October 23, 2019  |  

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 structures. Importantly, the HNH nuclease domain only accessed the DNA cleavage position during such flexible movements, suggesting the importance of this flexibility in the DNA cleavage process. Our FRET data also revealed the conformational flexibility of apo-Cas9, which may play a role in the assembly with the sgRNA Collectively, our results highlight the potential role of domain fluctuations in driving Cas9-catalyzed DNA cleavage.© 2018 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY NC ND 4.0 license.


September 22, 2019  |  

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 formation of both types of assemblies. Thus, flattening and the initial monomer arrangement determine gelsolin-mediated filament initiation.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 the kind of sheltered folding environment that chaperones provide for larger proteins. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 ribosome anticodon-codon interactions for slippage. Close to the landing site, the ribosome then scans mRNA in search of optimal base-pairing interactions. Our results provide a mechanistic and conformational framework for bypassing, highlighting a non-canonical ribosomal state to allow for mRNA structure refolding to drive large-scale ribosome movements. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 translating a new sequence of amino acids. Despite extensive biochemical and genetic studies, there is no clear mechanistic description for frameshifting. Here we apply single-molecule fluorescence to track the compositional and conformational dynamics of individual ribosomes at each codon during translation of a frameshift-inducing mRNA from the dnaX gene in Escherichia coli. Ribosomes that frameshift into the -1 frame are characterized by a tenfold longer pause in elongation compared to non-frameshifted ribosomes, which translate through unperturbed. During the pause, interactions of the ribosome with the mRNA stimulatory elements uncouple EF-G catalysed translocation from normal ribosomal subunit reverse-rotation, leaving the ribosome in a non-canonical intersubunit rotated state with an exposed codon in the aminoacyl-tRNA site (A site). tRNA(Lys) sampling and accommodation to the empty A site and EF-G action either leads to the slippage of the tRNAs into the -1 frame or maintains the ribosome into the 0 frame. Our results provide a general mechanistic and conformational framework for -1 frameshifting, highlighting multiple kinetic branchpoints during elongation.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 the terminal proline and lasting four codons. Our results suggest that stalling is tightly linked to the dynamics of elongation and underscore the roles that the exit tunnel and nascent chain play in controlling fundamental steps in translation. opyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 long timescales. The instrumentation presented here has broad applications to single-molecule studies of biological systems and is easily accessible to the biophysical community.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 by the presence of the drug; instead, stalls or pauses were observed as abrupt events. The dynamic pathways of nascent-chain-dependent elongation pausing in the presence of macrolides determine the fate of the translating ribosome stalling or readthrough. Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

The impact of aminoglycosides on the dynamics of translation elongation.

Inferring antibiotic mechanisms on translation through static structures has been challenging, as biological systems are highly dynamic. Dynamic single-molecule methods are also limited to few simultaneously measurable parameters. We have circumvented these limitations with a multifaceted approach to investigate three structurally distinct aminoglycosides that bind to the aminoacyl-transfer RNA site (A site) in the prokaryotic 30S ribosomal subunit: apramycin, paromomycin, and gentamicin. Using several single-molecule fluorescence measurements combined with structural and biochemical techniques, we observed distinct changes to translational dynamics for each aminoglycoside. While all three drugs effectively inhibit translation elongation, their actions are structurally and mechanistically distinct. Apramycin does not displace A1492 and A1493 at the decoding center, as demonstrated by a solution nuclear magnetic resonance structure, causing only limited miscoding; instead, it primarily blocks translocation. Paromomycin and gentamicin, which displace A1492 and A1493, cause significant miscoding, block intersubunit rotation, and inhibit translocation. Our results show the power of combined dynamics, structural, and biochemical approaches to elucidate the complex mechanisms underlying translation and its inhibition. Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 and the hydrolysis of GTP, which results in a transition back to the nonrotated state and in turn drives translocation and facilitates release of both EF-G-GDP and E-site tRNA. These experiments highlight the power of tracking single-molecule conformation and composition simultaneously in real time.


July 7, 2019  |  

Heterogeneous pathways and timing of factor departure during translation initiation.

The initiation of translation establishes the reading frame for protein synthesis and is a key point of regulation. Initiation involves factor-driven assembly at a start codon of a messenger RNA of an elongation-competent 70S ribosomal particle (in bacteria) from separated 30S and 50S subunits and initiator transfer RNA. Here we establish in Escherichia coli, using direct single-molecule tracking, the timing of initiator tRNA, initiation factor 2 (IF2; encoded by infB) and 50S subunit joining during initiation. Our results show multiple pathways to initiation, with orders of arrival of tRNA and IF2 dependent on factor concentration and composition. IF2 accelerates 50S subunit joining and stabilizes the assembled 70S complex. Transition to elongation is gated by the departure of IF2 after GTP hydrolysis, allowing efficient arrival of elongator tRNAs to the second codon presented in the aminoacyl-tRNA binding site (A site). These experiments highlight the power of single-molecule approaches to delineate mechanisms in complex multicomponent systems.


July 7, 2019  |  

Real-time tRNA transit on single translating ribosomes at codon resolution.

Translation by the ribosome occurs by a complex mechanism involving the coordinated interaction of multiple nucleic acid and protein ligands. Here we use zero-mode waveguides (ZMWs) and sophisticated detection instrumentation to allow real-time observation of translation at physiologically relevant micromolar ligand concentrations. Translation at each codon is monitored by stable binding of transfer RNAs (tRNAs)-labelled with distinct fluorophores-to translating ribosomes, which allows direct detection of the identity of tRNA molecules bound to the ribosome and therefore the underlying messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence. We observe the transit of tRNAs on single translating ribosomes and determine the number of tRNA molecules simultaneously bound to the ribosome, at each codon of an mRNA molecule. Our results show that ribosomes are only briefly occupied by two tRNA molecules and that release of deacylated tRNA from the exit (E) site is uncoupled from binding of aminoacyl-tRNA site (A-site) tRNA and occurs rapidly after translocation. The methods outlined here have broad application to the study of mRNA sequences, and the mechanism and regulation of translation.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 GTP-dependent subunit disassembly. After the 50S subunit departs, IF3 releases the deacylated tRNA from the 30S subunit, thus preventing reassembly of the 70S ribosome. Our findings reveal the post-termination rotated state as the crucial intermediate in the transition from termination to recycling. Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 to be challenging for bulk methods. Conventional single-molecule fluorescence experiments on the other hand require low concentrations of fluorescent ligands to reduce background noise. The significantly reduced bimolecular association rates under those conditions limit the number of steps that can be observed within the time window available to a fluorophore. The advent of zero-mode waveguide (ZMW) technology has allowed the study of translation at near-physiological concentrations of labeled ligands, moving single-molecule fluorescence microscopy beyond focused model systems into studying the global dynamics of translation in realistic setups. This chapter reviews the recent works using the ZMW technology to dissect the mechanism of translation initiation and elongation in prokaryotes, including complex processes such as translational stalling and frameshifting. Given the success of the technology, similarly complex biological processes could be studied in near-physiological conditions with the controllability of conventional in vitro experiments. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

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 7mer labelled with the positively charged CY3 dye, k on and k off are ~3 larger and ~2 times smaller, respectively, compared with the oligonucleotide labelled with negatively charged DY-547 dye. The effect of neighbouring molecules lacking the 7nt binding sequence on single-molecule rate constants is small. The association rate constants is reduced by only 20–35%. Hybrid dissociation is not affected, since as a consequence of the experimental design, rebinding cannot take place. Results of single-molecule experiments were compared with data obtained from surface plasmon resonance (SPR) performed under comparable conditions. A good correlation for the association rate constants within a factor of 1.5 was found. Dissociation rate constants are smaller by a factor of 2–3 which we interpreted as a result of rebinding to neighbouring probes. Results of SPR measurements tend to systematically underestimate dissociation rate constants. The amount of this deviation depends on the association rate constant and the surface probe density. As a consequence, it is recommended to work at low probe densities to keep this effect small.


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