete and functional modules that can be used to build biological components with novel properties. This work highlights the utility of rational design as a means of creating modular parts for cell engineering and introduces new possibilities in rewiring cellular response pathways.