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RRE-Finder: A Genome-Mining Tool for Class-Independent RiPP Discovery

By Alexander Kloosterman, Kyle E Shelton, Gilles van Wezel, Marnix H Medema, Douglas A Mitchell

Posted 16 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.14.992123 (published DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00267-20)

Nearly half of the classes of natural products known as ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs) are reliant on a protein domain called the RiPP recognition element (RRE) for peptide maturation. The RRE binds specifically to a linear precursor peptide and directs the post-translational modification enzymes to their substrate. Given its prevalence across various types of RiPP biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), the RRE could theoretically be used as a bioinformatic handle to identify novel classes of RiPPs. In addition, due to the high affinity and specificity of most RRE:precursor peptide complexes, a thorough understanding of the RRE domain could be exploited for biotechnological applications. However, sequence divergence of the RRE domain across RiPP classes has precluded automated identification of RREs based solely on sequence similarity. Here, we introduce RRE-Finder, a novel tool for identifying RRE domains with high sensitivity. RRE-Finder can be used in precision mode to confidently identify RREs in a class-specific manner or in exploratory mode, which was designed to assist in the discovery of novel RiPP classes. RRE-Finder operating in precision mode on the UniProtKB protein database retrieved over 30,000 high-confidence RREs spanning all characterized RRE-dependent RiPP classes, as well as several yet-uncharacterized RiPP, putatively novel gene cluster architectures that will require future experimental work. Finally, RRE-Finder was used in precision mode to explore a possible evolutionary origin of the RRE domain. Altogether, RRE-Finder provides a powerful new method to probe RiPP biosynthetic diversity and delivers a rich dataset of RRE sequences that will provide a foundation for deeper biochemical studies into this intriguing and versatile protein domain.

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