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May 1, 2018

Real-time observation of flexible domain movements in CRISPR-Cas9.

The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is widely used for genome editing because it cleaves target DNA through the assistance of a single-guide RNA (sgRNA). Structural studies have revealed the multi-domain architecture of Cas9 and suggested sequential domain movements of Cas9 upon binding to the sgRNA and the target DNA These studies also hinted at the flexibility between domains; however, it remains unclear whether these flexible movements occur in solution. Here, we directly observed dynamic fluctuations of multiple Cas9 domains, using single-molecule FRET We found that the flexible domain movements allow Cas9 to adopt transient conformations beyond those captured in the crystal…

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April 1, 2018

Dimer arrangement and monomer flattening determine actin filament formation

Actin filament dynamics underlie key cellular processes, such as cell motility. Although actin filament elongation has been extensively studied under the past decades, the mechanism of filament nucleation remains unclear. Here, we immobilized gelsolin, a pointed-end nucleator, at the bottom of zero-mode waveguides to directly monitor the early steps of filament assembly. Our data revealed extensive dynamics and that only one, of two populations, elongates. Annalysis of the kinetics revealed a more stable trimer but a less stable tetramer in the elongating population compared to the non-elongating one. Furthermore, blocking flattening, the conformational change associated with filament formation, prevented the…

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August 14, 2017

Post-termination ribosome intermediate acts as the gateway to ribosome recycling.

During termination of translation, the nascent peptide is first released from the ribosome, which must be subsequently disassembled into subunits in a process known as ribosome recycling. In bacteria, termination and recycling are mediated by the translation factors RF, RRF, EF-G, and IF3, but their precise roles have remained unclear. Here, we use single-molecule fluorescence to track the conformation and composition of the ribosome in real time during termination and recycling. Our results show that peptide release by RF induces a rotated ribosomal conformation. RRF binds to this rotated intermediate to form the substrate for EF-G that, in turn, catalyzes…

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June 28, 2016

Amino acid sequence repertoire of the bacterial proteome and the occurrence of untranslatable sequences.

Bioinformatic analysis of Escherichia coli proteomes revealed that all possible amino acid triplet sequences occur at their expected frequencies, with four exceptions. Two of the four underrepresented sequences (URSs) were shown to interfere with translation in vivo and in vitro. Enlarging the URS by a single amino acid resulted in increased translational inhibition. Single-molecule methods revealed stalling of translation at the entrance of the peptide exit tunnel of the ribosome, adjacent to ribosomal nucleotides A2062 and U2585. Interaction with these same ribosomal residues is involved in regulation of translation by longer, naturally occurring protein sequences. The E. coli exit tunnel…

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April 7, 2016

Multiple parallel pathways of translation initiation on the CrPV IRES.

The complexity of eukaryotic translation allows fine-tuned regulation of protein synthesis. Viruses use internal ribosome entry sites (IRESs) to minimize or, like the CrPV IRES, eliminate the need for initiation factors. Here, by exploiting the CrPV IRES, we observed the entire process of initiation and transition to elongation in real time. We directly tracked the CrPV IRES, 40S and 60S ribosomal subunits, and tRNA using single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy and identified multiple parallel initiation pathways within the system. Our results distinguished two pathways of 80S:CrPV IRES complex assembly that produce elongation-competent complexes. Following 80S assembly, the requisite eEF2-mediated translocation results in…

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March 13, 2016

Probing the translation dynamics of ribosomes using Zero-Mode Waveguides

In order to coordinate the complex biochemical and structural feat of converting triple-nucleotide codons into their corresponding amino acids, the ribosome must physically manipulate numerous macromolecules including the mRNA, tRNAs, and numerous translation factors. The ribosome choreographs binding, dissociation, physical movements, and structural rearrangements so that they synergistically harness the energy from biochemical processes, including numerous GTP hydrolysis steps and peptide bond formation. Due to the dynamic and complex nature of translation, the large cast of ligands involved, and the large number of possible configurations, tracking the global time evolution or dynamics of the ribosome complex in translation has proven…

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February 1, 2016

N(6)-methyladenosine in mRNA disrupts tRNA selection and translation-elongation dynamics.

N(6)-methylation of adenosine (forming m(6)A) is the most abundant post-transcriptional modification within the coding region of mRNA, but its role during translation remains unknown. Here, we used bulk kinetic and single-molecule methods to probe the effect of m(6)A in mRNA decoding. Although m(6)A base-pairs with uridine during decoding, as shown by X-ray crystallographic analyses of Thermus thermophilus ribosomal complexes, our measurements in an Escherichia coli translation system revealed that m(6)A modification of mRNA acts as a barrier to tRNA accommodation and translation elongation. The interaction between an m(6)A-modified codon and cognate tRNA echoes the interaction between a near-cognate codon and…

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January 29, 2016

Single-molecule DNA hybridisation studied by using a modified DNA sequencer: a comparison with surface plasmon resonance data

Current methods for the determination of molecular interactions are widely used in the analytical sciences. To identify new methods, we investigated as a model system the hybridisation of a short 7 nt oligonucleotide labelled with, structurally, very similar cyanine dyes CY3 and DY-547, respectively, to a 34 nt oligonucleotide probe immobilised in a zero-mode waveguide (ZMW) nanostructure. Using a modified commercial off-the-shelf DNA sequencer, we established the principles to measure biomolecular interactions at the single-molecule level. Kinetic data were obtained from trains of fluorescence pulses, allowing the calculation of association and dissociation rate constants (k on, k off). For the…

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November 19, 2015

Coupling of mRNA structure rearrangement to ribosome movement during bypassing of non-coding regions.

Nearly half of the ribosomes translating a particular bacteriophage T4 mRNA bypass a region of 50 nt, resuming translation 3' of this gap. How this large-scale, specific hop occurs and what determines whether a ribosome bypasses remain unclear. We apply single-molecule fluorescence with zero-mode waveguides to track individual Escherichia coli ribosomes during translation of T4's gene 60 mRNA. Ribosomes that bypass are characterized by a 10- to 20-fold longer pause in a non-canonical rotated state at the take-off codon. During the pause, mRNA secondary structure rearrangements are coupled to ribosome forward movement, facilitated by nascent peptide interactions that disengage the…

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September 15, 2015

Cotranslational protein folding inside the ribosome exit tunnel.

At what point during translation do proteins fold? It is well established that proteins can fold cotranslationally outside the ribosome exit tunnel, whereas studies of folding inside the exit tunnel have so far detected only the formation of helical secondary structure and collapsed or partially structured folding intermediates. Here, using a combination of cotranslational nascent chain force measurements, inter-subunit fluorescence resonance energy transfer studies on single translating ribosomes, molecular dynamics simulations, and cryoelectron microscopy, we show that a small zinc-finger domain protein can fold deep inside the vestibule of the ribosome exit tunnel. Thus, for small protein domains, the ribosome itself can provide…

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June 1, 2014

Dynamic pathways of -1 translational frameshifting.

Spontaneous changes in the reading frame of translation are rare (frequency of 10(-3) to 10(-4) per codon), but can be induced by specific features in the messenger RNA (mRNA). In the presence of mRNA secondary structures, a heptanucleotide 'slippery sequence' usually defined by the motif X XXY YYZ, and (in some prokaryotic cases) mRNA sequences that base pair with the 3' end of the 16S ribosomal rRNA (internal Shine-Dalgarno sequences), there is an increased probability that a specific programmed change of frame occurs, wherein the ribosome shifts one nucleotide backwards into an overlapping reading frame (-1 frame) and continues by…

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May 1, 2014

The dynamics of SecM-induced translational stalling.

SecM is an E. coli secretion monitor capable of stalling translation on the prokaryotic ribosome without cofactors. Biochemical and structural studies have demonstrated that the SecM nascent chain interacts with the 50S subunit exit tunnel to inhibit peptide bond formation. However, the timescales and pathways of stalling on an mRNA remain undefined. To provide a dynamic mechanism for stalling, we directly tracked the dynamics of elongation on ribosomes translating the SecM stall sequence (FSTPVWISQAQGIRAGP) using single-molecule fluorescence techniques. Within 1 min, three peptide-ribosome interactions work cooperatively over the last five codons of the SecM sequence, leading to severely impaired elongation rates beginning from…

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May 1, 2014

Sequence-dependent elongation dynamics on macrolide-bound ribosomes.

The traditional view of macrolide antibiotics as plugs inside the ribosomal nascent peptide exit tunnel (NPET) has lately been challenged in favor of a more complex, heterogeneous mechanism, where drug-peptide interactions determine the fate of a translating ribosome. To investigate these highly dynamic processes, we applied single-molecule tracking of elongating ribosomes during inhibition of elongation by erythromycin of several nascent chains, including ErmCL and H-NS, which were shown to be, respectively, sensitive and resistant to erythromycin. Peptide sequence-specific changes were observed in translation elongation dynamics in the presence of a macrolide-obstructed NPET. Elongation rates were not severely inhibited in general…

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January 1, 2014

High-throughput platform for real-time monitoring of biological processes by multicolor single-molecule fluorescence.

Zero-mode waveguides provide a powerful technology for studying single-molecule real-time dynamics of biological systems at physiological ligand concentrations. We customized a commercial zero-mode waveguide-based DNA sequencer for use as a versatile instrument for single-molecule fluorescence detection and showed that the system provides long fluorophore lifetimes with good signal to noise and low spectral cross-talk. We then used a ribosomal translation assay to show real-time fluidic delivery during data acquisition, showing it is possible to follow the conformation and composition of thousands of single biomolecules simultaneously through four spectral channels. This instrument allows high-throughput multiplexed dynamics of single-molecule biological processes over…

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June 1, 2013

Coordinated conformational and compositional dynamics drive ribosome translocation.

During translation elongation, the ribosome compositional factors elongation factor G (EF-G; encoded by fusA) and tRNA alternately bind to the ribosome to direct protein synthesis and regulate the conformation of the ribosome. Here, we use single-molecule fluorescence with zero-mode waveguides to directly correlate ribosome conformation and composition during multiple rounds of elongation at high factor concentrations in Escherichia coli. Our results show that EF-G bound to GTP (EF-G-GTP) continuously samples both rotational states of the ribosome, binding with higher affinity to the rotated state. Upon successful accommodation into the rotated ribosome, the EF-G-ribosome complex evolves through several rate-limiting conformational changes…

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