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In PLoS computational biology

Catalysis and fidelity of multisubunit RNA polymerases rely on a highly conserved active site domain called the trigger loop (TL), which achieves roles in transcription through conformational changes and interaction with NTP substrates. The mutations of TL residues cause distinct effects on catalysis including hypo- and hyperactivity and altered fidelity. We applied molecular dynamics simulation (MD) and machine learning (ML) techniques to characterize TL mutations in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) system. We did so to determine relationships between individual mutations and phenotypes and to associate phenotypes with MD simulated structural alterations. Using fitness values of mutants under various stress conditions, we modeled phenotypes along a spectrum of continual values. We found that ML could predict the phenotypes with 0.68 R2 correlation from amino acid sequences alone. It was more difficult to incorporate MD data to improve predictions from machine learning, presumably because MD data is too noisy and possibly incomplete to directly infer functional phenotypes. However, a variational auto-encoder model based on the MD data allowed the clustering of mutants with different phenotypes based on structural details. Overall, we found that a subset of loss-of-function (LOF) and lethal mutations tended to increase distances of TL residues to the NTP substrate, while another subset of LOF and lethal substitutions tended to confer an increase in distances between TL and bridge helix (BH). In contrast, some of the gain-of-function (GOF) mutants appear to cause disruption of hydrophobic contacts among TL and nearby helices.

Dutagaci Bercem, Duan Bingbing, Qiu Chenxi, Kaplan Craig D, Feig Michael