10 Oct 2023

After AlphaFold: protein-folding contest seeks next big breakthrough (Nature)

Two years after DeepMind’s revolutionary AI swept a competition for predicting protein structures, researchers are building on AlphaFold’s success. “In some sense, the problem is solved,” computational biologist John Moult declared in late 2020. The London-based company DeepMind had just swept a biennial contest co-founded by Moult that tests teams’ abilities to predict protein structures — one of biology’s grandest challenges — with its revolutionary artificial-intelligence (AI) tool AlphaFold. Two years later, Moult’s competition, the Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction (CASP), is still walking in AlphaFold’s long shadow. Results from this year’s edition (CASP15) — which were unveiled over the weekend at a conference in Antalya, Turkey — show that the most successful approaches to predicting protein structures from their amino-acid sequences incorporated AlphaFold, which relies on an AI approach called deep learning. “Everyone is using AlphaFold,” says Yang Zhang, a computational biologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Yet AlphaFold’s progress has opened the floodgates for new challenges in protein-structure prediction — some included in this year’s CASP — that might require new approaches and more time to fully tackle. “The low-hanging fruit has been picked,” says Mohammed AlQuraishi, a computational biologist at Columbia University in New York City. “Some of the next problems are going to be harder.”

29 Aug 2023

Cryo-EM structure of coagulation factor V short (Blood)

Coagulation factor V (fV) is the precursor of activated fV (fVa), an essential component of the prothrombinase complex required for the rapid activation of prothrombin in the penultimate step of the coagulation cascade. In addition, fV regulates the tissue factor pathway inhibitor α (TFPIα) and protein C pathways that inhibit the coagulation response. A recent cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of fV has revealed the architecture of its A1-A2-B-A3-C1-C2 assembly but left the mechanism that keeps fV in its inactive state unresolved because of an intrinsic disorder in the B domain. A splice variant of fV, fV short, carries a large deletion of the B domain that produces constitutive fVa-like activity and unmasks epitopes for the binding of TFPIα. The cryo-EM structure of fV short was solved at 3.2 Å resolution and revealed the arrangement of the entire A1-A2-B-A3-C1-C2 assembly. The shorter B domain stretches across the entire width of the protein, making contacts with the A1, A2, and A3 domains but suspended over the C1 and C2 domains. In the portion distal to the splice site, several hydrophobic clusters and acidic residues provide a potential binding site for the basic C-terminal end of TFPIα. In fV, these epitopes may bind intramolecularly to the basic region of the B domain. The cryo-EM structure reported in this study advances our understanding of the mechanism that keeps fV in its inactive state, provides new targets for mutagenesis and facilitates future structural analysis of fV short in complex with TFPIα, protein S, and fXa.

29 Aug 2023

TDP-43 forms amyloid filaments with a distinct fold in type A FTLD-TDP (Nature)

The abnormal assembly of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) in neuronal and glial cells characterizes nearly all cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and around half of cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). A causal role for TDP-43 assembly in neurodegeneration is evidenced by dominantly inherited missense mutations in TARDBP, the gene encoding TDP-43, that promote assembly and give rise to ALS and FTLD. At least four types (A–D) of FTLD with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) are defined by distinct brain distributions of assembled TDP-43 and are associated with different clinical presentations of frontotemporal dementia. We previously showed, using cryo-electron microscopy, that TDP-43 assembles into amyloid filaments in ALS and type B FTLD-TDP. However, the structures of assembled TDP-43 in FTLD without ALS remained unknown. Here we report the cryo-electron microscopy structures of assembled TDP-43 from the brains of three individuals with the most common type of FTLD-TDP, type A. TDP-43 formed amyloid filaments with a new fold that was the same across individuals, indicating that this fold may characterize type A FTLD-TDP. The fold resembles a chevron badge and is unlike the double-spiral-shaped fold of ALS and type B FTLD-TDP, establishing that distinct filament folds of TDP-43 characterize different neurodegenerative conditions. The structures, in combination with mass spectrometry, led to the identification of two new post-translational modifications of assembled TDP-43, citrullination and monomethylation of R293, and indicate that they may facilitate filament formation and observed structural variation in individual filaments. The structures of TDP-43 filaments from type A FTLD-TDP will guide mechanistic studies of TDP-43 assembly, as well as the development of diagnostic and therapeutic compounds for TDP-43 proteinopathies.

18 Aug 2023

Structural basis for specific RNA recognition by the alternative splicing factor RBM5 (Nature Communications)

The RNA-binding motif protein RBM5 belongs to a family of multi-domain RNA binding proteins that regulate alternative splicing of genes important for apoptosis and cell proliferation and have been implicated in cancer. RBM5 harbors structural modules for RNA recognition, such as RRM domains and a Zn finger, and protein-protein interactions such as an OCRE domain. Here, we characterize binding of the RBM5 RRM1-ZnF1-RRM2 domains to cis-regulatory RNA elements. A structure of the RRM1-ZnF1 region in complex with RNA shows how the tandem domains cooperate to sandwich target RNA and specifically recognize a GG dinucleotide in a non-canonical fashion. While the RRM1-ZnF1 domains act as a single structural module, RRM2 is connected by a flexible linker and tumbles independently. However, all three domains participate in RNA binding and adopt a closed architecture upon RNA binding. Our data highlight how cooperativity and conformational modularity of multiple RNA binding domains enable the recognition of distinct RNA motifs, thereby contributing to the regulation of alternative splicing. Remarkably, we observe surprising differences in coupling of the RNA binding domains between the closely related homologs RBM5 and RBM10. The RNA binding protein RBM5 regulates alternative splicing of genes implicated in cancer. Here the authors show structural mechanisms how multiple RNA binding domains of RBM5 cooperate to recognize specific target RNA sequences.

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