Roles of individual domains in the function of DHX29, an essential factor required for translation of structured mammalian mRNAs

On most eukaryotic mRNAs, initiation codon selection involves base-by-base inspection of 5′ UTRs by scanning ribosomal complexes. Although the eukaryotic initiation factors 4A/4B/4G can mediate scanning through medium-stability hairpins, scanning through more stable structures additionally requires DHX29, a member of the superfamily 2 DEAH/RNA helicase A (RHA) helicase family that binds to 40S subunits and possesses 40S-stimulated nucleoside triphosphatase (NTPase) activity. Here, sequence alignment and structural modeling indicated that DHX29 comprises a unique 534-aa–long N-terminal region (NTR), central catalytic RecA1/RecA2 domains containing a large insert in the RecA2 domain, and the C-terminal part, which includes winged-helix, ratchet, and oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding (OB) domains that are characteristic of DEAH/RHA helicases. Functional characterization revealed that specific ribosomal targeting is required for DHX29’s activity in initiation and is determined by elements that map to the NTR and to the N-terminal half of the winged-helix domain. The ribosome-binding determinant located in the NTR was identified as a putative double-stranded RNA-binding domain. Mutational analyses of RecA1/RecA2 domains confirmed the essential role of NTP hydrolysis for DHX29’s function in initiation and validated the significance of a β-hairpin protruding from RecA2. The large RecA2 insert played an autoinhibitory role in suppressing DHX29’s intrinsic NTPase activity but was not essential for its 40S-stimulated NTPase activity and function in initiation. Deletion of the OB domain also increased DHX29's basal NTPase activity, but more importantly, abrogated the responsiveness of the NTPase activity to stimulation, which abolished DHX29's function in initiation. This finding suggests that the OB domain, which is specific for DEAH/RHA helicases, plays an important role in their NTPase cycle.

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