Département de biologie moléculaire
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Towards Dissecting the Mechanism of Protein Phosphatase-1 Inhibition by Its C-Terminal Phosphorylation.
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Chembiochem, ; 22 (5): 834-838
Phosphoprotein phosphatase-1 (PP1) is a key player in the regulation of phospho-serine (pSer) and phospho-threonine (pThr) dephosphorylation and is involved in a large fraction of cellular signaling pathways. Aberrant activity of PP1 has been linked to many diseases, including cancer and heart failure. Besides a well-established activity control by regulatory proteins, an inhibitory function for phosphorylation (p) of a Thr residue in the C-terminal intrinsically disordered tail of PP1 has been demonstrated. The associated phenotype of cell-cycle arrest was repeatedly proposed to be due to autoinhibition of PP1 through either conformational changes or substrate competition. Here, we use PP1 variants created by mutations and protein semisynthesis to differentiate between these hypotheses. Our data support the hypothesis that pThr exerts its inhibitory function by mediating protein complex formation rather than by a direct mechanism of structural changes or substrate competition.


A single amino acid switch converts the Sleeping Beauty transposase into an efficient unidirectional excisionase with utility in stem cell reprogramming.
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Nucleic Acids Res, ; 48 (1): 316-331
The Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon is an advanced tool for genetic engineering and a useful model to investigate cut-and-paste DNA transposition in vertebrate cells. Here, we identify novel SB transposase mutants that display efficient and canonical excision but practically unmeasurable genomic re-integration. Based on phylogenetic analyses, we establish compensating amino acid replacements that fully rescue the integration defect of these mutants, suggesting epistasis between these amino acid residues. We further show that the transposons excised by the exc+/int- transposase mutants form extrachromosomal circles that cannot undergo a further round of transposition, thereby representing dead-end products of the excision reaction. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of the exc+/int- transposase in cassette removal for the generation of reprogramming factor-free induced pluripotent stem cells. Lack of genomic integration and formation of transposon circles following excision is reminiscent of signal sequence removal during V(D)J recombination, and implies that cut-and-paste DNA transposition can be converted to a unidirectional process by a single amino acid change.


A highly soluble Sleeping Beauty transposase improves control of gene insertion.
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Nat Biotechnol, ; 37 (12): 1502-1512
The Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon system is an efficient non-viral gene transfer tool in mammalian cells, but its broad use has been hampered by uncontrolled transposase gene activity from DNA vectors, posing a risk of genome instability, and by the inability to use the transposase protein directly. In this study, we used rational protein design based on the crystal structure of the hyperactive SB100X variant to create an SB transposase (high-solubility SB, hsSB) with enhanced solubility and stability. We demonstrate that hsSB can be delivered with transposon DNA to genetically modify cell lines and embryonic, hematopoietic and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), overcoming uncontrolled transposase activity. We used hsSB to generate chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, which exhibit potent antitumor activity in vitro and in xenograft mice. We found that hsSB spontaneously penetrates cells, enabling modification of iPSCs and generation of CAR T cells without the use of transfection reagents. Titration of hsSB to modulate genomic integration frequency achieved as few as two integrations per genome.
Jump ahead with a twist: DNA acrobatics drive transposition forward.
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Curr Opin Struct Biol, ; 59 : 168-177
Transposases move discrete pieces of DNA between genomic locations and had a profound impact on evolution. They drove the emergence of important biological functions and are the most frequent proteins encoded in modern genomes. Yet, the molecular principles of their actions have remained largely unclear. Here we review recent structural studies of transposase-DNA complexes and related cellular machineries, which provided unmatched mechanistic insights. We highlight how transposases introduce major DNA twists and kinks at various stages of their reaction and discuss the functional impact of these astounding DNA acrobatics on several aspects of transposition. By comparison with distantly related DNA recombination systems, we propose that forcing DNA into unnatural shapes may be a general strategy to drive rearrangements forward.
Sequence analysis allows functional annotation of tyrosine recombinases in prokaryotic genomes
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bioRxiv, ; :
Background: Tyrosine recombinases perform site-specific genetic recombination in bacteria and archaea. They safeguard genome integrity by resolving chromosome multimers, as well as mobilize transposons, phages and integrons, driving dissemination of genetic traits and antibiotic resistance. Despite their abundance and genetic impact, tyrosine recombinase diversity and evolution has not been thoroughly characterized, which greatly hampers their functional classification. Results: Here, we conducted a comprehensive search and comparative analysis of diverse tyrosine recombinases from bacterial, archaeal and phage genomes. We characterized their major phylogenetic groups and show that recombinases of integrons and insertion sequences are closely related to the chromosomal Xer proteins, while integrases of integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs) and phages are more distant. We find that proteins in distinct phylogenetic groups share specific structural features and have characteristic taxonomic distribution. We further trace tyrosine recombinase evolution and propose that phage and ICE integrases originated by acquisition of an N-terminal arm-binding domain. Based on this phylogeny, we classify numerous known ICEs and predict new ones. Conclusions: This work provides a new resource for comparative analysis and functional annotation of tyrosine recombinases. We reconstitute protein evolution and show that adaptation for a role in gene transfer involved acquisition of a specific protein domain, which allows precise regulation of excision and integration.
The USTC co-opts an ancient machinery to drive piRNA transcription in C. elegans.
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Genes Dev, ; 33 (1-2): 90-102
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) engage Piwi proteins to suppress transposons and nonself nucleic acids and maintain genome integrity and are essential for fertility in a variety of organisms. In , most piRNA precursors are transcribed from two genomic clusters that contain thousands of individual piRNA transcription units. While a few genes have been shown to be required for piRNA biogenesis, the mechanism of piRNA transcription remains elusive. Here we used functional proteomics approaches to identify an upstream sequence transcription complex (USTC) that is essential for piRNA biogenesis. The USTC contains piRNA silencing-defective 1 (PRDE-1), SNPC-4, twenty-one-U fouled-up 4 (TOFU-4), and TOFU-5. The USTC forms unique piRNA foci in germline nuclei and coats the piRNA cluster genomic loci. USTC factors associate with the Ruby motif just upstream of type I piRNA genes. USTC factors are also mutually dependent for binding to the piRNA clusters and forming the piRNA foci. Interestingly, USTC components bind differentially to piRNAs in the clusters and other noncoding RNA genes. These results reveal the USTC as a striking example of the repurposing of a general transcription factor complex to aid in genome defense against transposons.


Effects of stably incorporated iron on protein phosphatase-1 structure and activity.
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FEBS Lett, ; 592 (24): 4028-4038
Protein phosphatase-1 (PP1) drives a large amount of phosphoSer/Thr protein dephosphorylations in eukaryotes to counteract multiple kinases in signaling pathways. The phosphatase requires divalent metal cations for catalytic activity and contains iron naturally. Iron has been suggested to have an influence on PP1 activity through Fe and Fe oxidation states. However, much biochemical and all structural data have been obtained with recombinant PP1 containing Mn ions. Purifying iron-containing PP1 from Escherichia coli has thus far not been possible. Here, we present the preparation, characterization, and structure of iron-bound PP1α in inactive and active states. We establish a key role for the electronic/redox properties of iron in PP1 activity and shed light on the difference in substrate specificity between iron- and manganese-containing PP1.
Targeting IS608 transposon integration to highly specific sequences by structure-based transposon engineering.
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Nucleic Acids Res, ; 46 (8): 4152-4163
Transposable elements are efficient DNA carriers and thus important tools for transgenesis and insertional mutagenesis. However, their poor target sequence specificity constitutes an important limitation for site-directed applications. The insertion sequence IS608 from Helicobacter pylori recognizes a specific tetranucleotide sequence by base pairing, and its target choice can be re-programmed by changes in the transposon DNA. Here, we present the crystal structure of the IS608 target capture complex in an active conformation, providing a complete picture of the molecular interactions between transposon and target DNA prior to integration. Based on this, we engineered IS608 variants to direct their integration specifically to various 12/17-nt long target sites by extending the base pair interaction network between the transposon and the target DNA. We demonstrate in vitro that the engineered transposons efficiently select their intended target sites. Our data further elucidate how the distinct secondary structure of the single-stranded transposon intermediate prevents extended target specificity in the wild-type transposon, allowing it to move between diverse genomic sites. Our strategy enables efficient targeting of unique DNA sequences with high specificity in an easily programmable manner, opening possibilities for the use of the IS608 system for site-specific gene insertions.
Transposase-DNA Complex Structures Reveal Mechanisms for Conjugative Transposition of Antibiotic Resistance.
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Cell, ; 173 (1): 208-220.e20
Conjugative transposition drives the emergence of multidrug resistance in diverse bacterial pathogens, yet the mechanisms are poorly characterized. The Tn1549 conjugative transposon propagates resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin used for severe drug-resistant infections. Here, we present four high-resolution structures of the conserved Y-transposase of Tn1549 complexed with circular transposon DNA intermediates. The structures reveal individual transposition steps and explain how specific DNA distortion and cleavage mechanisms enable DNA strand exchange with an absolute minimum homology requirement. This appears to uniquely allow Tn916-like conjugative transposons to bypass DNA homology and insert into diverse genomic sites, expanding gene transfer. We further uncover a structural regulatory mechanism that prevents premature cleavage of the transposon DNA before a suitable target DNA is found and generate a peptide antagonist that interferes with the transposase-DNA structure to block transposition. Our results reveal mechanistic principles of conjugative transposition that could help control the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.
Conjugative transposition of the vancomycin resistance carrying Tn1549: enzymatic requirements and target site preferences.
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Mol Microbiol, ; 107 (5): 639-658
Rapid spread of resistance to vancomycin has generated difficult to treat bacterial pathogens worldwide. Though vancomycin resistance is often conferred by the conjugative transposon Tn1549, it is yet unclear whether Tn1549 moves actively between bacteria. Here we demonstrate, through development of an in vivo assay system, that a mini-Tn1549 can transpose in E. coli away from its natural Gram-positive host. We find the transposon-encoded INT enzyme and its catalytic tyrosine Y380 to be essential for transposition. A second Tn1549 protein, XIS is important for efficient and accurate transposition. We further show that DNA flanking the left transposon end is critical for excision, with changes to nucleotides 7 and 9 impairing movement. These mutations could be partially compensated for by changing the final nucleotide of the right transposon end, implying concerted excision of the two ends. With changes in these essential DNA sequences, or without XIS, a large amount of flanking DNA transposes with Tn1549. This rescues mobility and allows the transposon to capture and transfer flanking genomic DNA. We further identify the transposon integration target sites as TTTT-N6-AAAA. Overall, our results provide molecular insights into conjugative transposition and the adaptability of Tn1549 for efficient antibiotic resistance transfer.


Intermolecular base stacking mediates RNA-RNA interaction in a crystal structure of the RNA chaperone Hfq.
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Sci Rep, ; 7 (1): 9903
The RNA-chaperone Hfq catalyses the annealing of bacterial small RNAs (sRNAs) with target mRNAs to regulate gene expression in response to environmental stimuli. Hfq acts on a diverse set of sRNA-mRNA pairs using a variety of different molecular mechanisms. Here, we present an unusual crystal structure showing two Hfq-RNA complexes interacting via their bound RNA molecules. The structure contains two Hfq:A RNA assemblies positioned face-to-face, with the RNA molecules turned towards each other and connected via interdigitating base stacking interactions at the center. Biochemical data further confirm the observed interaction, and indicate that RNA-mediated contacts occur between Hfq-RNA complexes with various (ARN) motif containing RNA sequences in vitro, including the stress response regulator OxyS and its target, fhlA. A systematic computational survey also shows that phylogenetically conserved (ARN) motifs are present in a subset of sRNAs, some of which share similar modular architectures. We hypothesise that Hfq can co-opt RNA-RNA base stacking, an unanticipated structural trick, to promote the interaction of (ARN) motif containing sRNAs with target mRNAs on a "speed-dating" fashion, thereby supporting their regulatory function.


Structural snapshots of Xer recombination reveal activation by synaptic complex remodeling and DNA bending.
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Elife, ; 5 :
Bacterial Xer site-specific recombinases play an essential genome maintenance role by unlinking chromosome multimers, but their mechanism of action has remained structurally uncharacterized. Here, we present two high-resolution structures of XerH with its recombination site DNA , representing pre-cleavage and post-cleavage synaptic intermediates in the recombination pathway. The structures reveal that activation of DNA strand cleavage and rejoining involves large conformational changes and DNA bending, suggesting how interaction with the cell division protein FtsK may license recombination at the septum. Together with biochemical and in vivo analysis, our structures also reveal how a small sequence asymmetry in defines protein conformation in the synaptic complex and orchestrates the order of DNA strand exchanges. Our results provide insights into the catalytic mechanism of Xer recombination and a model for regulation of recombination activity during cell division.
Structural Determinants of Sleeping Beauty Transposase Activity.
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Mol Ther, ; 24 (8): 1369-1377
Transposases are important tools in genome engineering, and there is considerable interest in engineering more efficient ones. Here, we seek to understand the factors determining their activity using the Sleeping Beauty transposase. Recent work suggests that protein coevolutionary information can be used to classify groups of physically connected, coevolving residues into elements called "sectors", which have proven useful for understanding the folding, allosteric interactions, and enzymatic activity of proteins. Using extensive mutagenesis data, protein modeling and analysis of folding energies, we show that (i) The Sleeping Beauty transposase contains two sectors, which span across conserved domains, and are enriched in DNA-binding residues, indicating that the DNA binding and endonuclease functions of the transposase coevolve; (ii) Sector residues are highly sensitive to mutations, and most mutations of these residues strongly reduce transposition rate; (iii) Mutations with a strong effect on free energy of folding in the DDE domain of the transposase significantly reduce transposition rate. (iv) Mutations that influence DNA and protein-protein interactions generally reduce transposition rate, although most hyperactive mutants are also located on the protein surface, including residues with protein-protein interactions. This suggests that hyperactivity results from the modification of protein interactions, rather than the stabilization of protein fold.
Sleeping Beauty transposase structure allows rational design of hyperactive variants for genetic engineering.
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Nat Commun, ; 7 : 11126
Sleeping Beauty (SB) is a prominent Tc1/mariner superfamily DNA transposon that provides a popular genome engineering tool in a broad range of organisms. It is mobilized by a transposase enzyme that catalyses DNA cleavage and integration at short specific sequences at the transposon ends. To facilitate SB's applications, here we determine the crystal structure of the transposase catalytic domain and use it to model the SB transposase/transposon end/target DNA complex. Together with biochemical and cell-based transposition assays, our structure reveals mechanistic insights into SB transposition and rationalizes previous hyperactive transposase mutations. Moreover, our data enables us to design two additional hyperactive transposase variants. Our work provides a useful resource and proof-of-concept for structure-based engineering of tailored SB transposases.


An integrated approach for genome annotation of the eukaryotic thermophile Chaetomium thermophilum.
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Nucleic Acids Res, ; 42 (22): 13525-13533
The thermophilic fungus Chaetomium thermophilum holds great promise for structural biology. To increase the efficiency of its biochemical and structural characterization and to explore its thermophilic properties beyond those of individual proteins, we obtained transcriptomics and proteomics data, and integrated them with computational annotation methods and a multitude of biochemical experiments conducted by the structural biology community. We considerably improved the genome annotation of Chaetomium thermophilum and characterized the transcripts and expression of thousands of genes. We furthermore show that the composition and structure of the expressed proteome of Chaetomium thermophilum is similar to its mesophilic relatives. Data were deposited in a publicly available repository and provide a rich source to the structural biology community.
Structure of an Escherichia coli Hfq:RNA complex at 0.97 Å resolution.
Acta Crystallogr F Struct Biol Commun, ; 70 (Pt 11): 1492-1497
In bacteria, small RNAs (sRNAs) silence or activate target genes through base pairing with the mRNA, thereby modulating its translation. A central player in this process is the RNA chaperone Hfq, which facilitates the annealing of sRNAs with their target mRNAs. Hfq has two RNA-binding surfaces that recognize A-rich and U-rich sequences, and is believed to bind an sRNA-mRNA pair simultaneously. However, how Hfq promotes annealing remains unclear. Here, the crystal structure of Escherichia coli Hfq is presented in complex with U6-RNA bound to its proximal binding site at 0.97 Å resolution, revealing the Hfq-RNA interaction in exceptional detail.


Acquisition of an Archaea-like ribonuclease H domain by plant L1 retrotransposons supports modular evolution.
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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, ; 110 (50): 20140-20145
Although a variety of non-LTR retrotransposons of the L1 superfamily have been found in plant genomes over recent decades, their diversity, distribution, and evolution have yet to be analyzed in depth. Here, we perform comprehensive comparative and evolutionary analyses of L1 retrotransposons from 29 genomes of land plants covering a wide range of taxa. We identify numerous L1 elements in these genomes and detect a striking diversity of their domain composition. We show that all known land plant L1 retrotransposons can be grouped into five major families based on their phylogenetic relationships and domain composition. Moreover, we trace the putative evolution timeline that created the current variants and reveal that evolutionary events included losses and acquisitions of diverse putative RNA-binding domains and the acquisition of an Archaea-like ribonuclease H (RNH) domain. We also show that the latter RNH domain is autonomously active in vitro and speculate that retrotransposons may play a role in the horizontal transfer of RNH between plants, Archaea, and bacteria. The acquisition of an Archaea-like RNH domain by plant L1 retrotransposons negates the hypothesis that RNH domains in non-LTR retrotransposons have a single origin and provides evidence that acquisition happened at least twice. Together, our data indicate that the evolution of the investigated retrotransposons can be mainly characterized by repeated events of domain rearrangements and identify modular evolution as a major trend in the evolution of plant L1 retrotransposons.
Catalytic mechanism of α-phosphate attack in dUTPase is revealed by X-ray crystallographic snapshots of distinct intermediates, 31P-NMR spectroscopy and reaction path modelling.
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Nucleic Acids Res, ; 41 (22): 10542-10555
Enzymatic synthesis and hydrolysis of nucleoside phosphate compounds play a key role in various biological pathways, like signal transduction, DNA synthesis and metabolism. Although these processes have been studied extensively, numerous key issues regarding the chemical pathway and atomic movements remain open for many enzymatic reactions. Here, using the Mason-Pfizer monkey retrovirus dUTPase, we study the dUTPase-catalyzed hydrolysis of dUTP, an incorrect DNA building block, to elaborate the mechanistic details at high resolution. Combining mass spectrometry analysis of the dUTPase-catalyzed reaction carried out in and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) simulation, we show that the nucleophilic attack occurs at the α-phosphate site. Phosphorus-31 NMR spectroscopy ((31)P-NMR) analysis confirms the site of attack and shows the capability of dUTPase to cleave the dUTP analogue α,β-imido-dUTP, containing the imido linkage usually regarded to be non-hydrolyzable. We present numerous X-ray crystal structures of distinct dUTPase and nucleoside phosphate complexes, which report on the progress of the chemical reaction along the reaction coordinate. The presently used combination of diverse structural methods reveals details of the nucleophilic attack and identifies a novel enzyme-product complex structure.


Crystal structure of the primary piRNA biogenesis factor Zucchini reveals similarity to the bacterial PLD endonuclease Nuc.
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RNA, ; 18 (12): 2128-2134
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are a gonad-specific class of small RNAs that associate with the Piwi clade of Argonaute proteins and play a key role in transposon silencing in animals. Since biogenesis of piRNAs is independent of the double-stranded RNA-processing enzyme Dicer, an alternative nuclease that can process single-stranded RNA transcripts has been long sought. A Phospholipase D-like protein, Zucchini, that is essential for piRNA processing has been proposed to be a nuclease acting in piRNA biogenesis. Here we describe the crystal structure of Zucchini from Drosophila melanogaster and show that it is very similar to the bacterial endonuclease, Nuc. The structure also reveals that homodimerization induces major conformational changes assembling the active site. The active site is situated on the dimer interface at the bottom of a narrow groove that can likely accommodate single-stranded nucleic acid substrates. Furthermore, biophysical analysis identifies protein segments essential for dimerization and provides insights into regulation of Zucchini's activity.

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