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.
Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are trimeric proton-gated sodium channels. Recent work has shown that these channels play a role in necroptosis following prolonged acidic exposure like occurs in stroke. The C-terminus of ASIC1a is thought to mediate necroptotic cell death through interaction with receptor interacting serine threonine kinase 1 (RIPK1). This interaction is hypothesized to be inhibited at rest via an interaction between the C- and N-termini which blocks the RIPK1 binding site. Here, we use two transition metal ion FRET methods to investigate the conformational dynamics of the termini at neutral and acidic pH. We do not find evidence that the termini are close enough to be bound while the channel is at rest and find that the termini may modestly move closer together during acidification. At rest, the N-terminus adopts a conformation parallel to the membrane about 10 Å away. The distal end of the C-terminus may also spend time close to the membrane at rest. After acidification, the proximal portion of the N-terminus moves marginally closer to the membrane whereas the distal portion of the C-terminus swings away from the membrane. Together these data suggest that a new hypothesis for RIPK1 binding during stroke is needed.
The Neuronal Calcium Sensor 1, an EF-hand Ca2+ binding protein, and Ric-8A coregulate synapse number and probability of neurotransmitter release. Recently, the structures of Ric-8A bound to Ga have revealed how Ric-8A phosphorylation promotes Ga recognition and activity as a chaperone and guanine nucleotide exchange factor. However, the molecular mechanism by which NCS-1 regulates Ric-8A activity and its interaction with Ga subunits is not well understood. Given the interest in the NCS-1/Ric-8A complex as a therapeutic target in nervous system disorders, it is necessary to shed light on this molecular mechanism of action at atomic level. We have reconstituted NCS-1/Ric-8A complexes to conduct a multimodal approach and determine the sequence of Ca2+ signals and phosphorylation events that promote the interaction of Ric-8A with Ga. Our data show that the binding of NCS-1 and Ga to Ric-8A are mutually exclusive. Importantly, NCS-1 induces a structural rearrangement in Ric-8A that traps the protein in a conformational state that is inaccessible to Casein Kinase II-mediated phosphorylation, demonstrating one aspect of its negative regulation of Ric-8A-mediated G-protein signaling. Functional experiments indicate a loss of Ric-8A GEF activity towards Ga when complexed with NCS-1, and restoration of nucleotide exchange activity upon increasing Ca2+ concentration. Finally, the high-resolution crystallographic data reported here define the NCS-1/Ric-8A interface and will allow the development of therapeutic synapse function regulators with improved activity and selectivity.