Structural and Kinetic Characterization of RNA Polymerase II C-Terminal Domain Phosphatase Ssu72 and Development of New Methods for NMR Studies of Large Proteins
Ssu72 is a protein phosphatase that selectively targets phosphorylated serine residues at the 5th position (pS5) in the heptad repeats of the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II, in order to regulate the CTD-mediated coupling between eukaryotic transcription and co-transcriptional events. The biological importance of Ssu72 is underscored by (1) the requirement of its activity for viability in yeast, and (2) the numerous phenotypes - affecting all three stages of the transcription cycle - that result from its mutation in yeast. Despite limited homology to the low molecular weight (LMW) subclass of protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs), several lines of evidence suggest that Ssu72 represents the founding member of a new class of enzymes, including its unique substrate specificity and an in vivo connection with the activity of proline isomerase Ess1.
The main focus of this thesis has been to structurally and kinetically characterize Ssu72, in order to define its relation to known enzyme families, to provide biochemical explanations for extant in vivo observations, and to allow future structure-guided investigations of its role in coordinating transcription with co-transcriptional events. To this end, we solved the structure of Ssu72 in complex with its pS5 CTD substrate, revealing an enzyme fold with unique structural features and a surprising substrate conformation with the pS5-P6 motif of the CTD adopting the cis configuration. Together with kinetic assays, the structure provides a new interpretation of the role of proline isomers in regulating the CTD phosphorylation state, with broad implications for CTD biology.
The second goal of this thesis has been to develop new methods for NMR studies of large proteins, which present unique challenges to conventional methods, including fast signal decay and severe signal degeneracy. The first of these new methods, the `just-in-time' HN(CA)CO, improves the sensitivity of a common backbone assignment experiment. The next two methods, the 4-D diagonal-suppressed TROSY-NOESY-TROSY and the 4-D time-shared NOESY, were designed for use with sparse sampling techniques that allow the acquisition of high-resolution, high-dimensionality datasets. These efforts culminate with global fold calculations for large proteins, including the 23 kDa Ssu72, with accurate and unambiguous automated assignment of NOE crosspeaks. We expect that the methods presented here will be particularly useful as the NMR community continues to push toward higher molecular weight targets.
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