CRISPR-Cas9 is a molecular tool with transformative genome editing capabilities. At the molecular level, an intricate allosteric signaling is critical for DNA cleavage, but its role in the specificity enhancement of the Cas9 endonuclease is poorly understood. Here, multi-microsecond molecular dynamics is combined with solution NMR and graph theory-derived models to probe the allosteric role of key specificity-enhancing mutations. We show that mutations responsible for increasing the specificity of Cas9 alter the allosteric structure of the catalytic HNH domain, impacting the signal transmission from the DNA recognition region to the catalytic sites for cleavage. Specifically, the K855A mutation strongly disrupts the allosteric connectivity of the HNH domain, exerting the highest perturbation on the signaling transfer, while K810A and K848A result in more moderate effects on the allosteric communication. This differential perturbation of the allosteric signal correlates to the order of specificity enhancement (K855A > K848A ~ K810A) observed in biochemical studies, with the mutation achieving the highest specificity most strongly perturbing the signaling transfer. These findings suggest that alterations of the allosteric communication from DNA recognition to cleavage are critical to increasing the specificity of Cas9 and that allosteric hotspots can be targeted through mutational studies for improving the system's function.
Analysis codes and script files can be downloaded from Github: https://github.com/palermolabResonance assignments for the HNH structure are available at bmrb.io under BMRB entry 27949.
- Giulia Palermo
- Giulia Palermo
- Victor S Batista
- George P Lisi
- Giulia Palermo
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Rina Rosenzweig, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
© 2021, Nierzwicki 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.
Cleavage of membrane proteins in the lipid bilayer by intramembrane proteases is crucial for health and disease. Although different lipid environments can potently modulate their activity, how this is linked to their structural dynamics is unclear. Here we show that the carboxy-peptidase-like activity of the archaeal intramembrane protease PSH, a homolog of the Alzheimer's disease-associated presenilin/γ-secretase is impaired in micelles and promoted in a lipid bilayer. Comparative molecular dynamics simulations revealed that important elements for substrate binding such as transmembrane domain 6a of PSH are more labile in micelles and stabilized in the lipid bilayer. Moreover, consistent with an enhanced interaction of PSH with a transition-state analog inhibitor, the bilayer promoted the formation of the enzyme´s catalytic active site geometry. Our data indicate that the lipid environment of an intramembrane protease plays a critical role in structural stabilization and active site arrangement of the enzyme-substrate complex thereby promoting intramembrane proteolysis.
Transport of proteins across and into membranes is a fundamental biological process with the vast majority being conducted by the ubiquitous Sec machinery. In bacteria, this is usually achieved when the SecY-complex engages the cytosolic ATPase SecA (secretion) or translating ribosomes (insertion). Great strides have been made towards understanding the mechanism of protein translocation. Yet, important questions remain – notably, the nature of the individual steps that constitute transport, and how the proton-motive force (PMF) across the plasma membrane contributes. Here, we apply a recently developed high-resolution protein transport assay to explore these questions. We find that pre-protein transport is limited primarily by the diffusion of arginine residues across the membrane, particularly in the context of bulky hydrophobic sequences. This specific effect of arginine, caused by its positive charge, is mitigated for lysine which can be deprotonated and transported across the membrane in its neutral form. These observations have interesting implications for the mechanism of protein secretion, suggesting a simple mechanism through which the PMF can aid transport by enabling a 'proton ratchet', wherein re-protonation of exiting lysine residues prevents channel re-entry, biasing transport in the outward direction.