Jul 12 2016
The Brr2 RNA helicase disrupts the U4/U6 di-small nuclear RNA-protein complex (di-snRNP) during spliceosome activation via ATP-driven translocation on the U4 snRNA strand. However, it is unclear how bound proteins influence U4/U6 unwinding, which regions of the U4/U6 duplex the helicase actively unwinds, and whether U4/U6 components are released as individual molecules or as subcomplexes. Here, we set up a recombinant Brr2-mediated U4/U6 di-snRNP disruption system, showing that sequential addition of the U4/U6 proteins small nuclear ribonucleoprotein-associated protein 1 (Snu13), pre-mRNA processing factor 31 (Prp31), and Prp3 to U4/U6 di-snRNA leads to a stepwise decrease of Brr2-mediated U4/U6 unwinding, but that unwinding is largely restored by a Brr2 cofactor, the C-terminal Jab1/MPN domain of the Prp8 protein. Brr2-mediated U4/U6 unwinding was strongly inhibited by mutations in U4/U6 di-snRNAs that diminish the ability of U6 snRNA to adopt an alternative conformation but leave the number and kind of U4/U6 base pairs unchanged. Irrespective of the presence of the cofactor, the helicase segregated a Prp3-Prp31-Snu13-U4/U6 RNP into an intact Prp31-Snu13-U4 snRNA particle, free Prp3, and free U6 snRNA. Together, these observations suggest that Brr2 translocates only a limited distance on the U4 snRNA strand and does not actively release RNA-bound proteins. Unwinding is then completed by the partially displaced U6 snRNA adopting an alternative conformation, which leads to dismantling of the Prp3-binding site on U4/U6 di-snRNA but leaves the Prp31- and Snu13-binding sites on U4 snRNA unaffected. In this fashion, Brr2 can activate the spliceosome by stripping U6 snRNA of all precatalytic binding partners, while minimizing logistic requirements for U4/U6 di-snRNP reassembly after splicing.