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  1. Abstract Significance Statement

    The complexity of the in‐cell environment is difficult to reproduce in the test tube. Here we validate a mimic of cellular crowding and sticking interactions in a test tube using two proteins that are differently impacted by the cell: one is stabilized and the other is destabilized. This mimic is a starting point to reproduce cellular effects on a variety of protein and biomolecular interactions, such as folding and binding.

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  2. Abstract

    Recent advances in fluorogen-binding “light-up” RNA aptamers have enabled protein-free detection of RNA in cells. Detailed biophysical characterization of folding of G-Quadruplex (GQ)-based light-up aptamers such as Spinach, Mango and Corn is still lacking despite the potential implications on their folding and function. In this work we employ single-molecule fluorescence-force spectroscopy to examine mechanical responses of Spinach2,iMangoIII and MangoIV. Spinach2 unfolds in four discrete steps as force is increased to 7 pN and refolds in reciprocal steps upon force relaxation. In contrast, GQ-core unfolding iniMangoIII and MangoIV occurs in one discrete step at forces >10 pN and refolding occurred at lower forces showing hysteresis. Co-transcriptional folding using superhelicases shows reduced misfolding propensity and allowed a folding pathway different from refolding. Under physiologically relevant pico-Newton levels of force, these aptamers may unfold in vivo and subsequently misfold. Understanding of the dynamics of RNA aptamers will aid engineering of improved fluorogenic modules for cellular applications.

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  3. Abstract

    Techniques for exclusion of exons from mature transcripts have been applied as gene therapies for treating many different diseases. Since exon skipping has been traditionally accomplished using technologies that have a transient effect, it is particularly important to develop new techniques that enable permanent exon skipping. We have recently shown that this can be accomplished using cytidine base editors for permanently disabling the splice acceptor of target exons. We now demonstrate the application of CRISPR-Cas9 adenine deaminase base editors to disrupt the conserved adenine within splice acceptor sites for programmable exon skipping. We also demonstrate that by altering the amino acid sequence of the linker between the adenosine deaminase domain and the Cas9-nickase or by coupling the adenine base editor with a uracil glycosylase inhibitor, the DNA editing efficiency and exon-skipping rates improve significantly. Finally, we developed a split base editor architecture compatible with adeno-associated viral packaging. Collectively, these results represent significant progress toward permanent in vivo exon skipping through base editing and, ultimately, a new modality of gene therapy for the treatment of genetic diseases.

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  4. Summary

    Small RNA (sRNA) regulators promote efficient responses to stress, but the mechanisms for prioritizing target mRNA regulation remain poorly understood. This study examines mechanisms underlying hierarchical regulation by the sRNA SgrS, found in enteric bacteria and produced under conditions of metabolic stress. SgrS posttranscriptionally coordinates a nine‐gene regulon to restore growth and homeostasis. Anin vivoreporter system quantified SgrS‐dependent regulation of target genes and established that SgrS exhibits a clear target preference. Regulation of some targets is efficient even at low SgrS levels, whereas higher SgrS concentrations are required to regulate other targets.In vivoandin vitroanalyses revealed that RNA structure and the number and position of base pairing sites relative to the start of translation impact the efficiency of regulation of SgrS targets. The RNA chaperone Hfq uses distinct modes of binding to different SgrS mRNA targets, which differentially influences positive and negative regulation. The RNA degradosome plays a larger role in regulation of some SgrS targets compared to others. Collectively, our results suggest that sRNA selection of target mRNAs and regulatory hierarchy are influenced by several molecular features and that the combination of these features precisely tunes the efficiency of regulation of multi‐target sRNA regulons.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    JCVI-syn3A is a genetically minimal bacterial cell, consisting of 493 genes and only a single 543 kbp circular chromosome. Syn3A’s genome and physical size are approximately one-tenth those of the model bacterial organism Escherichia coli ’s, and the corresponding reduction in complexity and scale provides a unique opportunity for whole-cell modeling. Previous work established genome-scale gene essentiality and proteomics data along with its essential metabolic network and a kinetic model of genetic information processing. In addition to that information, whole-cell, spatially-resolved kinetic models require cellular architecture, including spatial distributions of ribosomes and the circular chromosome’s configuration. We reconstruct cellular architectures of Syn3A cells at the single-cell level directly from cryo-electron tomograms, including the ribosome distributions. We present a method of generating self-avoiding circular chromosome configurations in a lattice model with a resolution of 11.8 bp per monomer on a 4 nm cubic lattice. Realizations of the chromosome configurations are constrained by the ribosomes and geometry reconstructed from the tomograms and include DNA loops suggested by experimental chromosome conformation capture (3C) maps. Using ensembles of simulated chromosome configurations we predict chromosome contact maps for Syn3A cells at resolutions of 250 bp and greater and compare them to the experimental maps. Additionally, the spatial distributions of ribosomes and the DNA-crowding resulting from the individual chromosome configurations can be used to identify macromolecular structures formed from ribosomes and DNA, such as polysomes and expressomes. 
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