An RNA polymerase ribozyme that has been the subject of extensive directed evolution efforts has attained the ability to synthesize complex functional RNAs, including a full-length copy of its own evolutionary ancestor. During the course of evolution, the catalytic core of the ribozyme has undergone a major structural rearrangement, resulting in a novel tertiary structural element that lies in close proximity to the active site. Through a combination of site-directed mutagenesis, structural probing, and deep sequencing analysis, the trajectory of evolution was seen to involve the progressive stabilization of the new structure, which provides the basis for improved catalytic activity of the ribozyme. Multiple paths to the new structure were explored by the evolving population, converging upon a common solution. Tertiary structural remodeling of RNA is known to occur in nature, as evidenced by the phylogenetic analysis of extant organisms, but this type of structural innovation had not previously been observed in an experimental setting. Despite prior speculation that the catalytic core of the ribozyme had become trapped in a narrow local fitness optimum, the evolving population has broken through to a new fitness locale, raising the possibility that further improvement of polymerase activity may be achievable.
Source data, including raw gel electrophoresis images (*.tiff files) and tables listing all datapoints and model fitting parameters, for all applicable graphs and plots, are provided for Figures 1, 2-supplement-2, 3 (and supplements 1 and 2), 4 (and supplement 1), and 5 (and supplement 5). High-throughput sequencing data and analysis used to generate Figure 1-supplement 1, Figure 5, and Supplemental file 2 are available and archived at the Dryad Digital Repository.
Polymerase fidelity data from: Witnessing the structural evolution of an RNA enzyme.https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/.
- Gerald F Joyce
- Gerald F Joyce
- Ronald R Breaker
- Ronald R Breaker
- Xavier Portillo
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Timothy W Nilsen, Case Western Reserve University, United States
© 2021, Portillo et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinases (PKGs) are key mediators of the nitric oxide/cGMP signaling pathway that regulates biological functions as diverse as smooth muscle contraction, cardiac function, and axon guidance. Understanding how cGMP differentially triggers mammalian PKG isoforms could lead to new therapeutics that inhibit or activate PKGs, complementing drugs that target nitric oxide synthases and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases in this signaling axis. Alternate splicing of PRKG1 transcripts confers distinct leucine zippers, linkers, and auto-inhibitory pseudo-substrate sequences to PKG Iα and Iβ that result in isoform-specific activation properties, but the mechanism of enzyme auto-inhibition and its alleviation by cGMP is not well understood. Here we present a crystal structure of PKG Iβ in which the auto-inhibitory sequence and the cyclic nucleotide binding domains are bound to the catalytic domain, providing a snapshot of the auto-inhibited state. Specific contacts between the PKG Iβ auto-inhibitory sequence and the enzyme active site help explain isoform-specific activation constants and the effects of phosphorylation in the linker. We also present a crystal structure of a PKG I cyclic nucleotide binding domain with an activating mutation linked to Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms and Dissections. Similarity of this structure to wild type cGMP-bound domains and differences with the auto-inhibited enzyme provide a mechanistic basis for constitutive activation. We show that PKG Iβ auto-inhibition is mediated by contacts within each monomer of the native full-length dimeric protein, and using the available structural and biochemical data we develop a model for the regulation and cooperative activation of PKGs.
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