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Journal: Molecular cell


Efforts to battle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are generally focused on developing novel antibiotics. However, history shows that resistance arises regardless of the nature or potency of new drugs. Here, we propose and provide evidence for an alternate strategy to resolve this problem: inhibiting evolution. We determined that the DNA translocase Mfd is an “evolvability factor” that promotes mutagenesis and is required for rapid resistance development to all antibiotics tested across highly divergent bacterial species. Importantly, hypermutator alleles that accelerate AMR development did not arise without Mfd, at least during evolution of trimethoprim resistance. We also show that Mfd’s role in AMR development depends on its interactions with the RNA polymerase subunit RpoB and the nucleotide excision repair protein UvrA. Our findings suggest that AMR development can be inhibited through inactivation of evolvability factors (potentially with “anti-evolution” drugs)-in particular, Mfd-providing an unexplored route toward battling the AMR crisis.


Genome-wide DNA methylation reprogramming occurs in mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) and preimplantation embryos, but the precise dynamics and biological outcomes are largely unknown. We have carried out whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (BS-Seq) and RNA-Seq across key stages from E6.5 epiblast to E16.5 PGCs. Global loss of methylation takes place during PGC expansion and migration with evidence for passive demethylation, but sequences that carry long-term epigenetic memory (imprints, CpG islands on the X chromosome, germline-specific genes) only become demethylated upon entry of PGCs into the gonads. The transcriptional profile of PGCs is tightly controlled despite global hypomethylation, with transient expression of the pluripotency network, suggesting that reprogramming and pluripotency are inextricably linked. Our results provide a framework for the understanding of the epigenetic ground state of pluripotency in the germline.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Methylation


Influenza virus RNA polymerase (FluPol), a heterotrimer composed of PB1, PB2, and PA subunits (P3 in influenza C), performs both transcription and replication of the viral RNA genome. For transcription, FluPol interacts with the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II (Pol II), which enables FluPol to snatch capped RNA primers from nascent host RNAs. Here, we describe the co-crystal structure of influenza C virus polymerase (FluPolC) bound to a Ser5-phosphorylated CTD (pS5-CTD) peptide. The position of the CTD-binding site at the interface of PB1, P3, and the flexible PB2 C-terminal domains suggests that CTD binding stabilizes the transcription-competent conformation of FluPol. In agreement, both cap snatching and capped primer-dependent transcription initiation by FluPolC are enhanced in the presence of pS5-CTD. Mutations of amino acids in the CTD-binding site reduce viral mRNA synthesis. We propose a model for the activation of the influenza virus transcriptase through its association with pS5-CTD of Pol II.


Recent studies have revealed the importance of Ki-67 and the chromosome periphery in chromosome structure and segregation, but little is known about this elusive chromosome compartment. Here we used correlative light and serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, which we term 3D-CLEM, to model the entire mitotic chromosome complement at ultra-structural resolution. Prophase chromosomes exhibit a highly irregular surface appearance with a volume smaller than metaphase chromosomes. This may be because of the absence of the periphery, which associates with chromosomes only after nucleolar disassembly later in prophase. Indeed, the nucleolar volume almost entirely accounts for the extra volume found in metaphase chromosomes. Analysis of wild-type and Ki-67-depleted chromosomes reveals that the periphery comprises 30%-47% of the entire chromosome volume and more than 33% of the protein mass of isolated mitotic chromosomes determined by quantitative proteomics. Thus, chromatin makes up a surprisingly small percentage of the total mass of metaphase chromosomes.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Centromere, Mitosis, Metaphase, Chromatin


RNA flow between organisms has been documented within and among different kingdoms of life. Recently, we demonstrated horizontal RNA transfer between honeybees involving secretion and ingestion of worker and royal jellies. However, how the jelly facilitates transfer of RNA is still unknown. Here, we show that worker and royal jellies harbor robust RNA-binding activity. We report that a highly abundant jelly component, major royal jelly protein 3 (MRJP-3), acts as an extracellular non-sequence-specific RNA-aggregating factor. Multivalent RNA binding stimulates higher-order assembly of MRJP-3 into extracellular ribonucleoprotein granules that protect RNA from degradation and enhance RNA bioavailability. These findings reveal that honeybees have evolved a secreted dietary RNA-binding factor to concentrate, stabilize, and share RNA among individuals. Our work identifies high-order ribonucleoprotein assemblies with functions outside cells and organisms.


The CRISPR-Cas9 system has successfully been adapted to edit the genome of various organisms. However, our ability to predict the editing outcome at specific sites is limited. Here, we examined indel profiles at over 1,000 genomic sites in human cells and uncovered general principles guiding CRISPR-mediated DNA editing. We find that precision of DNA editing (i.e., recurrence of a specific indel) varies considerably among sites, with some targets showing one highly preferred indel and others displaying numerous infrequent indels. Editing precision correlates with editing efficiency and a preference for single-nucleotide homologous insertions. Precise targets and editing outcome can be predicted based on simple rules that mainly depend on the fourth nucleotide upstream of the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM). Indel profiles are robust, but they can be influenced by chromatin features. Our findings have important implications for clinical applications of CRISPR technology and reveal general patterns of broken end joining that can provide insights into DNA repair mechanisms.


Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant and evolutionarily conserved RNAs of largely unknown function. Here, we show that a subset of circRNAs is translated in vivo. By performing ribosome footprinting from fly heads, we demonstrate that a group of circRNAs is associated with translating ribosomes. Many of these ribo-circRNAs use the start codon of the hosting mRNA, are bound by membrane-associated ribosomes, and have evolutionarily conserved termination codons. In addition, we found that a circRNA generated from the muscleblind locus encodes a protein, which we detected in fly head extracts by mass spectrometry. Next, by performing in vivo and in vitro translation assays, we show that UTRs of ribo-circRNAs (cUTRs) allow cap-independent translation. Moreover, we found that starvation and FOXO likely regulate the translation of a circMbl isoform. Altogether, our study provides strong evidence for translation of circRNAs, revealing the existence of an unexplored layer of gene activity.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, RNA, Ribosome, Protein biosynthesis, Genetic code, Transfer RNA


Skin sun exposure induces two protection programs: stress responses and pigmentation, the former within minutes and the latter only hours afterward. Although serving the same physiological purpose, it is not known whether and how these programs are coordinated. Here, we report that UVB exposure every other day induces significantly more skin pigmentation than the higher frequency of daily exposure, without an associated increase in stress responses. Using mathematical modeling and empirical studies, we show that the melanocyte master regulator, MITF, serves to synchronize stress responses and pigmentation and, furthermore, functions as a UV-protection timer via damped oscillatory dynamics, thereby conferring a trade-off between the two programs. MITF oscillations are controlled by multiple negative regulatory loops, one at the transcriptional level involving HIF1α and another post-transcriptional loop involving microRNA-148a. These findings support trait linkage between the two skin protection programs, which, we speculate, arose during furless skin evolution to minimize skin damage.


Tardigrades are microscopic animals that survive a remarkable array of stresses, including desiccation. How tardigrades survive desiccation has remained a mystery for more than 250 years. Trehalose, a disaccharide essential for several organisms to survive drying, is detected at low levels or not at all in some tardigrade species, indicating that tardigrades possess potentially novel mechanisms for surviving desiccation. Here we show that tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered proteins (TDPs) are essential for desiccation tolerance. TDP genes are constitutively expressed at high levels or induced during desiccation in multiple tardigrade species. TDPs are required for tardigrade desiccation tolerance, and these genes are sufficient to increase desiccation tolerance when expressed in heterologous systems. TDPs form non-crystalline amorphous solids (vitrify) upon desiccation, and this vitrified state mirrors their protective capabilities. Our study identifies TDPs as functional mediators of tardigrade desiccation tolerance, expanding our knowledge of the roles and diversity of disordered proteins involved in stress tolerance.

Concepts: Gene, Solid, Silicon dioxide, Glass, Glass transition, Tardigrade, Trehalose, Amorphous solid


Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems regulate fundamental cellular processes in bacteria and represent potential therapeutic targets. We report a new RES-Xre TA system in multiple human pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The toxin, MbcT, is bactericidal unless neutralized by its antitoxin MbcA. To investigate the mechanism, we solved the 1.8 Å-resolution crystal structure of the MbcTA complex. We found that MbcT resembles secreted NAD+-dependent bacterial exotoxins, such as diphtheria toxin. Indeed, MbcT catalyzes NAD+ degradation in vitro and in vivo. Unexpectedly, the reaction is stimulated by inorganic phosphate, and our data reveal that MbcT is a NAD+ phosphorylase. In the absence of MbcA, MbcT triggers rapid M. tuberculosis cell death, which reduces mycobacterial survival in macrophages and prolongs the survival of infected mice. Our study expands the molecular activities employed by bacterial TA modules and uncovers a new class of enzymes that could be exploited to treat tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.