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62 Publications

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    12/01/12 | Interplay of DNA repair with transcription: from structures to mechanisms.
    Deaconescu AM, Artsimovitch I, Grigorieff N
    Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 2012 Dec;37(12):543-52. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2012.09.002

    Many DNA transactions are crucial for maintaining genomic integrity and faithful transfer of genetic information but remain poorly understood. An example is the interplay between nucleotide excision repair (NER) and transcription, also known as transcription-coupled DNA repair (TCR). Discovered decades ago, the mechanisms for TCR have remained elusive, not in small part due to the scarcity of structural studies of key players. Here we summarize recent structural information on NER/TCR factors, focusing on bacterial systems, and integrate it with existing genetic, biochemical, and biophysical data to delineate the mechanisms at play. We also review emerging, alternative modalities for recruitment of NER proteins to DNA lesions.

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    11/07/12 | Movies of ice-embedded particles enhance resolution in electron cryo-microscopy.
    Campbell MG, Cheng A, Brilot AF, Moeller A, Lyumkis D, Veesler D, Pan J, Harrison SC, Potter CS, Carragher B, Grigorieff N
    Structure. 2012 Nov 7;20(11):1823-8. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2012.08.026

    Low-dose images obtained by electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) are often affected by blurring caused by sample motion during electron beam exposure, degrading signal especially at high resolution. We show here that we can align frames of movies, recorded with a direct electron detector during beam exposure of rotavirus double-layered particles, thereby greatly reducing image blurring caused by beam-induced motion and sample stage instabilities. This procedure increases the efficiency of cryo-EM imaging and enhances the resolution obtained in three-dimensional reconstructions of the particle. Using movies in this way is generally applicable to all cryo-EM samples and should also improve the performance of midrange electron microscopes that may have limited mechanical stability and beam coherence.

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    10/01/12 | Optimal noise reduction in 3D reconstructions of single particles using a volume-normalized filter.
    Sindelar CV, Grigorieff N
    Journal of Structural Biology. 2012 Oct;180:26-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2012.05.005

    The high noise level found in single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) image data presents a special challenge for three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of the imaged molecules. The spectral signal-to-noise ratio (SSNR) and related Fourier shell correlation (FSC) functions are commonly used to assess and mitigate the noise-generated error in the reconstruction. Calculation of the SSNR and FSC usually includes the noise in the solvent region surrounding the particle and therefore does not accurately reflect the signal in the particle density itself. Here we show that the SSNR in a reconstructed 3D particle map is linearly proportional to the fractional volume occupied by the particle. Using this relationship, we devise a novel filter (the "single-particle Wiener filter") to minimize the error in a reconstructed particle map, if the particle volume is known. Moreover, we show how to approximate this filter even when the volume of the particle is not known, by optimizing the signal within a representative interior region of the particle. We show that the new filter improves on previously proposed error-reduction schemes, including the conventional Wiener filter as well as figure-of-merit weighting, and quantify the relationship between all of these methods by theoretical analysis as well as numeric evaluation of both simulated and experimentally collected data. The single-particle Wiener filter is applicable across a broad range of existing 3D reconstruction techniques, but is particularly well suited to the Fourier inversion method, leading to an efficient and accurate implementation.

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    08/08/12 | Maturation in action: CryoEM study of a viral capsid caught during expansion.
    Veesler D, Quispe J, Grigorieff N, Potter CS, Carragher B, Johnson JE
    Structure. 2012 Aug 8;20(8):1384-90. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2012.05.011

    Bacteriophage HK97 maturation involves discrete intermediate particle forms, comparable to transitional states in protein folding, before reaching its mature form. The process starts by formation of a metastable prohead, poised for exothermic expansion triggered by DNA packaging. During maturation, the capsid subunit transitions from a strained to a canonical tertiary conformation and this has been postulated to be the driving mechanism for initiating expansion via switching hexameric capsomer architecture from skewed to 6-fold symmetric. We report the subnanometer electron-cryomicroscopy reconstruction of the HK97 first expansion intermediate before any crosslink formation. This form displays 6-fold symmetric hexamers, but capsid subunit tertiary structures exhibit distortions comparable to the prohead forms. We propose that coat subunit strain release acts in synergy with the first crosslinks to drive forward maturation. Finally, we speculate that the energetic features of this transition may result from increased stability of intermediates during maturation via enhanced inter-subunit interactions.

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    03/01/12 | Beam-induced motion of vitrified specimen on holey carbon film.
    Brilot AF, Chen JZ, Cheng A, Pan J, Harrison SC, Potter CS, Carragher B, Henderson R, Grigorieff N
    Journal of Structural Biology. 2012 Mar;177(3):630-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2012.02.003

    The contrast observed in images of frozen-hydrated biological specimens prepared for electron cryo-microscopy falls significantly short of theoretical predictions. In addition to limits imposed by the current instrumentation, it is widely acknowledged that motion of the specimen during its exposure to the electron beam leads to significant blurring in the recorded images. We have studied the amount and direction of motion of virus particles suspended in thin vitrified ice layers across holes in perforated carbon films using exposure series. Our data show that the particle motion is correlated within patches of 0.3-0.5 μm, indicating that the whole ice layer is moving in a drum-like motion, with accompanying particle rotations of up to a few degrees. Support films with smaller holes, as well as lower electron dose rates tend to reduce beam-induced specimen motion, consistent with a mechanical effect. Finally, analysis of movies showing changes in the specimen during beam exposure show that the specimen moves significantly more at the start of an exposure than towards its end. We show how alignment and averaging of movie frames can be used to restore high-resolution detail in images affected by beam-induced motion.

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    02/28/12 | Nucleotide excision repair (NER) machinery recruitment by the transcription-repair coupling factor involves unmasking of a conserved intramolecular interface.
    Deaconescu AM, Sevostyanova A, Artsimovitch I, Grigorieff N
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012 Feb 28;109:3353-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1115105109

    Transcription-coupled DNA repair targets DNA lesions that block progression of elongating RNA polymerases. In bacteria, the transcription-repair coupling factor (TRCF; also known as Mfd) SF2 ATPase recognizes RNA polymerase stalled at a site of DNA damage, removes the enzyme from the DNA, and recruits the Uvr(A)BC nucleotide excision repair machinery via UvrA binding. Previous studies of TRCF revealed a molecular architecture incompatible with UvrA binding, leaving its recruitment mechanism unclear. Here, we examine the UvrA recognition determinants of TRCF using X-ray crystallography of a core TRCF-UvrA complex and probe the conformational flexibility of TRCF in the absence and presence of nucleotides using small-angle X-ray scattering. We demonstrate that the C-terminal domain of TRCF is inhibitory for UvrA binding, but not RNA polymerase release, and show that nucleotide binding induces concerted multidomain motions. Our studies suggest that autoinhibition of UvrA binding in TRCF may be relieved only upon engaging the DNA damage.

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    02/08/12 | Outcome of the first electron microscopy validation task force meeting.
    Henderson R, Sali A, Baker ML, Carragher B, Devkota B, Downing KH, Egelman EH, Feng Z, Frank J, Grigorieff N, Jiang W, Ludtke SJ, Medalia O, Penczek PA, Rosenthal PB, Rossmann MG, Schmid MF, Schröder GF, Steven AC, Stokes DL, Westbrook JD, Wriggers W, Yang H, Young J, Berman HM, Chiu W, Kleywegt GJ, Lawson CL
    Structure. 2012 Feb 8;20(2):205-14. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2011.12.014

    This Meeting Review describes the proceedings and conclusions from the inaugural meeting of the Electron Microscopy Validation Task Force organized by the Unified Data Resource for 3DEM ( and held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ on September 28 and 29, 2010. At the workshop, a group of scientists involved in collecting electron microscopy data, using the data to determine three-dimensional electron microscopy (3DEM) density maps, and building molecular models into the maps explored how to assess maps, models, and other data that are deposited into the Electron Microscopy Data Bank and Protein Data Bank public data archives. The specific recommendations resulting from the workshop aim to increase the impact of 3DEM in biology and medicine.

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    11/11/11 | Tilt-pair analysis of images from a range of different specimens in single-particle electron cryomicroscopy.
    Henderson R, Chen S, Chen JZ, Grigorieff N, Passmore LA, Ciccarelli L, Rubinstein JL, Crowther RA, Stewart PL, Rosenthal PB
    Journal of Molecular Biology. 2011 Nov 11;413(5):1028-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.09.008

    The comparison of a pair of electron microscope images recorded at different specimen tilt angles provides a powerful approach for evaluating the quality of images, image-processing procedures, or three-dimensional structures. Here, we analyze tilt-pair images recorded from a range of specimens with different symmetries and molecular masses and show how the analysis can produce valuable information not easily obtained otherwise. We show that the accuracy of orientation determination of individual single particles depends on molecular mass, as expected theoretically since the information in each particle image increases with molecular mass. The angular uncertainty is less than 1° for particles of high molecular mass ( 50 MDa), several degrees for particles in the range 1-5 MDa, and tens of degrees for particles below 1 MDa. Orientational uncertainty may be the major contributor to the effective temperature factor (B-factor) describing contrast loss and therefore the maximum resolution of a structure determination. We also made two unexpected observations. Single particles that are known to be flexible showed a wider spread in orientation accuracy, and the orientations of the largest particles examined changed by several degrees during typical low-dose exposures. Smaller particles presumably also reorient during the exposure; hence, specimen movement is a second major factor that limits resolution. Tilt pairs thus enable assessment of orientation accuracy, map quality, specimen motion, and conformational heterogeneity. A convincing tilt-pair parameter plot, where 60% of the particles show a single cluster around the expected tilt axis and tilt angle, provides confidence in a structure determined using electron cryomicroscopy.

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    10/01/11 | An adaptation of the Wiener filter suitable for analyzing images of isolated single particles.
    Sindelar CV, Grigorieff N
    Journal of Structural Biology. 2011 Oct;176(1):60-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2011.06.010

    The Wiener filter is a standard means of optimizing the signal in sums of aligned, noisy images obtained by electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM). However, estimation of the resolution-dependent ("spectral") signal-to-noise ratio (SSNR) from the input data has remained problematic, and error reduction due to specific application of the SSNR term within a Wiener filter has not been reported. Here we describe an adjustment to the Wiener filter for optimal summation of images of isolated particles surrounded by large regions of featureless background, as is typically the case in single-particle cryo-EM applications. We show that the density within the particle area can be optimized, in the least-squares sense, by scaling the SSNR term found in the conventional Wiener filter by a factor that reflects the fraction of the image field occupied by the particle. We also give related expressions that allow the SSNR to be computed for application in this new filter, by incorporating a masking step into a Fourier Ring Correlation (FRC), a standard resolution measure. Furthermore, we show that this masked FRC estimation scheme substantially improves on the accuracy of conventional SSNR estimation methods. We demonstrate the validity of our new approach in numeric tests with simulated data corresponding to realistic cryo-EM imaging conditions. This variation of the Wiener filter and accompanying derivation should prove useful for a variety of single-particle cryo-EM applications, including 3D reconstruction.

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    09/21/11 | Structural complexity of a composite amyloid fibril.
    Lewandowski JR, van der Wel PC, Rigney M, Grigorieff N, Griffin RG
    Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2011 Sep 21;133(37):14686-98. doi: 10.1021/ja203736z

    The molecular structure of amyloid fibrils and the mechanism of their formation are of substantial medical and biological importance, but present an ongoing experimental and computational challenge. An early high-resolution view of amyloid-like structure was obtained on amyloid-like crystals of a small fragment of the yeast prion protein Sup35p: the peptide GNNQQNY. As GNNQQNY also forms amyloid-like fibrils under similar conditions, it has been theorized that the crystal’s structural features are shared by the fibrils. Here we apply magic-angle-spinning (MAS) NMR to examine the structure and dynamics of these fibrils. Previously multiple NMR signals were observed for such samples, seemingly consistent with the presence of polymorphic fibrils. Here we demonstrate that peptides with these three distinct conformations instead assemble together into composite protofilaments. Electron microscopy (EM) of the ribbon-like fibrils indicates that these protofilaments combine in differing ways to form striations of variable widths, presenting another level of structural complexity. Structural and dynamic NMR data reveal the presence of highly restricted side-chain conformations involved in interfaces between differently structured peptides, likely comprising interdigitated steric zippers. We outline molecular interfaces that are consistent with the observed EM and NMR data. The rigid and uniform structure of the GNNQQNY crystals is found to contrast distinctly with the more complex structural and dynamic nature of these "composite" amyloid fibrils. These results provide insight into the fibril-crystal distinction and also indicate a necessary caution with respect to the extrapolation of crystal structures to the study of fibril structure and formation.

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