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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

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Reader's Corner Archive

9 Sep 2022

Structural basis for shape-selective recognition and aminoacylation of a D-armless human mitochondrial tRNA (Nature Communications)

Mitochondrial tRNAs are indispensable and yet underwent an extreme mutational erosion. The authors report the structures of a mitochondrial aaRS-tRNA complex and show how the most degenerated of all human mtRNAs is recognized by its cognate synthetase to maintain mitochondrial gene expression. Human mitochondrial gene expression relies on the specific recognition and aminoacylation of mitochondrial tRNAs (mtRNAs) by nuclear-encoded mitochondrial aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (mt-aaRSs). Despite their essential role in cellular energy homeostasis, strong mutation pressure and genetic drift have led to an unparalleled sequence erosion of animal mtRNAs. The structural and functional consequences of this erosion are not understood. Here, we present cryo-EM structures of the human mitochondrial seryl-tRNA synthetase (mSerRS) in complex with mtRNA(Ser(GCU)). These structures reveal a unique mechanism of substrate recognition and aminoacylation. The mtRNA(Ser(GCU)) is highly degenerated, having lost the entire D-arm, tertiary core, and stable L-shaped fold that define canonical tRNAs. Instead, mtRNA(Ser(GCU)) evolved unique structural innovations, including a radically altered T-arm topology that serves as critical identity determinant in an unusual shape-selective readout mechanism by mSerRS. Our results provide a molecular framework to understand the principles of mito-nuclear co-evolution and specialized mechanisms of tRNA recognition in mammalian mitochondrial gene expression.

9 Sep 2022

Organizing structural principles of the IL-17 ligand-receptor axis (Nature)

The IL-17 family of cytokines and receptors have central roles in host defence against infection and development of inflammatory diseases. The compositions and structures of functional IL-17 family ligand-receptor signalling assemblies remain unclear. IL-17E (also known as IL-25) is a key regulator of type 2 immune responses and driver of inflammatory diseases, such as allergic asthma, and requires both IL-17 receptor A (IL-17RA) and IL-17RB to elicit functional responses. Here we studied IL-25-IL-17RB binary and IL-25-IL-17RB-IL-17RA ternary complexes using a combination of cryo-electron microscopy, single-molecule imaging and cell-based signalling approaches. The IL-25-IL-17RB-IL-17RA ternary signalling assembly is a C2-symmetric complex in which the IL-25-IL-17RB homodimer is flanked by two 'wing-like' IL-17RA co-receptorsth rough a 'tip-to-tip' geometry that is the key receptor-receptor interaction required for initiation of signal transduction. IL-25 interacts solely with IL-17RB to allosterically promote the formation of the IL-17RB-IL-17RA tip-to-tip interface. The resulting large separation between the receptors at the membrane-proximal level may reflect proximity constraints imposed by the intracellular domains for signalling. Cryo-electron microscopy structures of IL-17A-IL-17RA and IL-17A-IL-17RA-IL-17RC complexes reveal that this tip-to-tip architecture is a key organizing principle of the IL-17 receptor family. Furthermore, these studies reveal dual actions for IL-17RA sharing among IL-17 cytokine complexes, by either directly engaging IL-17 cytokines or alternatively functioning as a co-receptor.

9 Sep 2022

Selective TnsC recruitment enhances the fidelity of RNA-guided transposition (Nature)

Bacterial transposons are pervasive mobile genetic elements that use distinct DNA-binding proteins for horizontal transmission. For example, Escherichia coli Tn7 homes to a specific attachment site using TnsD(1), whereas CRISPR-associated transposons use type I or type V Cas effectors to insert downstream of target sites specified by guide RNAs2,3. Despite this targeting diversity, transposition invariably requires TnsB, a DDE-family transposase that catalyses DNA excision and insertion, and TnsC, a AAA+ ATPase that is thought to communicate between transposase and targeting proteins(4). How TnsC mediates this communication and thereby regulates transposition fidelity has remained unclear. Here we use chromatin immunoprecipitation with sequencing to monitor in vivo formation of the type I-F RNA-guided transpososome, enabling us to resolve distinct protein recruitment events before integration. DNA targeting by the TniQ-Cascade complex is surprisingly promiscuous-hundreds of genomic off-target sites are sampled, but only a subset of those sites is licensed for TnsC and TnsB recruitment, revealing a crucial proofreading checkpoint. To advance the mechanistic understanding of interactions responsible for transpososome assembly, we determined structures of TnsC using cryogenic electron microscopy and found that ATP binding drives the formation of heptameric rings that thread DNA through the central pore, thereby positioning the substrate for downstream integration. Collectively, our results highlight the molecular specificity imparted by consecutive factor binding to genomic target sites during RNA-guided transposition, and provide a structural roadmap to guide future engineering efforts.

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