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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

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Reader's Corner Archive

13 Jun

The SPOC domain is a phosphoserine binding module that bridges transcription machinery with co- and post-transcriptional regulators (Nature Communications)

The heptad repeats of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) are extensively modified throughout the transcription cycle. The CTD coordinates RNA synthesis and processing by recruiting transcription regulators as well as RNA capping, splicing and 3’end processing factors. The SPOC domain of PHF3 was recently identified as a CTD reader domain specifically binding to phosphorylated serine-2 residues in adjacent CTD repeats. Here, we establish the SPOC domains of the human proteins DIDO, SHARP (also known as SPEN) and RBM15 as phosphoserine binding modules that can act as CTD readers but also recognize other phosphorylated binding partners. We report the crystal structure of SHARP SPOC in complex with CTD and identify the molecular determinants for its specific binding to phosphorylated serine-5. PHF3 and DIDO SPOC domains preferentially interact with the Pol II elongation complex, while RBM15 and SHARP SPOC domains engage with writers and readers of m6A, the most abundant RNA modification. RBM15 positively regulates m6A levels and mRNA stability in a SPOC-dependent manner, while SHARP SPOC is essential for its localization to inactive X-chromosomes. Our findings suggest that the SPOC domain is a major interface between the transcription machinery and regulators of transcription and co-transcriptional processes.

19 Apr

Structures and mechanisms of tRNA methylation by METTL1–WDR4 (Nature)

Specific, regulated modification of RNAs is important for proper gene expression(1,2). tRNAs are rich with various chemical modifications that affect their stability and function(3,4). 7-Methylguanosine (m(7)G) at tRNA position 46 is a conserved modification that modulates steady-state tRNA levels to affect cell growth(5,6). The METTL1-WDR4 complex generates m(7)G46 in humans, and dysregulation of METTL1-WDR4 has been linked to brain malformation and multiple cancers(7-22). Here we show how METTL1 and WDR4 cooperate to recognize RNA substrates and catalyse methylation. A crystal structure of METTL1-WDR4 and cryo-electron microscopy structures of METTL1-WDR4-tRNA show that the composite protein surface recognizes the tRNA elbow through shape complementarity. The cryo-electron microscopy structures of METTL1-WDR4-tRNA with S-adenosylmethionine or S-adenosylhomocysteine along with METTL1 crystal structures provide additional insights into the catalytic mechanism by revealing the active site in multiple states. The METTL1 N terminus couples cofactor binding with conformational changes in the tRNA, the catalytic loop and the WDR4 C terminus, acting as the switch to activate m(7)G methylation. Thus, our structural models explain how post-translational modifications of the METTL1 N terminus can regulate methylation. Together, our work elucidates the core and regulatory mechanisms underlying m(7)G modification by METTL1, providing the framework to understand its contribution to biology and disease.

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