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  1. Abstract

    The ability to create stimuli-responsive DNA nanostructures has played a prominent role in dynamic DNA nanotechnology. Primary among these is the process of toehold-based strand displacement, where a nucleic acid molecule can act as a trigger to cause conformational changes in custom-designed DNA nanostructures. Here, we add another layer of control to strand displacement reactions through a 'toehold clipping' process. By designing DNA complexes with a photocleavable linker-containing toehold or an RNA toehold, we show that we can use light (UV) or enzyme (ribonuclease) to eliminate the toehold, thus preventing strand displacement reactions. We use molecular dynamics simulations to analyze the structural effects of incorporating a photocleavable linker in DNA complexes. Beyond simple DNA duplexes, we also demonstrate the toehold clipping process in a model DNA nanostructure, by designing a toehold containing double-bundle DNA tetrahedron that disassembles when an invading strand is added, but stays intact after the toehold clipping process even in the presence of the invading strand. This work is an example of combining multiple physical or molecular stimuli to provide additional remote control over DNA nanostructure reconfiguration, advances that hold potential use in biosensing, drug delivery or molecular computation.

  2. Abstract

    Highly time-resolved mechanical measurements, modeling, and simulations show that large shear bands in bulk metallic glasses nucleate in a manner similar to cracks. When small slips reach a nucleation size, the dynamics changes and the shear band rapidly grows to span the entire sample. Smaller nucleation sizes imply lower ductility. Ductility can be increased by increasing the nucleation size relative to the maximum (“cutoff”) shear band size at the upper edge of the power law scaling range of their size distribution. This can be achieved in three ways: (1) by increasing the nucleation size beyond this cutoff size of the shear bands, (2) by keeping all shear bands smaller than the nucleation size, or (3) by choosing a sample size smaller than the nucleation size. The discussed methods can also be used to rapidly order metallic glasses according to ductility.

  3. RNA is critical to a broad spectrum of biological and viral processes. This functional diversity is a result of their dynamic nature; the variety of three-dimensional structures that they can fold into; and a host of post-transcriptional chemical modifications. While there are many experimental techniques to study the structural dynamics of biomolecules, molecular dynamics simulations (MDS) play a significant role in complementing experimental data and providing mechanistic insights. The accuracy of the results obtained from MDS is determined by the underlying physical models i.e., the force-fields, that steer the simulations. Though RNA force-fields have received a lot of attention in the last decade, they still lag compared to their protein counterparts. The chemical diversity imparted by the RNA modifications adds another layer of complexity to an already challenging problem. Insight into the effect of RNA modifications upon RNA folding and dynamics is lacking due to the insufficiency or absence of relevant experimental data. This review provides an overview of the state of MDS of modified RNA, focusing on the challenges in parameterization of RNA modifications as well as insights into relevant reference experiments necessary for their calibration.
  4. Abstract

    RNA folds cotranscriptionally to traverse out-of-equilibrium intermediate structures that are important for RNA function in the context of gene regulation. To investigate this process, here we study the structure and function of the Bacillus subtilis yxjA purine riboswitch, a transcriptional riboswitch that downregulates a nucleoside transporter in response to binding guanine. Although the aptamer and expression platform domain sequences of the yxjA riboswitch do not completely overlap, we hypothesized that a strand exchange process triggers its structural switching in response to ligand binding. In vivo fluorescence assays, structural chemical probing data and experimentally informed secondary structure modeling suggest the presence of a nascent intermediate central helix. The formation of this central helix in the absence of ligand appears to compete with both the aptamer’s P1 helix and the expression platform’s transcriptional terminator. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations support the hypothesis that ligand binding stabilizes the aptamer P1 helix against central helix strand invasion, thus allowing the terminator to form. These results present a potential model mechanism to explain how ligand binding can induce downstream conformational changes by influencing local strand displacement processes of intermediate folds that could be at play in multiple riboswitch classes.

  5. Kelly, Robert M. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Methanobactins (MBs) are ribosomally synthesized and posttranslationally modified peptides (RiPPs) produced by methanotrophs for copper uptake. The posttranslational modification that defines MBs is the formation of two heterocyclic groups with associated thioamines from X-Cys dipeptide sequences. Both heterocyclic groups in the MB from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b (MB-OB3b) are oxazolone groups. The precursor gene for MB-OB3b is mbnA , which is part of a gene cluster that contains both annotated and unannotated genes. One of those unannotated genes, mbnC , is found in all MB operons and, in conjunction with mbnB , is reported to be involved in the formation of both heterocyclic groups in all MBs. To determine the function of mbnC , a deletion mutation was constructed in M. trichosporium OB3b, and the MB produced from the Δ mbnC mutant was purified and structurally characterized by UV-visible absorption spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. MB-OB3b from the Δ mbnC mutant was missing the C-terminal Met and was also found to contain a Pro and a Cys in place of the pyrrolidinyl-oxazolone-thioamide group. These results demonstrate MbnC is required for the formation of the C-terminal pyrrolidinyl-oxazolone-thioamide group from the Pro-Cys dipeptide, but not for themore »formation of the N-terminal 3-methylbutanol-oxazolone-thioamide group from the N-terminal dipeptide Leu-Cys. IMPORTANCE A number of environmental and medical applications have been proposed for MBs, including bioremediation of toxic metals and nanoparticle formation, as well as the treatment of copper- and iron-related diseases. However, before MBs can be modified and optimized for any specific application, the biosynthetic pathway for MB production must be defined. The discovery that mbnC is involved in the formation of the C-terminal oxazolone group with associated thioamide but not for the formation of the N-terminal oxazolone group with associated thioamide in M. trichosporium OB3b suggests the enzymes responsible for posttranslational modification(s) of the two oxazolone groups are not identical.« less
  6. van den Berg, Ronald (Ed.)
    Categorical judgments can systematically bias the perceptual interpretation of stimulus features. However, it remained unclear whether categorical judgments directly modify working memory representations or, alternatively, generate these biases via an inference process down-stream from working memory. To address this question we ran two novel psychophysical experiments in which human subjects had to reverse their categorical judgments about a stimulus feature, if incorrect, before providing an estimate of the feature. If categorical judgments indeed directly altered sensory representations in working memory, subjects’ estimates should reflect some aspects of their initial (incorrect) categorical judgment in those trials. We found no traces of the initial categorical judgment. Rather, subjects seemed to be able to flexibly switch their categorical judgment if needed and use the correct corresponding categorical prior to properly perform feature inference. A cross-validated model comparison also revealed that feedback may lead to selective memory recall such that only memory samples that are consistent with the categorical judgment are accepted for the inference process. Our results suggest that categorical judgments do not modify sensory information in working memory but rather act as top-down expectations in the subsequent sensory recall and inference process.
  7. Abstract Modern tokamaks have achieved significant fusion production, but further progress towards steady-state operation has been stymied by a host of kinetic and MHD instabilities. Control and identification of these instabilities is often complicated, warranting the application of data-driven methods to complement and improve physical understanding. In particular, Alfvén eigenmodes are a class of ubiquitous mixed kinetic and MHD instabilities that are important to identify and control because they can lead to loss of confinement and potential damage to the walls of a plasma device. In the present work, we use reservoir computing networks to classify Alfvén eigenmodes in a large labeled database of DIII-D discharges, covering a broad range of operational parameter space. Despite the large parameter space, we show excellent classification and prediction performance, with an average hit rate of 91% and false alarm ratio of 7%, indicating promise for future implementation with additional diagnostic data and consolidation into a real-time control strategy.