Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Mechanism of RNA Translocation by a Viral Packaging Motor

Jiri Lisal

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Division of Biochemistry and Institute of Biotechnology.

Molecular motors are proteins that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. The viral packaging ATPase P4 is a hexameric molecular motor that translocates RNA into preformed viral capsids. P4 belongs to the ubiquitous class of hexameric helicases. Although its structure is known, the mechanism of RNA translocation remains elusive. Here we present a detailed kinetic study of nucleotide binding, hydrolysis, and product release by P4. We propose a stochastic-sequential cooperative model to describe the coordination of ATP hydrolysis within the hexamer. In this model the apparent cooperativity is a result of hydrolysis stimulation by ATP and RNA binding to neighboring subunits rather than cooperative nucleotide binding. Simultaneous interaction of neighboring subunits with RNA makes the otherwise random hydrolysis sequential and processive.

Further, we use hydrogen/deuterium exchange detected by high resolution mass spectrometry to visualize P4 conformational dynamics during the catalytic cycle. Concerted changes of exchange kinetics reveal a cooperative unit that dynamically links ATP binding sites and the central RNA binding channel. The cooperative unit is compatible with the structure-based model in which translocation is effected by conformational changes of a limited protein region. Deuterium labeling also discloses the transition state associated with RNA loading which proceeds via opening of the hexameric ring.

Hydrogen/deuterium exchange is further used to delineate the interactions of the P4 hexamer with the viral procapsid. P4 associates with the procapsid via its C-terminal face. The interactions stabilize subunit interfaces within the hexamer. The conformation of the virus-bound hexamer is more stable than the hexamer in solution, which is prone to spontaneous ring openings. We propose that the stabilization within the viral capsid increases the packaging processivity and confers selectivity during RNA loading.

Finally, we use single molecule techniques to characterize P4 translocation along RNA. While the P4 hexamer encloses RNA topologically within the central channel, it diffuses randomly along the RNA. In the presence of ATP, unidirectional net movement is discernible in addition to the stochastic motion. The diffusion is hindered by activation energy barriers that depend on the nucleotide binding state. The results suggest that P4 employs an electrostatic clutch instead of cycling through stable, discrete, RNA binding states during translocation. Conformational changes coupled to ATP hydrolysis modify the electrostatic potential inside the central channel, which in turn biases RNA motion in one direction. Implications of the P4 model for other hexameric molecular motors are discussed.

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Last updated 22.08.2006

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