Posts Tagged ‘Proteins’

Activation mechanism of the calcium-activated chloride channel TMEM16A revealed by cryo-EM

The calcium-activated chloride channel TMEM16A is a ligand-gated anion channel that opens in response to an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration. The protein is broadly expressed and contributes to diverse physiological processes, including transepithelial chloride transport and the control of electrical signalling in smooth muscles and certain neurons. As a member of the TMEM16 (or anoctamin) family of membrane proteins, TMEM16A is closely related to paralogues that function as scramblases, which facilitate the bidirectional movement of lipids across membranes. The unusual functional diversity of the TMEM16 family and the relationship between two seemingly incompatible transport mechanisms has been the focus of recent investigations. Previous breakthroughs were obtained from the X-ray structure of the lipid scramblase of the fungus Nectria haematococca (nhTMEM16), and from the cryo-electron microscopy structure of mouse TMEM16A at 6.6 Å (ref. 14). Although the latter structure disclosed the architectural differences that distinguish ion channels from lipid scramblases, its low resolution did not permit a detailed molecular description of the protein or provide any insight into its activation by Ca2+. Here we describe the structures of mouse TMEM16A at high resolution in the presence and absence of Ca2+. These structures reveal the differences between ligand-bound and ligand-free states of a calcium-activated chloride channel, and when combined with functional experiments suggest a mechanism for gating. During activation, the binding of Ca2+ to a site located within the transmembrane domain, in the vicinity of the pore, alters the electrostatic properties of the ion conduction path and triggers a conformational rearrangement of an α-helix that comes into physical contact with the bound ligand, and thereby directly couples ligand binding and pore opening. Our study describes a process that is unique among channel proteins, but one that is presumably general for both functional branches of the TMEM16 family.

The proteins that domesticated our genomes

EPFL scientists have carried out a genomic and evolutionary study of a large and enigmatic family of human proteins, to demonstrate that it is responsible for harnessing the millions of transposable elements in the human genome. The work reveals the la…

Discovery of 7 times higher complexity of protein folding!

Can protein folding complexity be formed by stochastic processes? With 14 intermediate steps? JILA Team Discovers Many New Twists in Protein Folding Biophysicists at JILA have measured protein folding in more detail than ever before, revealing behavior that is surprisingly more complex than previously known. . . . They fold into three-dimensional shapes that determine […]

The effect of temperature adaptation on the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in notothenioid fishes [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Anne E. Todgham, Timothy A. Crombie, and Gretchen E. HofmannThere is an accumulating body of evidence suggesting that the sub-zero Antarctic marine environment places physiological constraints on protein homeostasis. Levels of ubiquitin (Ub)-conjugate…

Genetic and mechanistic diversity of piRNA 3′-end formation

Small regulatory RNAs guide Argonaute (Ago) proteins in a sequence-specific manner to their targets and therefore have important roles in eukaryotic gene silencing. Of the three small RNA classes, microRNAs and short interfering RNAs are processed from double-stranded precursors into defined 21- to 23-mers by Dicer, an endoribonuclease with intrinsic ruler function. PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs)—the 22–30-nt-long guides for PIWI-clade Ago proteins that silence transposons in animal gonads—are generated independently of Dicer from single-stranded precursors. piRNA 5′ ends are defined either by Zucchini, the Drosophila homologue of mitoPLD—a mitochondria-anchored endonuclease, or by piRNA-guided target cleavage. Formation of piRNA 3′ ends is poorly understood. Here we report that two genetically and mechanistically distinct pathways generate piRNA 3′ ends in Drosophila. The initiating nucleases are either Zucchini or the PIWI-clade proteins Aubergine (Aub) or Ago3. While Zucchini-mediated cleavages directly define mature piRNA 3′ ends, Aub/Ago3-mediated cleavages liberate pre-piRNAs that require extensive resection by the 3′-to-5′ exoribonuclease Nibbler (Drosophila homologue of Mut-7). The relative activity of these two pathways dictates the extent to which piRNAs are directed to cytoplasmic or nuclear PIWI-clade proteins and thereby sets the balance between post-transcriptional and transcriptional silencing. Notably, loss of both Zucchini and Nibbler reveals a minimal, Argonaute-driven small RNA biogenesis pathway in which piRNA 5′ and 3′ ends are directly produced by closely spaced Aub/Ago3-mediated cleavage events. Our data reveal a coherent model for piRNA biogenesis, and should aid the mechanistic dissection of the processes that govern piRNA 3′-end formation.

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