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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Abstract

    A multimer of retroviral integrase (IN) synapses viral DNA ends within a stable intasome nucleoprotein complex for integration into a host cell genome. Reconstitution of the intasome from the maedi-visna virus (MVV), an ovine lentivirus, revealed a large assembly containing sixteen IN subunits1. Herein, we report cryo-EM structures of the lentiviral intasome prior to engagement of target DNA and following strand transfer, refined at 3.4 and 3.5 Å resolution, respectively. The structures elucidate details of the protein-protein and protein-DNA interfaces involved in lentiviral intasome formation. We show that the homomeric interfaces involved in IN hexadecamer formation and the α-helical configuration of the linker connecting the C-terminal and catalytic core domains are critical for MVV IN strand transfer activity in vitro and for virus infectivity. Single-molecule microscopy in conjunction with photobleaching reveals that the MVV intasome can bind a variable number, up to sixteen molecules, of the lentivirus-specific host factor LEDGF/p75. Concordantly, ablation of endogenous LEDGF/p75 results in gross redistribution of MVV integration sites in human and ovine cells. Our data confirm the importance of the expanded architecture observed in cryo-EM studies of lentiviral intasomes and suggest that this organization underlies multivalent interactions with chromatin for integration targeting to active genes.

     
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