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Large Domain Motions in Ago Protein Controlled by the Guide DNA-Strand Seed Region Determine the Ago-DNA-mRNA Complex Recognition Process

Xia, Zhen; Huynh, Tien; Ren, Pengyu; Zhou, Ruhong

The recognition mechanism and cleavage activity of argonaute (Ago), miRNA, and mRNA complexes are the core processes to the small non-coding RNA world. The 5′ nucleation at the ‘seed’ region (position 2–8) of miRNA was believed to play a significant role in guiding the recognition of target mRNAs to the given miRNA family. In this paper, we have performed all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of the related and recently revealed Ago-DNA:mRNA ternary complexes to study the dynamics of the guide-target recognition and the effect of mutations by introducing “damaging” C·C mismatches at different positions in the seed region of the DNA-RNA duplex. Our simulations show that the A-form-like helix duplex gradually distorts as the number of seed mismatches increases and the complex can survive no more than two such mismatches. Severe distortions of the guide-target heteroduplex are observed in the ruinous 4-sites mismatch mutant, which give rise to a bending motion of the PAZ domain along the L1/L2 “hinge-like” connection segment, resulting in the opening of the nucleic-acid-binding channel. These long-range interactions between the seed region and PAZ domain, moderated by the L1/L2 segments, reveal the central role of the seed region in the guide-target strands recognition: it not only determines the guide-target heteroduplex’s nucleation and propagation, but also regulates the dynamic motions of Ago domains around the nucleic-acid-binding channel.


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July 10, 2013