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The unusual structure of the PiggyMac cysteine-rich domain reveals zinc finger diversity in PiggyBac-related transposases

Abstract : Background. Transposons are mobile genetic elements that colonize genomes and drive their plasticity in all organisms. DNA transposon-encoded transposases bind to the ends of their cognate transposons and catalyze their movement. In some cases, exaptation of transposon genes has allowed novel cellular functions to emerge. The PiggyMac (Pgm) endonuclease of the ciliate Paramecium tetraurelia is a domesticated transposase from the PiggyBac family. It carries a core catalytic domain typical of PiggyBac-related transposases and a short cysteine-rich domain (CRD), flanked by N- and C-terminal extensions. During sexual processes Pgm catalyzes programmed genome rearrangements (PGR) that eliminate ~ 30% of germline DNA from the somatic genome at each generation. How Pgm recognizes its DNA cleavage sites in chromatin is unclear and the structure-function relationships of its different domains have remained elusive. Results We provide insight into Pgm structure by determining the fold adopted by its CRD, an essential domain required for PGR. Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, we show that the Pgm CRD binds two Zn 2+ ions and forms an unusual binuclear cross-brace zinc finger, with a circularly permutated treble-clef fold flanked by two flexible arms. The Pgm CRD structure clearly differs from that of several other PiggyBac-related transposases, among which is the well-studied PB transposase from Trichoplusia ni . Instead, the arrangement of cysteines and histidines in the primary sequence of the Pgm CRD resembles that of active transposases from piggyBac -like elements found in other species and of human PiggyBac-derived domesticated transposases. We show that, unlike the PB CRD, the Pgm CRD does not bind DNA. Instead, it interacts weakly with the N-terminus of histone H3, whatever its lysine methylation state. Conclusions. The present study points to the structural diversity of the CRD among transposases from the PiggyBac family and their domesticated derivatives, and highlights the diverse interactions this domain may establish with chromatin, from sequence-specific DNA binding to contacts with histone tails. Our data suggest that the Pgm CRD fold, whose unusual arrangement of cysteines and histidines is found in all PiggyBac-related domesticated transposases from Paramecium and Tetrahymena , was already present in the ancestral active transposase that gave rise to ciliate domesticated proteins.
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Contributor : Ewen Lescop Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 27, 2021 - 6:38:13 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, December 2, 2021 - 2:26:02 PM


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Marc Guérineau, Luiza Bessa, Séverine Moriau, Ewen Lescop, François Bontems, et al.. The unusual structure of the PiggyMac cysteine-rich domain reveals zinc finger diversity in PiggyBac-related transposases. Mobile DNA, BioMed Central, 2021, 12 (1), ⟨10.1186/s13100-021-00240-4⟩. ⟨hal-03302627⟩



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