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  1. Transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair (TC-NER) is a highly conserved DNA repair pathway that removes bulky lesions in the transcribed genome. Cockayne syndrome B protein (CSB), or its yeast ortholog Rad26, has been known for decades to play important roles in the lesion-recognition steps of TC-NER. Another conserved protein ELOF1, or its yeast ortholog Elf1, was recently identified as a core transcription-coupled repair factor. How Rad26 distinguishes between RNA polymerase II (Pol II) stalled at a DNA lesion or other obstacles and what role Elf1 plays in this process remains unknown. Here, we present cryo-EM structures of Pol II-Rad26 complexes stalled at different obstacles that show that Rad26 uses a common mechanism to recognize a stalled Pol II, with additional interactions when Pol II is arrested at a lesion. A cryo-EM structure of lesion-arrested Pol II-Rad26 bound to Elf1 revealed that Elf1 induces further interactions between Rad26 and a lesion-arrested Pol II. Biochemical and genetic data support the importance of the interplay between Elf1 and Rad26 in TC-NER initiation. Together, our results provide important mechanistic insights into how two conserved transcription-coupled repair factors, Rad26/CSB and Elf1/ELOF1, work together at the initial lesion recognition steps of transcription-coupled repair.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 16, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Artificially Expanded Genetic Information Systems (AEGIS) add independently replicable unnatural nucleotide pairs to the natural G:C and A:T/U pairs found in native DNA, joining the unnatural pairs through alternative modes of hydrogen bonding. Whether and how AEGIS pairs are recognized and processed by multi-subunit cellular RNA polymerases (RNAPs) remains unknown. Here, we show thatE. coliRNAP selectively recognizes unnatural nucleobases in a six-letter expanded genetic system. High-resolution cryo-EM structures of three RNAP elongation complexes containing template-substrate UBPs reveal the shared principles behind the recognition of AEGIS and natural base pairs. In these structures, RNAPs are captured in an active state, poised to perform the chemistry step. At this point, the unnatural base pair adopts a Watson-Crick geometry, and the trigger loop is folded into an active conformation, indicating that the mechanistic principles underlying recognition and incorporation of natural base pairs also apply to AEGIS unnatural base pairs. These data validate the design philosophy of AEGIS unnatural basepairs. Further, we provide structural evidence supporting a long-standing hypothesis that pair mismatch during transcription occurs via tautomerization. Together, our work highlights the importance of Watson-Crick complementarity underlying the design principles of AEGIS base pair recognition.

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  3. Abstract

    Structural biology efforts using cryogenic electron microscopy are frequently stifled by specimens adopting “preferred orientations” on grids, leading to anisotropic map resolution and impeding structure determination. Tilting the specimen stage during data collection is a generalizable solution but has historically led to substantial resolution attenuation. Here, we develop updated data collection and image processing workflows and demonstrate, using multiple specimens, that resolution attenuation is negligible or significantly reduced across tilt angles. Reconstructions with and without the stage tilted as high as 60° are virtually indistinguishable. These strategies allowed the reconstruction to 3 Å resolution of a bacterial RNA polymerase with preferred orientation, containing an unnatural nucleotide for studying novel base pair recognition. Furthermore, we present a quantitative framework that allows cryo-EM practitioners to define an optimal tilt angle during data acquisition. These results reinforce the utility of employing stage tilt for data collection and provide quantitative metrics to obtain isotropic maps.

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  4. Abstract

    Transcription-coupled repair is essential for the removal of DNA lesions from the transcribed genome. The pathway is initiated by CSB protein binding to stalled RNA polymerase II. Mutations impairing CSB function cause severe genetic disease. Yet, the ATP-dependent mechanism by which CSB powers RNA polymerase to bypass certain lesions while triggering excision of others is incompletely understood. Here we build structural models of RNA polymerase II bound to the yeast CSB ortholog Rad26 in nucleotide-free and bound states. This enables simulations and graph-theoretical analyses to define partitioning of this complex into dynamic communities and delineate how its structural elements function together to remodel DNA. We identify an allosteric pathway coupling motions of the Rad26 ATPase modules to changes in RNA polymerase and DNA to unveil a structural mechanism for CSB-assisted progression past less bulky lesions. Our models allow functional interpretation of the effects of Cockayne syndrome disease mutations.

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