Backtracked and paused transcription initiation intermediate of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase
. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113
, E6562–E6571 (2016). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Initiation is a highly regulated, rate-limiting step in transcription. We used a series of approaches to examine the kinetics of RNA polymerase (RNAP) transcription initiation in greater detail. Quenched kinetics assays, in combination with gel-based assays, showed that RNAP exit kinetics from complexes stalled at later stages of initiation (e.g., from a 7-base transcript) were markedly slower than from earlier stages (e.g., from a 2- or 4-base transcript). In addition, the RNAP-GreA endonuclease accelerated transcription kinetics from otherwise delayed initiation states. Further examination with magnetic tweezers transcription experiments showed that RNAP adopted a long-lived backtracked state during initiation and that the paused-backtracked initiation intermediate was populated abundantly at physiologically relevant nucleoside triphosphate (NTP) concentrations. The paused intermediate population was further increased when the NTP concentration was decreased and/or when an imbalance in NTP concentration was introduced (situations that mimic stress). Our results confirm the existence of a previously hypothesized paused and backtracked RNAP initiation intermediate and suggest it is biologically relevant; furthermore, such intermediates could be exploited for therapeutic purposes and may reflect a conserved state among paused, initiating eukaryotic RNA polymerase II enzymes.
Förster resonance energy transfer and protein-induced fluorescence enhancement as synergetic multi-scale molecular rulers
. Sci Rep 6
, 33257 (2016). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Advanced microscopy methods allow obtaining information on (dynamic) conformational changes in biomolecules via measuring a single molecular distance in the structure. It is, however, extremely challenging to capture the full depth of a three-dimensional biochemical state, binding-related structural changes or conformational cross-talk in multi-protein complexes using one-dimensional assays. In this paper we address this fundamental problem by extending the standard molecular ruler based on Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) into a two-dimensional assay via its combination with protein-induced fluorescence enhancement (PIFE). We show that donor brightness (via PIFE) and energy transfer efficiency (via FRET) can simultaneously report on e.g., the conformational state of double stranded DNA (dsDNA) following its interaction with unlabelled proteins (BamHI, EcoRV, and T7 DNA polymerase gp5/trx). The PIFE-FRET assay uses established labelling protocols and single molecule fluorescence detection schemes (alternating-laser excitation, ALEX). Besides quantitative studies of PIFE and FRET ruler characteristics, we outline possible applications of ALEX-based PIFE-FRET for single-molecule studies with diffusing and immobilized molecules. Finally, we study transcription initiation and scrunching of E. coli RNA-polymerase with PIFE-FRET and provide direct evidence for the physical presence and vicinity of the polymerase that causes structural changes and scrunching of the transcriptional DNA bubble.
FRETBursts: An Open Source Toolkit for Analysis of Freely-Diffusing Single-Molecule FRET
. PLoS ONE 11
, e0160716 (2016). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Single-molecule Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (smFRET) allows probing intermolecular interactions and conformational changes in biomacromolecules, and represents an invaluable tool for studying cellular processes at the molecular scale. smFRET experiments can detect the distance between two fluorescent labels (donor and acceptor) in the 3-10 nm range. In the commonly employed confocal geometry, molecules are free to diffuse in solution. When a molecule traverses the excitation volume, it emits a burst of photons, which can be detected by single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detectors. The intensities of donor and acceptor fluorescence can then be related to the distance between the two fluorophores. While recent years have seen a growing number of contributions proposing improvements or new techniques in smFRET data analysis, rarely have those publications been accompanied by software implementation. In particular, despite the widespread application of smFRET, no complete software package for smFRET burst analysis is freely available to date. In this paper, we introduce FRETBursts, an open source software for analysis of freely-diffusing smFRET data. FRETBursts allows executing all the fundamental steps of smFRET bursts analysis using state-of-the-art as well as novel techniques, while providing an open, robust and well-documented implementation. Therefore, FRETBursts represents an ideal platform for comparison and development of new methods in burst analysis. We employ modern software engineering principles in order to minimize bugs and facilitate long-term maintainability. Furthermore, we place a strong focus on reproducibility by relying on Jupyter notebooks for FRETBursts execution. Notebooks are executable documents capturing all the steps of the analysis (including data files, input parameters, and results) and can be easily shared to replicate complete smFRET analyzes. Notebooks allow beginners to execute complex workflows and advanced users to customize the analysis for their own needs. By bundling analysis description, code and results in a single document, FRETBursts allows to seamless share analysis workflows and results, encourages reproducibility and facilitates collaboration among researchers in the single-molecule community.
A Quantitative Theoretical Framework For Protein-Induced Fluorescence Enhancement-Förster-Type Resonance Energy Transfer (PIFE-FRET)
. J Phys Chem B 120
, 6401–6410 (2016). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Single-molecule, protein-induced fluorescence enhancement (PIFE) serves as a molecular ruler at molecular distances inaccessible to other spectroscopic rulers such as Förster-type resonance energy transfer (FRET) or photoinduced electron transfer. In order to provide two simultaneous measurements of two distances on different molecular length scales for the analysis of macromolecular complexes, we and others recently combined measurements of PIFE and FRET (PIFE-FRET) on the single molecule level. PIFE relies on steric hindrance of the fluorophore Cy3, which is covalently attached to a biomolecule of interest, to rotate out of an excited-state trans isomer to the cis isomer through a 90° intermediate. In this work, we provide a theoretical framework that accounts for relevant photophysical and kinetic parameters of PIFE-FRET, show how this framework allows the extraction of the fold-decrease in isomerization mobility from experimental data, and show how these results provide information on changes in the accessible volume of Cy3. The utility of this model is then demonstrated for experimental results on PIFE-FRET measurement of different protein-DNA interactions. The proposed model and extracted parameters could serve as a benchmark to allow quantitative comparison of PIFE effects in different biological systems.