Engineering REST-Specific Synthetic PUF Proteins to Control Neuronal Gene Expression: A Combined Experimental and Computational Study

S. Criscuolo, M. Gatti Iou, A. Merolla, L. Maragliano, F. Cesca, F. Benfenati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Regulation of gene transcription is an essential mechanism for differentiation and adaptation of organisms. A key actor in this regulation process is the repressor element 1 (RE1)-silencing transcription factor (REST), a transcriptional repressor that controls more than 2000 putative target genes, most of which are neuron-specific. With the purpose of modulating REST expression, we exploited synthetic, ad hoc designed, RNA binding proteins (RBPs) able to specifically target and dock to REST mRNA. Among the various families of RBPs, we focused on the Pumilio and FBF (PUF) proteins, present in all eukaryotic organisms and controlling a variety of cellular functions. Here, a combined experimental and computational approach was used to design and test 8- and 16-repeat PUF proteins specific for REST mRNA. We explored the conformational properties and atomic features of the PUF-RNA recognition code by Molecular Dynamics simulations. Biochemical assays revealed that the 8- and 16-repeat PUF-based variants specifically bind the endogenous REST mRNA without affecting its translational regulation. The data also indicate a key role of stacking residues in determining the binding specificity. The newly characterized REST-specific PUF-based constructs act as excellent RNA-binding modules and represent a versatile and functional platform to specifically target REST mRNA and modulate its endogenous expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2039-2054
Number of pages16
JournalACS Synth Biol
Volume9
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • ARTICOLO
  • NEUROSCIENZE
  • RIS

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