Structural Studies On Mycobacterial RecA And RuvA
Homologous recombination is a fundamental cellular process evolved to maintain genomic integrity and to generate genetic diversity. It plays a crucial role in DNA repair, correct segregation of meiotic chromosomes and resumption of the stalled replication forks. In vitro, the homologous recombination pathway is kinetically separable into a four step process involving initiation, homologous pairing, branch migration and junction resolution. The process of pairing and strand exchange between two homologous double-stranded DNA molecules leads to the formation of an intermediate structure called the Holliday junction (HJ). The crucial enzyme involved in this step in bacteria is RecA. In eubacteria, the junction is processed by three proteins, collectively referred to as the RuvABC protein complex. RuvA binds to the HJ, while RuvB, a helicase, binds to the RuvA-HJ complex and pumps the duplex DNA thus facilitating branch migration. The work reported here is concerned with structural studies on mycobacterial RecA and RuvA. X-ray crystallography was used to solve the protein crystal structures. The hanging drop vapour diffusion method was used for crystallization in all cases. X-ray intensity data were collected on a MAR Research imaging plate mounted on a Rigaku RU200 X-ray generator except for two data sets collected using synchrotron radiation. The data were processed mostly using Mosflm and Scala and few data sets were processed using the HKL program suite. The molecular replacement method using programs Phaser and AMoRe was used for structure solution. Structure refinements were carried out using programs CNS and PHENIX. Model building was performed using COOT and O. PROCHECK, MOLPROBITY, ALIGN and NACCESS were used for structure validation and analysis of the refined structures. Mycobacterium smegmatis RecA (MsRecA) and its nucleotide complexes crystallize in three different, but closely related, forms characterized by specific ranges of unit cell dimensions. The six crystals discussed in the earlier part of the thesis and the five reported earlier, all grown under the same or very similar conditions, belong to these three forms, all in space group P61. They include one obtained by reducing the relative humidity around the crystal. In all crystals, RecA monomers form filaments around a 61 screw axis. Thus, the c-dimension of the crystal corresponds to the pitch of the RecA filament. As reported in the case of E.coli RecA, the variation in the pitch among the three forms correlate well with the motion of the C-terminal domain of the RecA monomers with respect to the main domain. The domain motion is compatible with formation of inactive as well as active RecA filaments involving monomers with a fully ordered C-domain. It does not appear to influence the movement upon nucleotide-binding of the switch residue Gln 196, which is believed to provide the trigger for transmitting the effect of nucleotide-binding to the DNA-binding region. Interestingly, partial dehydration of the crystal results in the movement of the residue, in a way similar to that caused by nucleotide-binding. The ordering of the DNA-binding loops L1 and L2, which present an ensemble of conformations, is also unaffected by domain motion. The conformation of loop L2 appears to depend upon nucleotide-binding presumably on account of the movement of the switch residue which forms part of the loop. The conformations of loops L1 and L2 are correlated and have implications to intermolecular communications within the RecA filament. The structures resulting from different orientations of the C-domain and different conformations of the DNA-binding loops appear to represent snapshots of the RecA molecule at different phases of activity and provide insights into the mechanism of action of RecA. Crystal structures of mutants of MsRecA involving changes of Gln 196 from glutamine to alanine, asparagine and glutamic acid, wild type MsRecA and several of their nucleotide complexes were subsequently determined using mostly low temperature and partly room temperature X-ray data. At both the temperatures, nucleotide binding results in a movement of Gln 196 towards the bound nucleotide in the wild type protein. This movement is abolished in the mutants, thus establishing the structural basis for the triggering action of the residue in terms of the size, shape and the chemical nature of the side chain. The 25 crystal structures reported in this thesis, along with the 5 MsRecA structures reported earlier, provide further elaboration of the relation among the pitch of the `inactive´ RecA filament, the orientation of the C-terminal domain with respect to the main domain and the location of the switch residue. The low temperature structures define one extreme of the range of positions the C-domain can occupy. The movement of the C-domain is correlated to those of the LexA binding loop and the loop that connects the main and the N-terminal domains. These elements of molecular plasticity are made use of in the transition to the `active´ filament, as evidenced by the recently reported structures of RecA-DNA complexes. The available structures of RecA resulting from X-ray and electron microscopic studies appear to represent different stages in the trajectory of the allosteric transformations of the RecA filament. This work contributes to the description of the early stages of this trajectory and provides insights into structures relevant to the later stages. The interesting results observed in the case of MsRecA prompted similar studies on the RecA from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MtRecA). In this study, the crystals were grown at slightly different conditions and examined at different relative humidities and temperatures. Surprisingly, in spite of the 92% sequence identity between the two proteins, the structures indicated MtRecA to be substantially less plastic than MsRecA. The crystal structures do not provide an obvious explanation for this difference. Further studies are warranted to explain the molecular basis of the difference. RuvA, along with RuvB, is involved in branch migration of heteroduplex DNA in homologous recombination. The structures of four crystal forms of RuvA from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MtRuvA) have been determined. The RuvB-binding domain is cleaved off in one of them. Detailed models of the complexes of octameric RuvA from different species with the Holliday junction have also been constructed. A thorough examination of the structures determined as part of the doctoral programme and those reported earlier bring to light the hitherto unappreciated role of the RuvB-binding domain in determining inter-domain orientation and oligomerization. These structures also permit an exploration of the interspecies variability of structural features such as oligomerization and the conformation of the loop that carries the acidic pin, in terms of amino acid substitutions. These models emphasize the additional role of the RuvB-binding domain in HJ binding. This role along with its role in oligomerization could have important biological implications. In addition to the work on RecA and RuvA, which forms the body of the thesis, the author was also involved in a structural bioinformatics study in which several carbohydrate binding proteins were probed to identify common minimum principles required for binding mannose, glucose and galactose. The study, presented in an Appendix, identified interactions that were specific to particular sugars, leading to individual fingerprints. These fingerprints were then used for exploring lead compounds, using a fragment based approach. This investigation helped the author to familiarize himself with the analysis of protein structures and ligand design based on them.