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Journal: Nature structural & molecular biology


Transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) cation channels are polymodal sensors involved in a variety of physiological processes. TRPV2, a member of the TRPV family, is regulated by temperature, by ligands, such as probenecid and cannabinoids, and by lipids. TRPV2 has been implicated in many biological functions, including somatosensation, osmosensation and innate immunity. Here we present the atomic model of rabbit TRPV2 in its putative desensitized state, as determined by cryo-EM at a nominal resolution of ∼4 Å. In the TRPV2 structure, the transmembrane segment 6 (S6), which is involved in gate opening, adopts a conformation different from the one observed in TRPV1. Structural comparisons of TRPV1 and TRPV2 indicate that a rotation of the ankyrin-repeat domain is coupled to pore opening via the TRP domain, and this pore opening can be modulated by rearrangements in the secondary structure of S6.

Concepts: Protein, Biology, Innate immune system, Atom, Ion channel, Lipid, Ion channels, TRPV


Alzheimer’s disease is an increasingly prevalent neurodegenerative disorder whose pathogenesis has been associated with aggregation of the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ42). Recent studies have revealed that once Aβ42 fibrils are generated, their surfaces effectively catalyze the formation of neurotoxic oligomers. Here we show that a molecular chaperone, a human Brichos domain, can specifically inhibit this catalytic cycle and limit human Aβ42 toxicity. We demonstrate in vitro that Brichos achieves this inhibition by binding to the surfaces of fibrils, thereby redirecting the aggregation reaction to a pathway that involves minimal formation of toxic oligomeric intermediates. We verify that this mechanism occurs in living mouse brain tissue by cytotoxicity and electrophysiology experiments. These results reveal that molecular chaperones can help maintain protein homeostasis by selectively suppressing critical microscopic steps within the complex reaction pathways responsible for the toxic effects of protein misfolding and aggregation.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Protein folding, Neurology, Chaperone, Toxicity, Protein targeting


Mutations in BRCA2 increase susceptibility to breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. The product of human BRCA2, BRCA2 protein, has a key role in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks and interstrand cross-links by RAD51-mediated homologous recombination. Here, we present a biochemical and structural characterization of full-length (3,418 amino acid) BRCA2, alone and in complex with RAD51. We show that BRCA2 facilitates nucleation of RAD51 filaments at multiple sites on single-stranded DNA. Three-dimensional EM reconstructions revealed that BRCA2 exists as a dimer and that two oppositely oriented sets of RAD51 molecules bind the dimer. Single-stranded DNA binds along the long axis of BRCA2, such that only one set of RAD51 monomers can form a productive complex with DNA and establish filament formation. Our data define the molecular mechanism by which this tumor suppressor facilitates RAD51-mediated homologous-recombinational repair.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cancer, Breast cancer, DNA repair, BRCA2, BRCA1


Human endogenous retrovirus subfamily H (HERVH) is a class of transposable elements expressed preferentially in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Here, we report that the long terminal repeats of HERVH function as enhancers and that HERVH is a nuclear long noncoding RNA required to maintain hESC identity. Furthermore, HERVH is associated with OCT4, coactivators and Mediator subunits. Together, these results uncover a new role of species-specific transposable elements in hESCs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, RNA, Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell


The current Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic is characterized by severe pathogenicity in both children and adults. Sequence changes in ZIKV since its first isolation are apparent when pre-epidemic strains are compared with those causing the current epidemic. However, the residues that are responsible for ZIKV pathogenicity are largely unknown. Here we report the cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of the immature ZIKV at 9-Å resolution. The cryo-EM map was fitted with the crystal structures of the precursor membrane and envelope glycoproteins and was shown to be similar to the structures of other known immature flaviviruses. However, the immature ZIKV contains a partially ordered capsid protein shell that is less prominent in other immature flaviviruses. Furthermore, six amino acids near the interface between pr domains at the top of the spikes were found to be different between the pre-epidemic and epidemic ZIKV, possibly influencing the composition and structure of the resulting viruses.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Microbiology, Virus, Virology, Viral envelope, Capsid, Computer virus


Maintenance of genome integrity requires that branched nucleic acid molecules be accurately processed to produce double-helical DNA. Flap endonucleases are essential enzymes that trim such branched molecules generated by Okazaki-fragment synthesis during replication. Here, we report crystal structures of bacteriophage T5 flap endonuclease in complexes with intact DNA substrates and products, at resolutions of 1.9-2.2 Å. They reveal single-stranded DNA threading through a hole in the enzyme, which is enclosed by an inverted V-shaped helical arch straddling the active site. Residues lining the hole induce an unusual barb-like conformation in the DNA substrate, thereby juxtaposing the scissile phosphate and essential catalytic metal ions. A series of complexes and biochemical analyses show how the substrate’s single-stranded branch approaches, threads through and finally emerges on the far side of the enzyme. Our studies suggest that substrate recognition involves an unusual ‘fly-casting, thread, bend and barb’ mechanism.

Concepts: DNA, Restriction enzyme, Metabolism, Enzyme, RNA, Nucleic acid, DNA replication, Biochemistry


Methylation of cytosine deoxynucleotides generates 5-methylcytosine (m(5)dC), a well-established epigenetic mark. However, in higher eukaryotes much less is known about modifications affecting other deoxynucleotides. Here, we report the detection of N(6)-methyldeoxyadenosine (m(6)dA) in vertebrate DNA, specifically in Xenopus laevis but also in other species including mouse and human. Our methylome analysis reveals that m(6)dA is widely distributed across the eukaryotic genome and is present in different cell types but is commonly depleted from gene exons. Thus, direct DNA modifications might be more widespread than previously thought.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Bacteria, Histone, Organism, Species, Chromosome


Small heat-shock proteins, including αB-crystallin (αB), play an important part in protein homeostasis, because their ATP-independent chaperone activity inhibits uncontrolled protein aggregation. Mechanistic details of human αB, particularly in its client-bound state, have been elusive so far, owing to the high molecular weight and the heterogeneity of these complexes. Here we provide structural insights into this highly dynamic assembly and show, by using state-of-the-art NMR spectroscopy, that the αB complex is assembled from asymmetric building blocks. Interaction studies demonstrated that the fibril-forming Alzheimer’s disease Aβ1-40 peptide preferentially binds to a hydrophobic edge of the central β-sandwich of αB. In contrast, the amorphously aggregating client lysozyme is captured by the partially disordered N-terminal domain of αB. We suggest that αB uses its inherent structural plasticity to expose distinct binding interfaces and thus interact with a wide range of structurally variable clients.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Protein structure, Structure, Peptide, Chaperone, C-terminus, N-terminus


Cytoplasmic dynein associates with dynactin to drive cargo movement on microtubules, but the structure of the dynein-dynactin complex is unknown. Using electron microscopy, we determined the organization of native bovine dynein, dynactin and the dynein-dynactin-microtubule quaternary complex. In the microtubule-bound complex, the dynein motor domains are positioned for processive unidirectional movement, and the cargo-binding domains of both dynein and dynactin are accessible.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Structure, Dynein


Changes in telomere length are associated with degenerative diseases and cancer. Oxidative stress and DNA damage have been linked to both positive and negative alterations in telomere length and integrity. Here we examined how the common oxidative lesion 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanine (8-oxoG) regulates telomere elongation by human telomerase. When 8-oxoG is present in the dNTP pool as 8-oxodGTP, telomerase utilization of the oxidized nucleotide during telomere extension is mutagenic and terminates further elongation. Depletion of MTH1, the enzyme that removes oxidized dNTPs, increases telomere dysfunction and cell death in telomerase-positive cancer cells with shortened telomeres. In contrast, a preexisting 8-oxoG within the telomeric DNA sequence promotes telomerase activity by destabilizing the G-quadruplex DNA structure. We show that the mechanism by which 8-oxoG arises in telomeres, either by insertion of oxidized nucleotides or by direct reaction with free radicals, dictates whether telomerase is inhibited or stimulated and thereby mediates the biological outcome.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Adenosine triphosphate, Senescence, Base pair, DNA replication, Telomerase, Telomere