Dynamic DNA-controlled “stop-and-go” assembly of well-defined protein domains on RNA-scaffolded TMV-like nanotubes†
A DNA-based approach allows external control over the self-assembly process of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)-like ribonucleoprotein nanotubes: their growth from viral coat protein (CP) subunits on five distinct RNA scaffolds containing the TMV origin of assembly (OAs) could be temporarily blocked by a stopper DNA oligomer hybridized downstream (3′) of the OAs. At two upstream (5′) sites tested, simple hybridization was not sufficient for stable stalling, which correlates with previous findings on a non-symmetric assembly of TMV. The growth of DNA-arrested particles could be restarted efficiently by displacement of the stopper via its toehold by using a release DNA oligomer, even after storage for twelve days. This novel strategy for growing proteinaceous tubes under tight kinetic and spatial control combines RNA guidance and its site-specific but reversible interruption by DNA blocking elements. As three of the RNA scaffolds contained long heterologous non-TMV sequence portions that included the stopping sites, this method is applicable to all RNAs amenable to TMV CP encapsidation, albeit with variable efficiency most likely depending on the scaffolds’ secondary structures. The use of two distinct, selectively addressable CP variants during the serial assembly stages finally enabled an externally configured fabrication of nanotubes with highly defined subdomains. The “stop-and-go” strategy thus might pave the way towards production routines of TMV-like particles with variable aspect ratios from a single RNA scaffold, and of nanotubes with two or even more adjacent protein domains of tightly pre-defined lengths.