Characterization of E coli Hfq structure and its RNA binding properties
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Hfq is a bacterial RNA-binding protein recently shown to contain the Sm motif, a characteristic of Sm proteins that function in RNA processing in archaea and eukaryotes. Hfq plays a major role in RNA-RNA interactions regulating translation. Comparative structural modeling and amino acid sequence alignment were used to predict the 3-D structure of Hfq and the model was in excellent agreement with the crystal structure which determined for S. aureus Hfq. The evolution of Hfq was explored by a BLAST search of microbial genomes followed by phyletic analysis. About half of the genomes examined contain at least one gene coding for Hfq. The presence and absence of Hfq closely followed major bacterial clades. The potential RNA binding residues on the two surfaces of the Hfq hexamer were proposed based on the bioinformatics studies and the mutant Hfq proteins with either single or double mutations on the two surfaces of the Hfq hexamer were generated. Their RNA binding properties was biophysically studied by gel-shift assay, fluorescence anisotropy and fluorescence quenching techniques. Results indicated that 1) point mutations on the distal surface of the Hfq hexamer, Y25A and K31A, have a major effect on A18 binding. Both reduce binding by about 1000 fold. Mutations on the proximal surface have a small or no influence on A18 binding. 2) Two mutations, F39A and R16A, on the proximal surface of the Hfq structure reduce binding to the DsrA domain II by 10 fold. Other mutations reduce binding by less than 2 fold. 3) An amino acid covariance was observed in L12 and F39. Mutation L12F can partially restore F39A in DsrA RNA binding. 4) It appears that two Hfq hexamers cooperatively bind one RNA for both DsrADII and A18.