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.
Ferroportin (Fpn) is a transporter that releases ferrous ion (Fe2+) from cells and is important for homeostasis of iron in circulation. Export of one Fe2+ by Fpn is coupled to import of two H+ to maintain charge balance. Here, we show that human Fpn (HsFpn) binds to and mediates Ca2+ transport. We determine the structure of Ca2+-bound HsFpn and identify a single Ca2+ binding site distinct from the Fe2+ binding sites. Further studies validate the Ca2+ binding site and show that Ca2+ transport is not coupled to transport of another ion. In addition, Ca2+ transport is significantly inhibited in the presence of Fe2+ but not vice versa. Function of Fpn as a Ca2+ uniporter may allow regulation of iron homeostasis by Ca2+.
The design of compounds that can discriminate between closely related target proteins remains a central challenge in drug discovery. Specific therapeutics targeting the highly conserved myosin motor family are urgently needed as mutations in at least 6 of its members cause numerous diseases. Allosteric modulators, like the myosin-II inhibitor blebbistatin, are a promising means to achieve specificity. However, it remains unclear why blebbistatin inhibits myosin-II motors with different potencies given that it binds at a highly conserved pocket that is always closed in blebbistatin-free experimental structures. We hypothesized that the probability of pocket opening is an important determinant of the potency of compounds like blebbistatin. To test this hypothesis, we used Markov state models (MSMs) built from over 2 milliseconds of aggregate molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent. We find that blebbistatin’s binding pocket readily opens in simulations of blebbistatin-sensitive myosin isoforms. Comparing these conformational ensembles reveals that the probability of pocket opening correctly identifies which isoforms are most sensitive to blebbistatin inhibition and that docking against MSMs quantitatively predicts blebbistatin binding affinities (R2=0.82). In a blind prediction for an isoform (Myh7b) whose blebbistatin sensitivity was unknown, we find good agreement between predicted and measured IC50s (0.67 mM vs. 0.36 mM). Therefore, we expect this framework to be useful for the development of novel specific drugs across numerous protein targets.