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Development of in vitro iCLIP techniques to study spliceosome remodelling by RNA helicases



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Strittmatter, Lisa Maria 


Pre-mRNA (precursor messenger RNA) splicing is a fundamental process in eukaryotic gene expression. In order to catalyse the excision of the intervening intronic sequence between two exons, the spliceosome is assembled stepwise on the pre-mRNA substrate. This ribonucleoprotein machine is extremely dynamic: both its activation and the progression through the catalytic stages require extensive compositional and structural remodelling. The first part of this thesis aims at understanding how the spliceosome is activated after assembly. When this work was started, the GTPase Snu114 was thought to activate the helicase Brr2 to unwind the U4/U6 snRNA duplex, which ultimately leads to the formation of the spliceosome active site. To explore the role of Snu114, a complex built from Snu114 and a part of Prp8 was expressed and analysed in its natural context, bound to U5 snRNA. However, before I was able to obtain highly diffracting crystals, the structure of Snu114 was determined in the context of a larger spliceosomal complex by electron cryo-microscopy by competitors. Regardless, the role of Snu114 in spliceosome activation remains elusive. In a short section of this thesis, genetic and biochemical analysis suggest Snu114 to be a pseudo-GTPase, precluding a role for Snu114-catalyzed GTP hydrolysis in activation. The second and larger part of the thesis describes the development of a novel, biochemical method to analyse spliceosome remodelling events that are caused by the eight spliceosomal helicases. Purified spliceosomes assembled on a defined RNA substrate are analysed by UV crosslinking and next-generation sequencing, which allows for the determination of the RNA helicase binding profile at nucleotide resolution. In vitro spliceosome iCLIP (individual-nucleotide resolution UV crosslinking and immunoprecipitation) was initially developed targeting the helicase Prp16 bound to spliceosomal complex C. The obtained binding profile shows that Prp16 contacts the intron, about 15 nucleotides downstream of the branch in the intron-lariat intermediate. Our finding supports the model of Prp16 acting at a distance to remodel the RNA and protein interactions in the catalytic core and thereby it promotes the transition towards a conformation of the spliceosome competent for second step catalysis. Control experiments, which locate SmB protein binding to known Sm sites in the spliceosomal snRNAs, validated the method. Preliminary results show that in vitro spliceosome iCLIP can be adapted to analyse additional spliceosomal helicases such as Prp22. Finally, I performed initial experiments that give promising directions towards time-resolved translocation profiles of helicases Brr2 and Prp16.





Nagai, Kiyoshi


Gene expression, spliceosome, RNA, protein, RBP, helicase, iCLIP, UV crosslinking, next-generation sequencing, pre-mRNA splicing, ATPase


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Funding: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds (Stiftung fuer medizinische Grundlagenforschung)