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0 Q&A 4010 Views May 5, 2021

Understanding the function of oligonucleotides on a molecular level requires methods for studying their structure, conformational changes, and internal dynamics. Various biophysical methods exist to achieve this, including the whole toolbox of Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR or ESR) spectroscopy. An EPR method widely used in this regard is Pulsed Electron-Electron Double Resonance (PELDOR or DEER), which provides distances in the nanometer range between electron spins in biomolecules with Angstrom precision, without restriction to the size of the biomolecule, and in solution. Since oligonucleotides inherently do not contain unpaired electrons, these have to be introduced in the form of so-called spin labels. Firstly, this protocol describes how nitroxide spin labels can be site-specifically attached to oligonucleotides using “Click” chemistry. The reaction provides little byproducts, high yields, and is conveniently performed in aqueous solution. Secondly, the protocol details how to run the PELDOR experiment, analyze the data, and derive a coarse-grained structure. Here, emphasis is placed on the pitfalls, requirements for a good dataset, and limits of interpretation; thus, the protocol gives the user a guideline for the whole experiment i.e., from spin labeling, via the PELDOR measurement and data analysis, to the final coarse-grained structure.

Graphical abstract:

Schematic overview of the workflow described in this protocol: First, the spin-labeling of RNA is described, which is performed as a "Click"-reaction between the alkyne-functionalized RNA strand and the azide group of the spin label. Next, step-by-step instructions are given for setting up PELDOR/DEER distance measurements on the labeled RNA, and for data analysis. Finally, guidelines are provided for building a structural model from the previously analyzed data.

0 Q&A 3916 Views Mar 20, 2021

RNA secondary structures are highly dynamic and subject to prompt changes in response to the environment. Temperature in particular has a strong impact on RNA structural conformation, and temperature-sensitive RNA hairpin structures have been exploited by multiple organisms to modify the rate of translation in response to temperature changes. Observing RNA structural changes in real-time over a range of temperatures is therefore highly desirable. A variety of approaches exists that probe RNA secondary structures, but many of these either require large amount and/or extensive processing of the RNA or cannot be applied under physiological conditions, rendering the observation of structural dynamics over a range of temperatures difficult. Here, we describe the use of a dually fluorescently labelled RNA oligonucleotide (containing the predicted hairpin structure) that can be used to monitor subtle RNA-structural dynamics by Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) at different temperatures with RNA concentration as low as 200 nM. FRET efficiency varies as a function of the fluorophores’ distance; high efficiency can thus be correlated to a stable hairpin structure, whilst a reduction in FRET efficiency reflects a partial opening of the hairpin or a destabilisation of this structure. The same RNA sequence can also be used for Circular Dichroism spectroscopy to observe global changes of RNA secondary structure at a given temperature. The combination of these approaches allowed us to monitor RNA structural dynamics over a range of temperatures in real-time and correlate structural changes to plant biology phenotypes.

Graphic abstract:

Monitoring temperature-dependent RNA structural dynamics using Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)

0 Q&A 2205 Views Dec 5, 2020
Ribosomes are an integral part of cellular life. They are complex molecular machines consisting of multiple ribosomal proteins and RNAs. To study different aspects of ribosome composition, many methods have been developed over the decades. Here, we describe how to purify ribosomes from the α-proteobacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris. Following this protocol, RNA can be extracted from either purified ribosomes or directly from cell cultures, and ribosomal RNAs quantified using Northern blot. This protocol gives an example of studying ribosomes in a bacterium other than the commonly used E. coli. The challenge of performing Northern blots with rRNA is also addressed in detail.
0 Q&A 4866 Views Jul 20, 2020
Steady-state mRNA levels are determined by both the rates of transcription and degradation. Regulation of mRNA stability and/or degradation are key factors that can significantly affect mRNA levels and its biological functions. mRNA stability can be measured indirectly after transcription inhibition. This protocol described a rapid and sensitive method of mRNA stability measurement through quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) after inhibition of RNA transcription by cordycepin in Arabidopsis seedlings.
0 Q&A 3323 Views Jun 20, 2020
Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are heavily decorated with post-transcriptional modifications during their biosynthesis. To fulfil their functions within cells, tRNAs undergo a tightly controlled biogenesis process leading to the formation of mature tRNAs. In addition, functions of tRNAs are often modulated by their modifications. Although the biological importance of post-transcriptional RNA modifications is widely appreciated, methods to directly detect their introduction during RNA biosynthesis are rare and do not easily provide information on the temporal nature of events. To obtain information on the tRNA maturation process, we have developed a methodology, using NMR as a tool to monitor tRNA maturation in a non-disruptive and continuous fashion in cellular extracts. By following the maturation of a model yeast tRNA with time-resolved NMR, we showed that modifications are introduced in a defined sequential order, and that the chronology is controlled by cross-talk between modification events. The implementation of this method requires the production for NMR spectroscopy of tRNA samples with different modification status, in order to identify the NMR signature of individual modifications. The production of tRNA samples for the analysis of modification pathways with NMR spectroscopy will be presented here and examplified on the yeast tRNAPhe, but can be extended to any other tRNA by changing the sequence of the construct. The protocol describes the production of unmodified tRNA samples by in vitro transcription, and the production of modified tRNA samples by recombinant expression of tRNAs in E. coli.
0 Q&A 6473 Views May 5, 2020
Genetically encoded light-up RNA aptamers have been shown to be promising tools for the visualization of RNAs in living cells, helping us to advance our understanding of the broad and complex life of RNA. Although a handful of light-up aptamers spanning the visible wavelength region have been developed, none of them have yet been reported to be compatible with advanced super-resolution techniques, mainly due to poor photophysical properties of their small-molecule fluorogens. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for fluorescence microscopy of mRNA in live bacteria using the recently reported fluorogenic silicon rhodamine binding aptamer (SiRA) featuring excellent photophysical properties. Notably, with SiRA, we demonstrated the first aptamer-based RNA visualization using super-resolution (STED) microscopy. This imaging method can be especially valuable for visualization of RNA in prokaryotes since the size of a bacterium is only a few times greater than the optical resolution of a conventional microscope.
0 Q&A 3466 Views Apr 5, 2020
Viruses need to open, i.e., uncoat, in order to release their genomes for efficient replication and translation. Especially for non-enveloped viruses, such as enteroviruses, the cues leading to uncoating are less well known. The status of the virus has previously been observed mainly by transmission electron microscopy using negative staining, cryo electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography or gradient separation (reviewed in Tuthill et al., 2010, Myllynen et al., 2016, Ruokolainen et al., 2019). However, monitoring of uncoating has been limited by the lack of methods detecting dynamic changes of the virions. Here, we present a real-time fluorescence based protocol, which detects the viral genome (RNA) during various stages of uncoating in vitro, while RNA is still inside the particle that has been expanded before the actual RNA release, and when the RNA has been totally released from the viral particle. Our method allows to explore how various molecular factors may promote or inhibit virus uncoating.
0 Q&A 4089 Views Sep 5, 2018
The physical properties of viral-length polyuridine (PolyU) RNAs, which cannot base-pair and form secondary structures, are compared with those of normal-composition RNAs, composed of comparable numbers of each of A, U, G and C nucleobases. In this protocol, we describe how to synthesize fluorescent polyU RNAs using the enzyme polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNPase) from Uridine diphosphate (UDP) monomers and how to fractionate the polydisperse synthesis mixture using gel electrophoresis, and, after electroelution, how to quantify the amount of polyU recovered with UV-Vis spectrophotometry. Dynamic light scattering was used to determine the hydrodynamic radii of normal-composition RNAs as compared to polyU. It showed that long polyU RNAs behave like linear polymers for which the radii scale with chain length as N1/2, as opposed to normal-composition RNAs that act as compact, branched RNAs for which the radii scale as N1/3.
0 Q&A 8118 Views Apr 5, 2016
Despite the great promise that short interfering RNA (siRNA) induced RNAi responses hold as a therapeutic modality, due to their size (~15 kDa) and high negative charge (Bumcrot et al., 2006), siRNAs have no bioavailability and require a delivery agent to enter cells (Figure 1). TAT peptide transduction domain (PTD) has been developed as an agent that mediates cellular delivery of macromolecular therapeutics that otherwise lack bioavailability, making it a tantalizing candidate for siRNA delivery (Farkhani et al., 2014). Unfortunately, when conjugated to TAT PTD, the presence of 40 negative phosphodiester backbone charges on siRNA neutralizes the cationic PTD resulting in aggregation and poor cellular delivery (Meade and Dowdy, 2007). In light of this, we synthesized a neutral RNAi trigger, termed siRiboNucleic Neutrals, for conjugation to TAT PTD (Meade et al., 2014). In brief, the negatively charged phosphodiester backbone was neutralized by synthesis with bio-reversible phosphotriester protecting groups which are specifically converted into charged phosphodiester bonds inside of cells by the action of cytoplasmic restricted thioesterases resulting in a wild type siRNA that can induce RNAi responses. Here we describe the conjugation and cellular delivery of siRNN oligonucleotides with TAT PTD delivery domain (DD) HyNic peptides.
0 Q&A 7950 Views Sep 5, 2015
Compared to the recent dramatic growth in the numbers of genome-wide and functional studies of complex non-coding RNAs, mechanistic and structural analyses have lagged behind. A major technical bottleneck in the structural determination of large RNAs and their complexes is preparation of diffracting crystals. Empirically, a vast majority of such RNA crystals fail to diffract X-rays to usable resolution (~4 Å) due to their inherent disorder and non-specific packing within the crystals. Here, we present a protocol that combines post-crystallization cation replacement and dehydration that dramatically improved the diffraction quality of crystals of a large gene-regulatory mRNA-tRNA complex. This procedure not only extended the resolution limit of X-ray data from 8.5 to 3.2 Å, but also significantly improved the quality of the data, enabling de novo phasing and structure determination. Because it exploits the general importance of counterions and solvation in RNA structure, this procedure may prove broadly useful in the crystallographic analyses of other large non-coding RNAs.

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