The proposed research is a dissection of the targeting and action of the RNA chaperone CYT-19 protein as it facilitates folding of a group I RNA. Although RNA chaperones were proposed long ago, the first demonstration that any protein functions naturally to chaperone RNA folding was in 2002, when Lambowitz and colleagues showed that the Neurospora crassa CYT-19 protein functions by accelerating folding of several group I introns. These introns also require the splicing factor CYT-18, additionally suggesting that CYT-19 may be targeted to RNAs by CYT-18. CYT-19 is a DExD/H-box protein, which are present in all organisms and involved in virtually every process that involves structured RNA, including essential processes like ribosome biogenesis and pre-mRNA splicing, as well the replication of viruses including HCV. DExD/H-box proteins are generally thought to use ATP binding and hydrolysis to mediate structural rearrangements of RNA, facilitating folding to a functional structure or transitions between functional structures. However, little is known about their mechanisms of action or about what governs their specificity for RNA or RNA-protein substrates, largely because of the complexity of many of their targets. The system above provides a unique opportunity for biochemical dissection because it is sufficiently simple that it can be readily manipulated, yet sufficiently complete that it captures a physiological action of a DExD/H-box protein. However, folding of Neurospora group I introns is not well characterized and the best-studied intron populates multiple misfolded forms, inhibiting a deep biochemical dissection. This proposal therefore focuses instead on the group I RNA from Tetrahymena and its derivative that binds CYT-18. The Tetrahymena RNA is extensively characterized and folds to a discrete misfolded form whose re-folding to the native state is also accelerated by CYT-19.
Specific aims are to 1) Use kinetics approaches to probe the molecular action of CYT-19 in re-folding the Tetrahymena ribozyme, comparing the reaction to nonspecific unwinding of duplex RNA and testing specific models for the mechanism of ribozyme re-folding; 2) Examine determinants and mechanisms of specificity conferred by the CYT-18 protein; 3) Use sedimentation equilibrium to probe the self-association behavior of CYT-19 in solution and bound to RNA, then use this information to probe the multimeric state of CYT-19 as it acts; 4) Explore an unexpected activity of CYT-19, dissociation of an oligonucleotide substrate from the ribozyme. These experiments are intended to provide novel and fundamental understanding of how a DExD/H-box protein acts as an RNA chaperone and how it is targeted. Results here are expected to guide models for the action and targeting of DExD/H box proteins involved in all aspects of RNA metabolism and function.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biochemistry Study Section (BIO)
Program Officer
Lewis, Catherine D
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Texas Austin
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Yangyuoru, Philip M; Bradburn, Devin A; Liu, Zhonghua et al. (2018) The G-quadruplex (G4) resolvase DHX36 efficiently and specifically disrupts DNA G4s via a translocation-based helicase mechanism. J Biol Chem 293:1924-1932
Gilman, Benjamin; Tijerina, Pilar; Russell, Rick (2017) Distinct RNA-unwinding mechanisms of DEAD-box and DEAH-box RNA helicase proteins in remodeling structured RNAs and RNPs. Biochem Soc Trans 45:1313-1321
Busa, Veronica F; Rector, Maxwell J; Russell, Rick (2017) The DEAD-Box Protein CYT-19 Uses Arginine Residues in Its C-Tail To Tether RNA Substrates. Biochemistry 56:3571-3578
Cannon, Brian; Kachroo, Aashiq H; Jarmoskaite, Inga et al. (2015) Hexapeptides that inhibit processing of branched DNA structures induce a dynamic ensemble of Holliday junction conformations. J Biol Chem 290:22734-46
Russell, Rick (2015) Unwinding the mechanisms of a DEAD-box RNA helicase in cancer. J Mol Biol 427:1797-800
Jarmoskaite, Inga; Bhaskaran, Hari; Seifert, Soenke et al. (2014) DEAD-box protein CYT-19 is activated by exposed helices in a group I intron RNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:E2928-36
Pan, Cynthia; Potratz, Jeffrey P; Cannon, Brian et al. (2014) DEAD-box helicase proteins disrupt RNA tertiary structure through helix capture. PLoS Biol 12:e1001981
Mitchell 3rd, David; Russell, Rick (2014) Folding pathways of the Tetrahymena ribozyme. J Mol Biol 426:2300-12
Russell, Rick; Matouschek, Andreas (2014) Chance, destiny, and the inner workings of ClpXP. Cell 158:479-80
Jarmoskaite, Inga; Russell, Rick (2014) RNA helicase proteins as chaperones and remodelers. Annu Rev Biochem 83:697-725

Showing the most recent 10 out of 38 publications