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  1. Abstract

    The structure and dynamics of the eukaryotic genome are intimately linked to gene regulation and transcriptional activity. Many chromosome conformation capture experiments like Hi-C have been developed to detect genome-wide contact frequencies and quantify loop/compartment structures for different cellular contexts and time-dependent processes. However, a full understanding of these events requires explicit descriptions of representative chromatin and chromosome configurations. With the exponentially growing amount of data from Hi-C experiments, many methods for deriving 3D structures from contact frequency data have been developed. Yet, most reconstruction methods use polymer models with low resolution to predict overall genome structure. Here we present a Brownian Dynamics (BD) approach termed Hi-BDiSCO for producing 3D genome structures from Hi-C and Micro-C data using our mesoscale-resolution chromatin model based on the Discrete Surface Charge Optimization (DiSCO) model. Our approach integrates reconstruction with chromatin simulations at nucleosome resolution with appropriate biophysical parameters. Following a description of our protocol, we present applications to the NXN, HOXC, HOXA and Fbn2 mouse genes ranging in size from 50 to 100 kb. Such nucleosome-resolution genome structures pave the way for pursuing many biomedical applications related to the epigenomic regulation of chromatin and control of human disease.

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  2. The frameshifting RNA element (FSE) in coronaviruses (CoVs) regulates the programmed −1 ribosomal frameshift (−1 PRF) mechanism common to many viruses. The FSE is of particular interest as a promising drug candidate. Its associated pseudoknot or stem loop structure is thought to play a large role in frameshifting and thus viral protein production. To investigate the FSE structural evolution, we use our graph theory-based methods for representing RNA secondary structures in the RNA-As-Graphs (RAG) framework to calculate conformational landscapes of viral FSEs with increasing sequence lengths for representative 10 Alpha and 13 Beta-CoVs. By following length-dependent conformational changes, we show that FSE sequences encode many possible competing stems which in turn favor certain FSE topologies, including a variety of pseudoknots, stem loops, and junctions. We explain alternative competing stems and topological FSE changes by recurring patterns of mutations. At the same time, FSE topology robustness can be understood by shifted stems within different sequence contexts and base pair coevolution. We further propose that the topology changes reflected by length-dependent conformations contribute to tuning the frameshifting efficiency. Our work provides tools to analyze virus sequence/structure correlations, explains how sequence and FSE structure have evolved for CoVs, and provides insights into potential mutations for therapeutic applications against a broad spectrum of CoV FSEs by targeting key sequence/structural transitions.

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  3. Abstract

    Motivated by experiments connecting linker histone (LH) deficiency to lymphoma progression and retinal disorders, we study by mesoscale chromatin modeling how LH density (ρ) induces gradual, as well sudden, changes in chromatin architecture and how the process depends on DNA linker length, LH binding dynamics and binding mode, salt concentration, tail modifications, and combinations of ρ and linker DNA length. We show that ρ tightly regulates the overall shape and compaction of the fiber, triggering a transition from an irregular disordered state to a compact and ordered structure. Such a structural transition, resembling B to A compartment transition connected with lymphoma of B cells, appears to occur around ρ = 0.5. The associated mechanism is DNA stem formation by LH binding, which is optimal when the lengths of the DNA linker and LH C-terminal domain are similar. Chromatin internal and external parameters are key regulators, promoting or impeding the transition. The LH density thus emerges as a critical tunable variable in controlling cellular functions through structural transitions of the genome.

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  4. RNA motif classification is important for understanding structure/function connections and building phylogenetic relationships. Using our coarse-grained RNA-As-Graphs (RAG) representations, we identify recurrent dual graph motifs in experimentally solved RNA structures based on an improved search algorithm that finds and ranks independent RNA substructures. Our expanded list of 183 existing dual graph motifs reveals five common motifs found in transfer RNA, riboswitch, and ribosomal 5S RNA components. Moreover, we identify three motifs for available viral frameshifting RNA elements, suggesting a correlation between viral structural complexity and frameshifting efficiency. We further partition the RNA substructures into 1844 distinct submotifs, with pseudoknots and junctions retained intact. Common modules are internal loops and three-way junctions, and three submotifs are associated with riboswitches that bind nucleotides, ions, and signaling molecules. Together, our library of existing RNA motifs and submotifs adds to the growing universe of RNA modules, and provides a resource of structures and substructures for novel RNA design. 
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  5. Abstract

    The SARS-CoV-2 frameshifting element (FSE), a highly conserved mRNA region required for correct translation of viral polyproteins, defines an excellent therapeutic target against Covid-19. As discovered by our prior graph-theory analysis with SHAPE experiments, the FSE adopts a heterogeneous, length-dependent conformational landscape consisting of an assumed 3-stem H-type pseudoknot (graph motif 3_6), and two alternative motifs (3_3 and 3_5). Here, for the first time, we build and simulate, by microsecond molecular dynamics, 30 models for all three motifs plus motif-stabilizing mutants at different lengths. Our 3_6 pseudoknot systems, which agree with experimental structures, reveal interconvertible L and linear conformations likely related to ribosomal pausing and frameshifting. The 3_6 mutant inhibits this transformation and could hamper frameshifting. Our 3_3 systems exhibit length-dependent stem interactions that point to a potential transition pathway connecting the three motifs during ribosomal elongation. Together, our observations provide new insights into frameshifting mechanisms and anti-viral strategies.

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