High throughput transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is limited by the time that it takes to prepare each specimen and insert it on the microscope. It is further impeded by the deteriorating vacuum of the microscope upon frequent specimen cycling. Nevertheless, in most cases only a small fraction of the specimen is examined and sufficient to provide hundreds of images. Here we demonstrate that microarray technology can be used to accurately position picoliter quantities of different samples in a single TEM grid, with negligible cross-contamination. Key features are a contact-mode deposition on a robust formvar-carbon support. The TEM grid containing a microarray of different samples, the ArrayGrid, can also be negatively stained. The ArrayGrid increases the efficiency of TEM grid preparation and examination by at least by one order of magnitude, and is very suitable for screening and data collection especially in experiments that generate a multiplicity of samples.
Ryanodine receptor type 1 (RyR1) releases Ca(2+) from intracellular stores upon nerve impulse to trigger skeletal muscle contraction. Effector binding at the cytoplasmic domain tightly controls gating of the pore domain of RyR1 to release Ca(2+). However, the molecular mechanism that links effector binding to channel gating is unknown due to lack of structural data. Here, we used a combination of computational and electrophysiological methods and cryo-EM densities to generate structural models of the open and closed states of RyR1. Using our structural models, we identified an interface between the pore-lining helix (Tyr-4912-Glu-4948) and a linker helix (Val-4830-Val-4841) that lies parallel to the cytoplasmic membrane leaflet. To test the hypothesis that this interface controls RyR1 gating, we designed mutations in the linker helix to stabilize either the open (V4830W and T4840W) or closed (H4832W and G4834W) state and validated them using single channel experiments. To further confirm this interface, we designed mutations in the pore-lining helix to stabilize the closed state (Q4947N, Q4947T, and Q4947S), which we also validated using single channel experiments. The channel conductance and selectivity of the mutations that we designed in the linker and pore-lining helices were indistinguishable from those of WT RyR1, demonstrating our ability to modulate RyR1 gating without affecting ion permeation. Our integrated computational and experimental approach significantly advances the understanding of the structure and function of an unusually large ion channel.
The type 1 skeletal muscle ryanodine receptor (RyR1) is principally responsible for Ca(2+) release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum and for the subsequent muscle contraction. The RyR1 contains three SPRY domains. SPRY domains are generally known to mediate protein-protein interactions, however the location of the three SPRY domains in the 3D structure of the RyR1 is not known. Combining immunolabeling and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy we have mapped the SPRY2 domain (S1085-V1208) in the 3D structure of RyR1 using three different antibodies against the SPRY2 domain. Two obstacles for the image processing procedure; limited amount of data and signal dilution introduced by the multiple orientations of the antibody bound in the tetrameric RyR1, were overcome by modifying the 3D reconstruction scheme. This approach enabled us to ascertain that the three antibodies bind to the same region, to obtain a 3D reconstruction of RyR1 with the antibody bound, and to map SPRY2 to the periphery of the cytoplasmic domain of RyR1. We report here the first 3D localization of a SPRY2 domain in any known RyR isoform.
The 12-kDa FK506-binding proteins (FKBP12 and FKBP12.6) are regulatory subunits of ryanodine receptor (RyR) Ca(2+) release channels. To investigate the structural basis of FKBP interactions with the RyR1 and RyR2 isoforms, we used site-directed fluorescent labeling of FKBP12.6, ligand binding measurements, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). Single-cysteine substitutions were introduced at five positions distributed over the surface of FKBP12.6. Fluorescent labeling at position 14, 32, 49, or 85 did not affect high affinity binding to the RyR1. By comparison, fluorescent labeling at position 41 reduced the affinity of FKBP12.6 binding by 10-fold. Each of the five fluorescent FKBPs retained the ability to inhibit [(3)H]ryanodine binding to the RyR1, although the maximal extent of inhibition was reduced by half when the label was attached at position 32. The orientation of FKBP12.6 bound to the RyR1 and RyR2 was examined by measuring FRET from the different labeling positions on FKBP12.6 to an acceptor attached within the RyR calmodulin subunit. FRET was dependent on the position of fluorophore attachment on FKBP12.6; however, for any given position, the distance separating donors and acceptors bound to RyR1 versus RyR2 did not differ significantly. Our results show that FKBP12.6 binds to RyR1 and RyR2 in the same orientation and suggest new insights into the discrete structural domains responsible for channel binding and inhibition. FRET mapping of RyR-bound FKBP12.6 is consistent with the predictions of a previous cryoelectron microscopy study and strongly supports the proposed structural model.
Ryanodine receptor type 1 (RyR1) produces spatially and temporally defined Ca2+ signals in several cell types. How signals received in the cytoplasmic domain are transmitted to the ion gate and how the channel gates are unknown. We used EGTA or neuroactive PCB 95 to stabilize the full closed or open states of RyR1. Single-channel measurements in the presence of FKBP12 indicate that PCB 95 inverts the thermodynamic stability of RyR1 and locks it in a long-lived open state whose unitary current is indistinguishable from the native open state. We analyzed two datasets of 15,625 and 18,527 frozen-hydrated RyR1-FKBP12 particles in the closed and open conformations, respectively, by cryo-electron microscopy. Their corresponding three-dimensional structures at 10.2 A resolution refine the structure surrounding the ion pathway previously identified in the closed conformation: two right-handed bundles emerging from the putative ion gate (the cytoplasmic "inner branches" and the transmembrane "inner helices"). Furthermore, six of the identifiable transmembrane segments of RyR1 have similar organization to those of the mammalian Kv1.2 potassium channel. Upon gating, the distal cytoplasmic domains move towards the transmembrane domain while the central cytoplasmic domains move away from it, and also away from the 4-fold axis. Along the ion pathway, precise relocation of the inner helices and inner branches results in an approximately 4 A diameter increase of the ion gate. Whereas the inner helices of the K+ channels and of the RyR1 channel cross-correlate best with their corresponding open/closed states, the cytoplasmic inner branches, which are not observed in the K+ channels, appear to have at least as important a role as the inner helices for RyR1 gating. We propose a theoretical model whereby the inner helices, the inner branches, and the h1 densities together create an efficient novel gating mechanism for channel opening by relaxing two right-handed bundle structures along a common 4-fold axis.
Fluorescent protein (FP) insertions have often been used to localize primary structure elements in mid-resolution 3D cryo electron microscopic (EM) maps of large protein complexes. However, little is known as to the precise spatial relationship between the location of the fused FP and its insertion site within a larger protein. To gain insights into these structural considerations, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements were used to localize green fluorescent protein (GFP) insertions within the ryanodine receptor type 1 (RyR1), a large intracellular Ca(2+) release channel that plays a key role in skeletal muscle excitation contraction coupling. A series of full-length His-tagged GFP-RyR1 fusion constructs were created, expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK)-293T cells and then complexed with Cy3NTA, a His-tag specific FRET acceptor. FRET efficiency values measured from each GFP donor to Cy3NTA bound to each His tag acceptor site were converted into intermolecular distances and the positions of each inserted GFP were then triangulated relative to a previously published X-ray crystal structure of a 559 amino acid RyR1 fragment. We observed that the chromophoric centers of fluorescent proteins inserted into RyR1 can be located as far as 45 Å from their insertion sites and that the fused proteins can also be located in internal cavities within RyR1. These findings should prove useful in interpreting structural results obtained in cryo EM maps using fusions of small fluorescent proteins. More accurate point-to-point distance information may be obtained using complementary orthogonal labeling systems that rely on fluorescent probes that bind directly to amino acid side chains.
The L-type Ca(2+) channel (dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR) in skeletal muscle acts as the voltage sensor for excitation-contraction coupling. To better resolve the spatial organization of the DHPR subunits (?(1s) or Ca(V)1.1, ?(2), ?(1a), ?1, and ?), we created transgenic mice expressing a recombinant ?(1a) subunit with YFP and a biotin acceptor domain attached to its N- and C- termini, respectively. DHPR complexes were purified from skeletal muscle, negatively stained, imaged by electron microscopy, and subjected to single-particle image analysis. The resulting 19.1-? resolution, three-dimensional reconstruction shows a main body of 17 × 11 × 8 nm with five corners along its perimeter. Two protrusions emerge from either face of the main body: the larger one attributed to the ?(2)-?1 subunit that forms a flexible hook-shaped feature and a smaller protrusion on the opposite side that corresponds to the II-III loop of Ca(V)1.1 as revealed by antibody labeling. Novel features discernible in the electron density accommodate the atomic coordinates of a voltage-gated sodium channel and of the ? subunit in a single docking possibility that defines the ?1-? interaction. The ? subunit appears more closely associated to the membrane than expected, which may better account for both its role in localizing the ?(1s) subunit to the membrane and its suggested role in excitation-contraction coupling.
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