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Journal: Nature structural & molecular biology


Although telomeres are heterochromatic, they are transcribed into noncoding telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). Here we show that RNA-DNA hybrids form at telomeres and are removed by RNase H enzymes in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In recombination-competent telomerase mutants, telomeric RNA-DNA hybrids promote recombination-mediated elongation events that delay the onset of cellular senescence. Reduction of TERRA and telomeric RNA-DNA-hybrid levels diminishes rates of recombination-mediated telomere elongation in cis. Overexpression of RNase H decreases telomere recombination rates and accelerates senescence in recombination-competent but not recombination-deficient cells. In contrast, in the absence of both telomerase and homologous recombination, accumulation of telomeric RNA-DNA hybrids leads to telomere loss and accelerated rates of cellular senescence. Therefore, the regulation of TERRA transcription and telomeric RNA-DNA-hybrid formation are important determinants of both telomere-length dynamics and proliferative potential after the inactivation of telomerase.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Senescence, Yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Telomerase, Telomere, Brewing


A newly discovered negative glucocorticoid response element (nGRE) mediates DNA-dependent transrepression by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) across the genome and has a major role in immunosuppressive therapy. The nGRE differs dramatically from activating response elements, and the mechanism driving GR binding and transrepression is unknown. To unravel the mechanism of nGRE-mediated transrepression by the GR, we characterized the interaction between GR and an nGRE in the thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) promoter. We show using structural and mechanistic approaches that nGRE binding is a new mode of sequence recognition by human GR and that nGREs prevent receptor dimerization through a unique GR-binding orientation and strong negative cooperativity, ensuring the presence of monomeric GR at repressive elements.

Concepts: Immune system, Transcription factor, Nuclear receptor, Glucocorticoid receptor, Selective glucocorticoid receptor agonist, Response element, Hormone response element, Transrepression


The human apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme catalytic polypeptide-like 3 (APOBEC3, referred to as A3) proteins are cellular cytidine deaminases that potently restrict retrovirus replication. However, HIV-1 viral infectivity factor (Vif) counteracts the antiviral activity of most A3 proteins by targeting them for proteasomal degradation. To date, the structure of an A3 protein containing a Vif-binding interface has not been solved. Here, we report a high-resolution crystal structure of APOBEC3C and identify the HIV-1 Vif-interaction interface. Extensive structure-guided mutagenesis revealed the role of a shallow cavity composed of hydrophobic or negatively charged residues between the α2 and α3 helices. This region is distant from the DPD motif (residues 128-130) of APOBEC3G that participates in HIV-1 Vif interaction. These findings provide insight into Vif-A3 interactions and could lead to the development of new pharmacologic anti-HIV-1 compounds.

Concepts: HIV, Protein, Cell, Metabolism, Enzyme, Interaction, Viral infectivity factor, APOBEC3G


The modified base 5-formylcytosine (5fC) was recently identified in mammalian DNA and might be considered to be the ‘seventh’ base of the genome. This nucleotide has been implicated in active demethylation mediated by the base excision repair enzyme thymine DNA glycosylase. Genomics and proteomics studies have suggested an additional role for 5fC in transcription regulation through chromatin remodeling. Here we propose that 5fC might affect these processes through its effect on DNA conformation. Biophysical and structural analysis revealed that 5fC alters the structure of the DNA double helix and leads to a conformation unique among known DNA structures including those comprising other cytosine modifications. The 1.4-Å-resolution X-ray crystal structure of a DNA dodecamer comprising three 5fCpG sites shows how 5fC changes the geometry of the grooves and base pairs associated with the modified base, leading to helical underwinding.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Genome, RNA, Base pair, DNA repair


OTUB1 is a Lys48-specific deubiquitinating enzyme that forms a complex in vivo with E2 ubiquitin (Ub)-conjugating enzymes including UBC13 and UBCH5. OTUB1 binds E2~Ub thioester intermediates and prevents ubiquitin transfer, thereby noncatalytically inhibiting accumulation of polyubiquitin. We report here that a second role of OTUB1-E2 interactions is to stimulate OTUB1 cleavage of Lys48 polyubiquitin. This stimulation is regulated by the ratio of charged to uncharged E2 and by the concentration of Lys48-linked polyubiquitin and free ubiquitin. Structural and biochemical studies of human and worm OTUB1 and UBCH5B show that the E2 enzyme stimulates binding of the Lys48 polyubiquitin substrate by stabilizing folding of the OTUB1 N-terminal ubiquitin-binding helix. Our results suggest that OTUB1-E2 complexes in the cell are poised to regulate polyubiquitin chain elongation or degradation in response to changing levels of E2 charging and available free ubiquitin.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Enzyme, Glucose, Enzyme substrate, Product, Chemical equilibrium, Ratio


Heat-shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is an ATP-dependent molecular chaperone that associates dynamically with various co-chaperones during its chaperone cycle. Here we analyzed the role of the activating co-chaperone Aha1 in the progression of the yeast Hsp90 chaperone cycle and identified a critical ternary Hsp90 complex containing the co-chaperones Aha1 and Cpr6. Aha1 accelerates the intrinsically slow conformational transitions of Hsp90 to an N-terminally associated state but does not fully close the nucleotide-binding pocket yet. Cpr6 increases the affinity between Aha1 and Hsp90 and further stimulates the Hsp90 ATPase activity. Synergistically, Aha1 and Cpr6 displace the inhibitory co-chaperone Sti1 from Hsp90. To complete the cycle, Aha1 is released by the co-chaperone p23. Thus, at distinct steps during the Hsp90 chaperone cycle, co-chaperones selectively trap statistically distributed Hsp90 conformers and thus turn Hsp90 into a deterministic machine.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Chaperone, Proteasome, Heat shock protein, Hsp90, Chaperonin, Co-chaperone


The unfolded protein response (UPR) in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a highly conserved protein-quality-control mechanism critical for cells to make survival-or-death decisions under ER-stress conditions. However, how UPR sensors are activated remains unclear. Here, we report that ER luminal protein canopy homolog 2 (CNPY2) is released from grp78 upon ER stress. Free CNPY2 then engages protein kinase R-like ER kinase (PERK) to induce expression of the transcription factor C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), thereby initiating the UPR. Indeed, deletion of CNPY2 blocked the PERK-CHOP pathway and protected mice from UPR-induced liver damage and steatosis. Additionally, CNPY2 is transcriptionally upregulated by CHOP in a forward-feed loop to further enhance UPR signaling. These findings demonstrate the critical roles of CNPY2 in ER stress and suggest that CNPY2 is a potential new therapeutic target for UPR-related diseases such as metabolic disorders, inflammation and cancer.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Protein, Gene expression, Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Endoplasmic reticulum


Virus capsids are primed for disassembly, yet capsid integrity is key to generating a protective immune response. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) capsids comprise identical pentameric protein subunits held together by tenuous noncovalent interactions and are often unstable. Chemically inactivated or recombinant empty capsids, which could form the basis of future vaccines, are even less stable than live virus. Here we devised a computational method to assess the relative stability of protein-protein interfaces and used it to design improved candidate vaccines for two poorly stable, but globally important, serotypes of FMDV: O and SAT2. We used a restrained molecular dynamics strategy to rank mutations predicted to strengthen the pentamer interfaces and applied the results to produce stabilized capsids. Structural analyses and stability assays confirmed the predictions, and vaccinated animals generated improved neutralizing-antibody responses to stabilized particles compared to parental viruses and wild-type capsids.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Microbiology, Virus, Vaccine, Vaccination, Aphthovirus, Foot-and-mouth disease


Since the first high-resolution structure of the nucleosome was reported in 1997, the available information on chromatin structure has increased very rapidly. Here, we review insights derived from cutting-edge biophysical and structural approaches applied to the study of nucleosome dynamics and nucleosome-binding factors, with a focus on the experimental advances driving the research. In addition, we highlight emerging challenges in nucleosome structural biology.


Insulins in the venom of certain fish-hunting cone snails facilitate prey capture by rapidly inducing hypoglycemic shock. One such insulin, Conus geographus G1 (Con-Ins G1), is the smallest known insulin found in nature and lacks the C-terminal segment of the B chain that, in human insulin, mediates engagement of the insulin receptor and assembly of the hormone’s hexameric storage form. Removal of this segment (residues B23-B30) in human insulin results in substantial loss of receptor affinity. Here, we found that Con-Ins G1 is monomeric, strongly binds the human insulin receptor and activates receptor signaling. Con-Ins G1 thus is a naturally occurring B-chain-minimized mimetic of human insulin. Our crystal structure of Con-Ins G1 reveals a tertiary structure highly similar to that of human insulin and indicates how Con-Ins G1’s lack of an equivalent to the key receptor-engaging residue Phe(B24) is mitigated. These findings may facilitate efforts to design ultrarapid-acting therapeutic insulins.

Concepts: Protein, Insulin, Hormone, Endocrinology, Hypoglycemia, Insulin receptor, Conus, Conidae