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Barabas GroupPublications

Acquisition of an Archaea-like ribonuclease H domain by plant L1 retrotransposons supports modular evolution.
Smyshlyaev, G., Voigt, F., Blinov, A., Barabas, O. & Novikova, O.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):20140-5. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310958110. Epub 2013 Nov 25.
Although a variety of non-LTR retrotransposons of the L1 superfamily have been found in plant genomes over recent decades, their diversity, distribution, and evolution have yet to be analyzed in depth. Here, we perform comprehensive comparative and evolutionary analyses of L1 retrotransposons from 29 genomes of land plants covering a wide range of taxa. We identify numerous L1 elements in these genomes and detect a striking diversity of their domain composition. We show that all known land plant L1 retrotransposons can be grouped into five major families based on their phylogenetic relationships and domain composition. Moreover, we trace the putative evolution timeline that created the current variants and reveal that evolutionary events included losses and acquisitions of diverse putative RNA-binding domains and the acquisition of an Archaea-like ribonuclease H (RNH) domain. We also show that the latter RNH domain is autonomously active in vitro and speculate that retrotransposons may play a role in the horizontal transfer of RNH between plants, Archaea, and bacteria. The acquisition of an Archaea-like RNH domain by plant L1 retrotransposons negates the hypothesis that RNH domains in non-LTR retrotransposons have a single origin and provides evidence that acquisition happened at least twice. Together, our data indicate that the evolution of the investigated retrotransposons can be mainly characterized by repeated events of domain rearrangements and identify modular evolution as a major trend in the evolution of plant L1 retrotransposons.
Europe PMC

Crystal structure of the primary piRNA biogenesis factor Zucchini reveals similarity to the bacterial PLD endonuclease Nuc.
Voigt, F., Reuter, M., Kasaruho, A., Schulz, E.C., Pillai, R.S. & Barabas, O.
RNA. 2012 Dec;18(12):2128-34. doi: 10.1261/rna.034967.112. Epub 2012 Oct 19.
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are a gonad-specific class of small RNAs that associate with the Piwi clade of Argonaute proteins and play a key role in transposon silencing in animals. Since biogenesis of piRNAs is independent of the double-stranded RNA-processing enzyme Dicer, an alternative nuclease that can process single-stranded RNA transcripts has been long sought. A Phospholipase D-like protein, Zucchini, that is essential for piRNA processing has been proposed to be a nuclease acting in piRNA biogenesis. Here we describe the crystal structure of Zucchini from Drosophila melanogaster and show that it is very similar to the bacterial endonuclease, Nuc. The structure also reveals that homodimerization induces major conformational changes assembling the active site. The active site is situated on the dimer interface at the bottom of a narrow groove that can likely accommodate single-stranded nucleic acid substrates. Furthermore, biophysical analysis identifies protein segments essential for dimerization and provides insights into regulation of Zucchini's activity.
Europe PMC

Resetting the site: redirecting integration of an insertion sequence in a predictable way.
Guynet, C., Achard, A., Hoang, B.T., Barabas, O., Hickman, A.B., Dyda, F. & Chandler, M.
Mol Cell. 2009 Jun 12;34(5):612-9.
Target site choice is a complex and poorly understood aspect of DNA transposition despite its importance in rational transposon-mediated gene delivery. Though most transposons choose target sites essentially randomly or with some slight sequence or structural preferences, insertion sequence IS608 from Helicobacter pylori, which transposes using single-stranded DNA, always inserts just 3' of a TTAC tetranucleotide. Our results from studies on the IS608 transposition mechanism demonstrated that the transposase recognizes its target site by co-opting an internal segment of transposon DNA and utilizes it for specific recognition of the target sites through base-pairing. This suggested a way to redirect IS608 transposition to novel target sites. As we demonstrate here, we can now direct insertions in a predictable way into a variety of different chosen target sequences, both in vitro and in vivo.
Europe PMC

Mechanism of IS200/IS605 family DNA transposases: activation and transposon-directed target site selection.
Barabas, O., Ronning, D.R., Guynet, C., Hickman, A.B., Ton-Hoang, B., Chandler, M. & Dyda, F.
Cell. 2008 Jan 25;132(2):208-20.
The smallest known DNA transposases are those from the IS200/IS605 family. Here we show how the interplay of protein and DNA activates TnpA, the Helicobacter pylori IS608 transposase, for catalysis. First, transposon end binding causes a conformational change that aligns catalytically important protein residues within the active site. Subsequent precise cleavage at the left and right ends, the steps that liberate the transposon from its donor site, does not involve a site-specific DNA-binding domain. Rather, cleavage site recognition occurs by complementary base pairing with a TnpA-bound subterminal transposon DNA segment. Thus, the enzyme active site is constructed from elements of both protein and DNA, reminiscent of the interdependence of protein and RNA in the ribosome. Our structural results explain why the transposon ends are asymmetric and how the transposon selects a target site for integration, and they allow us to propose a molecular model for the entire transposition reaction.
Europe PMC