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Grigorieff Lab / Publications
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54 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 54 results
11/29/18 | Analysis of discrete local variability and structural covariance in macromolecular assemblies using Cryo-EM and focused classification.
Zhang C, Cantara W, Jeon Y, Musier-Forsyth K, Grigorieff N, Lyumkis D
Ultramicroscopy. 2018 Nov 29:. doi: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2018.11.016

Single-particle electron cryo-microscopy and computational image classification can be used to analyze structural variability in macromolecules and their assemblies. In some cases, a particle may contain different regions that each display a range of distinct conformations. We have developed strategies, implemented within the Frealign and cisTEM image processing packages, to focus classify on specific regions of a particle and detect potential covariance. The strategies are based on masking the region of interest using either a 2-D mask applied to reference projections and particle images, or a 3-D mask applied to the 3-D volume. We show that focused classification approaches can be used to study structural covariance, a concept that is likely to gain more importance as datasets grow in size, allowing the distinction of more structural states and smaller differences between states. Finally, we apply the approaches to an experimental dataset containing the HIV-1 Transactivation Response (TAR) element RNA fused into the large bacterial ribosomal subunit to deconvolve structural mobility within localized regions of interest, and to a dataset containing assembly intermediates of the large subunit to measure structural covariance.

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08/24/18 | Severing enzymes amplify microtubule arrays through lattice GTP-tubulin incorporation.
Vemu A, Szczesna E, Zehr EA, Spector JO, Grigorieff N, Deaconescu AM, Roll-Mecak A
Science (New York, N.Y.). 2018 Aug 24;361(6404):. doi: 10.1126/science.aau1504

Spastin and katanin sever and destabilize microtubules. Paradoxically, despite their destructive activity they increase microtubule mass in vivo. We combined single-molecule total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy to show that the elemental step in microtubule severing is the generation of nanoscale damage throughout the microtubule by active extraction of tubulin heterodimers. These damage sites are repaired spontaneously by guanosine triphosphate (GTP)-tubulin incorporation, which rejuvenates and stabilizes the microtubule shaft. Consequently, spastin and katanin increase microtubule rescue rates. Furthermore, newly severed ends emerge with a high density of GTP-tubulin that protects them against depolymerization. The stabilization of the newly severed plus ends and the higher rescue frequency synergize to amplify microtubule number and mass. Thus, severing enzymes regulate microtubule architecture and dynamics by promoting GTP-tubulin incorporation within the microtubule shaft.

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04/30/18 | Atomic resolution cryo-EM structure of β-galactosidase.
Bartesaghi A, Aguerrebere C, Falconieri V, Banerjee S, Earl LA, Zhu X, Grigorieff N, Milne JL, Sapiro G, Wu X, Subramaniam S
Structure (London, England : 1993). 2018 Apr 30;26(6):848. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2018.04.004

The advent of direct electron detectors has enabled the routine use of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (EM) approaches to determine structures of a variety of protein complexes at near-atomic resolution. Here, we report the development of methods to account for local variations in defocus and beam-induced drift, and the implementation of a data-driven dose compensation scheme that significantly improves the extraction of high-resolution information recorded during exposure of the specimen to the electron beam. These advances enable determination of a cryo-EM density map for β-galactosidase bound to the inhibitor phenylethyl β-D-thiogalactopyranoside where the ordered regions are resolved at a level of detail seen in X-ray maps at ∼ 1.5 Å resolution. Using this density map in conjunction with constrained molecular dynamics simulations provides a measure of the local flexibility of the non-covalently bound inhibitor and offers further opportunities for structure-guided inhibitor design.

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04/10/18 | Structural mechanism of functional modulation by gene splicing in NMDA receptors.
Regan MC, Grant T, McDaniel MJ, Karakas E, Zhang J, Traynelis SF, Grigorieff N, Furukawa H
Neuron. 2018 Apr 10;98(3):521-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.03.034

Alternative gene splicing gives rise to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor ion channels with defined functional properties and unique contributions to calcium signaling in a given chemical environment in the mammalian brain. Splice variants possessing the exon-5-encoded motif at the amino-terminal domain (ATD) of the GluN1 subunit are known to display robustly altered deactivation rates and pH sensitivity, but the underlying mechanism for this functional modification is largely unknown. Here, we show through cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) that the presence of the exon 5 motif in GluN1 alters the local architecture of heterotetrameric GluN1-GluN2 NMDA receptors and creates contacts with the ligand-binding domains (LBDs) of the GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, which are absent in NMDA receptors lacking the exon 5 motif. The unique interactions established by the exon 5 motif are essential to the stability of the ATD/LBD and LBD/LBD interfaces that are critically involved in controlling proton sensitivity and deactivation.

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03/07/18 | cisTEM, User-friendly software for single-particle image processing.
Grant T, Rohou A, Grigorieff N
eLife. 2018 Mar 07;7:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.35383

We have developed new open-source software calledTEM (computational imaging system for transmission electron microscopy) for the processing of data for high-resolution electron cryo-microscopy and single-particle averaging.TEM features a graphical user interface that is used to submit jobs, monitor their progress, and display results. It implements a full processing pipeline including movie processing, image defocus determination, automatic particle picking, 2D classification, ab-initio 3D map generation from random parameters, 3D classification, and high-resolution refinement and reconstruction. Some of these steps implement newly-developed algorithms; others were adapted from previously published algorithms. The software is optimized to enable processing of typical datasets (2000 micrographs, 200k - 300k particles) on a high-end, CPU-based workstation in half a day or less, comparable to GPU-accelerated processing. Jobs can also be scheduled on large computer clusters using flexible run profiles that can be adapted for most computing environments.TEM is available for download from

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02/16/18 | Physical basis of amyloid fibril polymorphism.
Close W, Neumann M, Schmidt A, Hora M, Annamalai K, Schmidt M, Reif B, Schmidt V, Grigorieff N, Fändrich M
Nature Communications. 2018 Feb 16;9(1):699. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03164-5

Polymorphism is a key feature of amyloid fibril structures but it remains challenging to explain these variations for a particular sample. Here, we report electron cryomicroscopy-based reconstructions from different fibril morphologies formed by a peptide fragment from an amyloidogenic immunoglobulin light chain. The observed fibril morphologies vary in the number and cross-sectional arrangement of a structurally conserved building block. A comparison with the theoretically possible constellations reveals the experimentally observed spectrum of fibril morphologies to be governed by opposing sets of forces that primarily arise from the β-sheet twist, as well as peptide-peptide interactions within the fibril cross-section. Our results provide a framework for rationalizing and predicting the structure and polymorphism of cross-β fibrils, and suggest that a small number of physical parameters control the observed fibril architectures.

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10/13/17 | Structure of RNA polymerase bound to ribosomal 30S subunit.
Demo G, Rasouly A, Vasilyev N, Svetlov V, Loveland AB, Diaz-Avalos R, Grigorieff N, Nudler E, Korostelev AA
eLife. 2017 Oct 13;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.28560

In bacteria, mRNA transcription and translation are coupled to coordinate optimal gene expression and maintain genome stability. Coupling is thought to involve direct interactions between RNA polymerase (RNAP) and the translational machinery. We present cryo-EM structures of E. coli RNAP core bound to the small ribosomal 30S subunit. The complex is stable under cell-like ionic conditions, consistent with functional interaction between RNAP and the 30S subunit. The RNA exit tunnel of RNAP aligns with the Shine-Dalgarno-binding site of the 30S subunit. Ribosomal protein S1 forms a wall of the tunnel between RNAP and the 30S subunit, consistent with its role in directing mRNAs onto the ribosome. The nucleic-acid-binding cleft of RNAP samples distinct conformations, suggesting different functional states during transcription-translation coupling. The architecture of the 30S•RNAP complex provides a structural basis for co-localization of the transcriptional and translational machineries, and inform future mechanistic studies of coupled transcription and translation.

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07/10/17 | Expression, purification, and contaminant detection for structural studies of Ralstonia metallidurance ClC protein rm1.
Abeyrathne PD, Grigorieff N
PloS One. 2017;12(7):e0180163. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180163

Single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) has become a popular method for high-resolution study of the structural and functional properties of proteins. However, sufficient expression and purification of membrane proteins holds many challenges. We describe methods to overcome these obstacles using ClC-rm1, a prokaryotic chloride channel (ClC) family protein from Ralstonia metallidurans, overexpressed in Escherichia coli (E. coli) BL21(DE3) strain. Mass spectrometry and electron microscopy analyses of purified samples revealed multiple contaminants that can obfuscate results of subsequent high-resolution structural analysis. Here we describe the systematic optimization of sample preparation procedures, including expression systems, solubilization techniques, purification protocols, and contamination detection. We found that expressing ClC-rm1 in E. coli BL21(DE3) and using n-dodecyl-β-D-maltopyranoside as a detergent for solubilization and purification steps resulted in the highest quality samples of those we tested. However, although protein yield, sample stability, and the resolution of structural detail were improved following these changes, we still detected contaminants including Acriflavine resistant protein AcrB. AcrB was particularly difficult to remove as it co-purified with ClC-rm1 due to four intrinsic histidine residues at its C-terminus that bind to affinity resins. We were able to obtain properly folded pure ClC-rm1 by adding eGFP to the C-terminus and overexpressing the protein in the ΔacrB variant of the JW0451-2 E. coli strain.

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05/12/17 | CryoEM structure of an influenza virus receptor-binding site antibody-antigen interface.
Liu Y, Pan J, Jenni S, Raymond DD, Caradonna T, Do KT, Schmidt AG, Harrison SC, Grigorieff N
Journal of Molecular Biology. 2017 May 12;429(12):1829-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2017.05.011

Structure-based vaccine design depends on extensive structural analyses of antigen-antibody complexes. Single-particle electron cryomicroscopy (cryoEM) can circumvent some of the problems of x-ray crystallography as a pipeline for obtaining the required structures. We have examined the potential of single-particle cryoEM for determining the structure of influenza-virus hemagglutinin (HA):single-chain Fv (scFv) complexes, by studying a complex we failed to crystallize in pursuing an extended project of the human immune response to influenza vaccines. The result shows that a combination of cryoEM and molecular modeling can yield details of the antigen:antibody interface, although small variation in the twist of the rod-like HA trimer limited the overall resolution to about 4.5Å. Comparison of principal 3D classes suggests ways to modify the HA trimer to overcome this limitation. A closely related antibody from the same donor did yield crystals when bound with the same HA, giving us an independent validation of the cryoEM results The two structures also augment our understanding of receptor-binding site recognition by antibodies that neutralize a wide range of influenza-virus variants.

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05/03/17 | Single-protein detection in crowded molecular environments in cryo-EM images.
Rickgauer JP, Grigorieff N, Denk W
eLife. 2017 May 03;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.25648

We present an approach to study macromolecular assemblies by detecting component proteins' characteristic high-resolution projection patterns, calculated from their known 3D structures, in single electron cryo-micrographs. Our method detects single apoferritin molecules in vitreous ice with high specificity and determines their orientation and location precisely. Simulations show that high spatial-frequency information and-in the presence of protein background-a whitening filter are essential for optimal detection, in particular for images taken far from focus. Experimentally, we could detect small viral RNA polymerase molecules, distributed randomly among binding locations, inside rotavirus particles. Based on the currently attainable image quality, we estimate a threshold for detection that is 150 kDa in ice and 300 kDa in 100 nm thick samples of dense biological material.

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