Expansions of short nucleotide repeats produce several neurological and neuromuscular disorders including Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A common pathological feature of these diseases is the accumulation of the repeat containing transcripts into aberrant foci in the nucleus. RNA foci, as well as the disease symptoms, only manifest above a critical number of nucleotide repeats, but the molecular mechanism governing foci formation above this characteristic threshold remains unresolved. Here, we show that repeat expansions create templates for multivalent base-pairing, which causes purified RNA to undergo a sol-gel transition at a similar critical repeat number as observed in the diseases. In cells, RNA foci form by phase separation of the repeat-containing RNA and can be dissolved by agents that disrupt RNA gelation in vitro. Analogous to protein aggregation disorders, our results suggest that the sequence-specific gelation of RNAs could be a contributing factor to neurological disease.
Proteins perform most cellular functions in macromolecular complexes. The same protein often participates in different complexes to exhibit diverse functionality. Current ensemble approaches of identifying cellular protein interactions cannot reveal physiological permutations of these interactions. Here, we describe a single molecule pull-down (SiMPull) assay that combines the principles of conventional pull-down assay with single molecule fluorescence microscopy and enables direct visualization of individual cellular protein complexes. SiMPull can reveal how many proteins and of which kinds are present in the in vivo complex, as we show using protein kinase A. We then demonstrate a wide applicability to various signaling proteins found in cytosol, membrane, and cellular organelles, and to endogenous protein complexes from animal tissue extracts. The pulled down proteins are functional and are used, without further processing, for single molecule biochemical studies. SiMPull should provide a rapid, sensitive and robust platform for analyzing protein assemblies in biological pathways.
Fast opening and closing of voltage-gated sodium channels are crucial for proper propagation of the action potential through excitable tissues. Unlike potassium channels, sodium channel α-subunits are believed to form functional monomers. Yet, an increasing body of literature shows inconsistency with the traditional idea of a single α-subunit functioning as a monomer. Here we demonstrate that sodium channel α-subunits not only physically interact with each other but they actually assemble, function and gate as a dimer. We identify the region involved in the dimerization and demonstrate that 14-3-3 protein mediates the coupled gating. Importantly we show conservation of this mechanism among mammalian sodium channels. Our study not only shifts conventional paradigms in regard to sodium channel assembly, structure, and function but importantly this discovery of the mechanism involved in channel dimerization and biophysical coupling could open the door to new approaches and targets to treat and/or prevent sodium channelopathies.
This protocol describes a single molecule pull-down (SiMPull) assay for analyzing physiological protein complexes. The assay combines the conventional pull-down assay with single molecule total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, and allows probing single macromolecular complexes directly from cell or tissue extracts. In this method, antibodies against the protein of interest are immobilized on a passivated microscope slide. When cell extracts are applied, the surface-tethered antibody captures the protein together with its physiological interaction partners. After washing away the unbound components, single molecule fluorescence microscopy is used to probe the pulled down proteins. Captured proteins are visualized through genetically encoded fluorescent protein tags or through antibody labeling. This ultra-sensitive assay requires at least 10-fold less reagents, is significantly faster and provides quantitative data compared to western blot analysis. Furthermore, SiMPull can distinguish between multiple association states of the same protein. SiMPull is generally applicable to proteins from a variety of cellular contexts and to endogenous proteins. Starting with the cell extracts and passivated slides, the assay requires 1.5 – 2.5 hours for data acquisition and analysis.
The cytosolic pathogen sensor RIG-I is activated by RNAs with exposed 5 0 -triphosphate (5 0 -ppp) and terminal double-stranded structures, such as those that are generated during viral infection. RIG-I has been shown to translocate on dsRNA in an ATPdependent manner. However, the precise role of the ATPase activity in RIG-I activation remains unclear. Using in vitrotranscribed Sendai virus defective interfering RNA as a model ligand, we show that RIG-I oligomerizes on 5 0 -ppp dsRNA in an ATP hydrolysis-dependent and dsRNA length-dependent manner, which correlates with the strength of type-I interferon (IFN-I) activation. These results establish a clear role for the ligand-induced ATPase activity of RIG-I in the stimulation of the IFN response.
A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs) tether the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) to intracellular sites where they preferentially phosphorylate target substrates. Most AKAPs exhibit nanomolar affinity for the regulatory (RII) subunit of the type II PKA holoenzyme, whereas dual-specificity anchoring proteins also bind the type I (RI) regulatory subunit of PKA with 10-100-fold lower affinity. A range of cellular, biochemical, biophysical, and genetic approaches comprehensively establish that sphingosine kinase interacting protein (SKIP) is a truly type I-specific AKAP. Mapping studies located anchoring sites between residues 925-949 and 1,140-1,175 of SKIP that bind RI with dissociation constants of 73 and 774 nM, respectively. Molecular modeling and site-directed mutagenesis approaches identify Phe 929 and Tyr 1,151 as RI-selective binding determinants in each anchoring site. SKIP complexes exist in different states of RI-occupancy as single-molecule pulldown photobleaching experiments show that 41 AE 10% of SKIP sequesters two YFP-RI dimers, whereas 59 AE 10% of the anchoring protein binds a single YFP-RI dimer. Imaging, proteomic analysis, and subcellular fractionation experiments reveal that SKIP is enriched at the inner mitochondrial membrane where it associates with a prominent PKA substrate, the coiled-coil helix protein ChChd3.
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