Drastic changes in conformational dynamics of the antiterminator M2-1 regulate transcription efficiency in Pneumovirinae.
Leyrat C., Renner M., Harlos K., Huiskonen JT., Grimes JM.
The M2-1 protein of human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a zinc-binding transcription antiterminator which is highly conserved among pneumoviruses. We report the structure of tetrameric HMPV M2-1. Each protomer features a N-terminal zinc finger domain and an α-helical tetramerization motif forming a rigid unit, followed by a flexible linker and an α-helical core domain. The tetramer is asymmetric, three of the protomers exhibiting a closed conformation, and one an open conformation. Molecular dynamics simulations and SAXS demonstrate a dynamic equilibrium between open and closed conformations in solution. Structures of adenosine monophosphate- and DNA- bound M2-1 establish the role of the zinc finger domain in base-specific recognition of RNA. Binding to 'gene end' RNA sequences stabilized the closed conformation of M2-1 leading to a drastic shift in the conformational landscape of M2-1. We propose a model for recognition of gene end signals and discuss the implications of these findings for transcriptional regulation in pneumoviruses.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02674.001.