The pseudoknot domain is a functionally crucial part of telomerase RNA and influences the activity and stability of the ribonucleoprotein complex. Autosomal dominant dyskeratosis congenita (DKC) is an inherited disease that is linked to mutations in telomerase RNA and impairs telomerase function. In this paper, we present a computational prediction of the influence of two base DKC mutations on the structure, dynamics, and stability of the pseudoknot domain. We use molecular dynamics simulations, MM-GBSA free energy calculations, static analysis, and melting simulations analysis. Our results show that the DKC mutations stabilize the hairpin form and destabilize the pseudoknot form of telomerase RNA. Moreover, the P3 region of the predicted DKC-mutated pseudoknot structure is unstable and fails to form as a defined helical stem. We directly compare our predictions with experimental observations by calculating the enthalpy of folding and melting profiles for each structure. The enthalpy values are in very good agreement with values determined by thermal denaturation experiments. The melting simulations and simulations at elevated temperatures show the existence of an intermediate structure, which involves the formation of two UU base pairs observed in the hairpin form of the pseudoknot domain.
Yingling YG, Shapiro BA. The impact of dyskeratosis congenita mutations on the structure and dynamics of the human telomerase RNA pseudoknot domain. J Biomol Struct Dyn. 2007 Feb;24(4):303-20. PubMed PMID: 17206847.