Biosensors for small molecules can be used in applications that range from metabolic engineering to orthogonal control of transcription. Here, we produce biosensors based on a ligand-binding domain (LBD) by using a method that, in principle, can be applied to any target molecule. The LBD is fused to either a fluorescent protein or a transcriptional activator and is destabilized by mutation such that the fusion accumulates only in cells containing the target ligand. We illustrate the power of this method by developing biosensors for digoxin and progesterone. Addition of ligand to yeast, mammalian or plant cells expressing a biosensor activates transcription with a dynamic range of up to ~100-fold. We use the biosensors to improve the biotransformation of pregnenolone to progesterone in yeast and to regulate CRISPR activity in mammalian cells. This work provides a general methodology to develop biosensors for a broad range of molecules in eukaryotes.
- Jeffery W Kelly, Scripps Research Institute, United States
© 2015, Feng et al.
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Akt is a Ser/Thr protein kinase that plays a central role in metabolism and cancer. Regulation of Akt's activity involves an autoinhibitory intramolecular interaction between its pleckstrin homology (PH) domain and its kinase domain that can be relieved by C-tail phosphorylation. PH domain mutant E17K Akt is a well-established oncogene. Previously, we reported that the conformation of autoinhibited Akt may be shifted by small molecule allosteric inhibitors limiting the mechanistic insights from existing X-ray structures that have relied on such compounds (Chu, Viennet, et al, 2020). Here we discover unexpectedly that a single mutation R86A Akt exhibits intensified autoinhibitory features with enhanced PH domain-kinase domain affinity. Structural and biochemical analysis uncovers the importance of a key interaction network involving Arg86, Glu17, and Tyr18 that controls Akt conformation and activity. Our studies also shed light on the molecular basis for E17K Akt activation as an oncogenic driver.
In eukaryotes, splice sites define the introns of pre-mRNAs and must be recognized and excised with nucleotide precision by the spliceosome to make the correct mRNA product. In one of the earliest steps of spliceosome assembly, the U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) recognizes the 5' splice site (5' SS) through a combination of base pairing, protein-RNA contacts, and interactions with other splicing factors. Previous studies investigating the mechanisms of 5' SS recognition have largely been done in vivo or in cellular extracts where the U1/5' SS interaction is difficult to deconvolute from the effects of trans-acting factors or RNA structure. In this work we used co-localization single-molecule spectroscopy (CoSMoS) to elucidate the pathway of 5' SS selection by purified yeast U1 snRNP. We determined that U1 reversibly selects 5' SS in a sequence-dependent, two-step mechanism. A kinetic selection scheme enforces pairing at particular positions rather than overall duplex stability to achieve long-lived U1 binding. Our results provide a kinetic basis for how U1 may rapidly surveil nascent transcripts for 5' SS and preferentially accumulate at these sequences rather than on close cognates.