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1.  The structure of Mycobacteria 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase, an essential enzyme, provides a platform for drug discovery 
The prevalence of tuberculosis, the prolonged and expensive treatment that this disease requires and an increase in drug resistance indicate an urgent need for new treatments. The 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate pathway of isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis is an attractive chemotherapeutic target because it occurs in many pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and is absent from humans. To underpin future drug development it is important to assess which enzymes in this biosynthetic pathway are essential in the actual pathogens and to characterize them.
The fifth enzyme of this pathway, encoded by ispF, is 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF). A two-step recombination strategy was used to construct ispF deletion mutants in M. tuberculosis but only wild-type double crossover strains were isolated. The chromosomal copy could be deleted when a second functional copy was provided on an integrating plasmid, demonstrating that ispF is an essential gene under the conditions tested thereby confirming its potential as a drug target. We attempted structure determination of the M. tuberculosis enzyme (MtIspF), but failed to obtain crystals. We instead analyzed the orthologue M. smegmatis IspF (MsIspF), sharing 73% amino acid sequence identity, at 2.2 Å resolution. The high level of sequence conservation is particularly pronounced in and around the active site. MsIspF is a trimer with a hydrophobic cavity at its center that contains density consistent with diphosphate-containing isoprenoids. The active site, created by two subunits, comprises a rigid CDP-Zn2+ binding pocket with a flexible loop to position the 2C-methyl-D-erythritol moiety of substrate. Sequence-structure comparisons indicate that the active site and interactions with ligands are highly conserved.
Our study genetically validates MtIspF as a therapeutic target and provides a model system for structure-based ligand design.
PMCID: PMC2151065  PMID: 17956607
2.  2C-Methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate enhances and sustains cyclodiphosphate synthase IspF activity 
ACS chemical biology  2012;7(10):1702-1710.
There is significant progress toward understanding catalysis throughout the essential MEP pathway to isoprenoids in human pathogens; however, little is known about pathway regulation. The present study begins by testing the hypothesis that isoprenoid biosynthesis is regulated via feedback inhibition of the fifth enzyme cyclodiphosphate IspF by downstream isoprenoid diphosphates. Here, we demonstrate recombinant E. coli IspF is not inhibited by downstream metabolites and isopentenyl diphosphate (IDP), dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMADP), geranyl diphosphate (GDP) and farnesyl diphosphate (FDP) under standard assay conditions. However, 2C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP), the product of reductoisomerase IspC and first committed MEP pathway intermediate, activates and sustains this enhanced IspF activity, and the IspF-MEP complex is inhibited by FDP. We further show that the methylerythritol scaffold itself, which is unique to this pathway, drives the activation and stabilization of active IspF. Our results suggest a novel feed-forward regulatory mechanism for 2Cmethyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MEcDP) production and support an isoprenoid biosynthesis regulatory mechanism via feedback inhibition of the IspF-MEP complex by FDP. The results have important implications for development of inhibitors against the IspF-MEP complex, which may be the physiologically relevant form of the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3477264  PMID: 22839733
cyclodiphosphate synthase; IspF; methylerythritol phosphate; MEP pathway regulation
3.  The Sorbitol Phosphotransferase System Is Responsible for Transport of 2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol into Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(2):473-480.
2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate is the first committed intermediate in the biosynthesis of the isoprenoid precursors isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. Supplementation of the growth medium with 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol has been shown to complement disruptions in the Escherichia coli gene for 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase, the enzyme that synthesizes the immediate precursor of 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate. In order to be utilized in isoprenoid biosynthesis, 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol must be phosphorylated. We describe the construction of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strain RMC26, in which the essential gene encoding 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase has been disrupted by insertion of a synthetic mevalonate operon consisting of the yeast ERG8, ERG12, and ERG19 genes, responsible for converting mevalonate to isopentenyl diphosphate under the control of an arabinose-inducible promoter. Random mutagenesis of RMC26 produced defects in the sorbitol phosphotransferase system that prevented the transport of 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol into the cell. RMC26 and mutant strains of RMC26 unable to grow on 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol were incubated in buffer containing mevalonate and deuterium-labeled 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol. Ubiquinone-8 was isolated from these cells and analyzed for deuterium content. Efficient incorporation of deuterium was observed for RMC26. However, there was no evidence of deuterium incorporation into the isoprenoid side chain of ubiquinone Q8 in the RMC26 mutants.
PMCID: PMC305747  PMID: 14702317
4.  Cloning and characterization of bifunctional enzyme farnesyl diphosphate/geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase from Plasmodium falciparum 
Malaria Journal  2013;12:184.
Isoprenoids are the most diverse and abundant group of natural products. In Plasmodium falciparum, isoprenoid synthesis proceeds through the methyl erythritol diphosphate pathway and the products are further metabolized by farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPPS), turning this enzyme into a key branch point of the isoprenoid synthesis. Changes in FPPS activity could alter the flux of isoprenoid compounds downstream of FPPS and, hence, play a central role in the regulation of a number of essential functions in Plasmodium parasites.
The isolation and cloning of gene PF3D7_18400 was done by amplification from cDNA from mixed stage parasites of P. falciparum. After sequencing, the fragment was subcloned in pGEX2T for recombinant protein expression. To verify if the PF3D7_1128400 gene encodes a functional rPfFPPS protein, its catalytic activity was assessed using the substrate [4-14C] isopentenyl diphosphate and three different allylic substrates: dimethylallyl diphosphate, geranyl diphosphate or farnesyl diphosphate. The reaction products were identified by thin layer chromatography and reverse phase high-performance liquid chromatography. To confirm the product spectrum formed of rPfFPPS, isoprenic compounds were also identified by mass spectrometry. Apparent kinetic constants KM and Vmax for each substrate were determined by Michaelis–Menten; also, inhibition assays were performed using risedronate.
The expressed protein of P. falciparum FPPS (rPfFPPS) catalyzes the synthesis of farnesyl diphosphate, as well as geranylgeranyl diphosphate, being therefore a bifunctional FPPS/geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (GGPPS) enzyme. The apparent KM values for the substrates dimethylallyl diphosphate, geranyl diphosphate and farnesyl diphosphate were, respectively, 68 ± 5 μM, 7.8 ± 1.3 μM and 2.06 ± 0.4 μM. The protein is expressed constitutively in all intra-erythrocytic stages of P. falciparum, demonstrated by using transgenic parasites with a haemagglutinin-tagged version of FPPS. Also, the present data demonstrate that the recombinant protein is inhibited by risedronate.
The rPfFPPS is a bifunctional FPPS/GGPPS enzyme and the structure of products FOH and GGOH were confirmed mass spectrometry. Plasmodial FPPS represents a potential target for the rational design of chemotherapeutic agents to treat malaria.
PMCID: PMC3679732  PMID: 23734739
Plasmodium falciparum; Malaria; Isoprenoids; Farnesyl diphosphate; Farnesyl diphosphate synthase; Geranylgeranyl diphosphate; Geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase
5.  Crystal structures of IspF from Plasmodium falciparum and Burkholderia cenocepacia: comparisons inform antimicrobial drug target assessment 
2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF) catalyzes the conversion of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2-phosphate to 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate and cytidine monophosphate in production of isoprenoid-precursors via the methylerythritol phosphate biosynthetic pathway. IspF is found in the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that causes cerebral malaria, as well as in many Gram-negative bacteria such as Burkholderia cenocepacia. IspF represents a potential target for development of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs since it is proven or inferred as essential in these pathogens and absent from mammals. Structural studies of IspF from these two important yet distinct pathogens, and comparisons with orthologues have been carried out to generate reagents, to support and inform a structure-based approach to early stage drug discovery.
Efficient recombinant protein production and crystallization protocols were developed, and high-resolution crystal structures of IspF from P. falciparum (Emphasis/Emphasis>IspF) and B. cenocepacia (BcIspF) in complex with cytidine nucleotides determined. Comparisons with orthologues, indicate a high degree of order and conservation in parts of the active site where Zn2+ is bound and where recognition of the cytidine moiety of substrate occurs. However, conformational flexibility is noted in that area of the active site responsible for binding the methylerythritol component of substrate. Unexpectedly, one structure of BcIspF revealed two molecules of cytidine monophosphate in the active site, and another identified citrate coordinating to the catalytic Zn2+. In both cases interactions with ligands appear to help order a flexible loop at one side of the active site. Difficulties were encountered when attempting to derive complex structures with other ligands.
High-resolution crystal structures of IspF from two important human pathogens have been obtained and compared to orthologues. The studies reveal new data on ligand binding, with citrate coordinating to the active site Zn2+ and when present in high concentrations cytidine monophosphate displays two binding modes in the active site. Ligand binding appears to order a part of the active site involved in substrate recognition. The high degree of structural conservation in and around the IspF active site suggests that any structural model might be suitable to support a program of structure-based drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3927217  PMID: 24410837
Antimicrobial drug target; Isoprenoid biosynthesis; X-ray crystallography; Zn2+-dependent enzyme
6.  A triclinic crystal form of Escherichia coli 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase and reassessment of the quaternary structure 
The structure of a triclinic crystal form of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase has been determined. Comparisons with a previously reported monoclinic crystal form raise questions about our knowledge of the quaternary structure of this enzyme.
4-Diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase (IspE; EC contributes to the 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate or mevalonate-independent biosynthetic pathway that produces the isomers isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate. These five-carbon compounds are the fundamental building blocks for the biosynthesis of isoprenoids. The mevalonate-independent pathway does not occur in humans, but is present and has been shown to be essential in many dangerous pathogens, i.e. Plasmodium species, which cause malaria, and Gram-negative bacteria. Thus, the enzymes involved in this pathway have attracted attention as potential drug targets. IspE produces 4-­diphosphos­phocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate by ATP-dependent phosphorylation of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol. A triclinic crystal structure of the Escherichia coli IspE–ADP complex with two molecules in the asymmetric unit was determined at 2 Å resolution and compared with a monoclinic crystal form of a ternary complex of E. coli IspE also with two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The molecular packing is different in the two forms. In the asymmetric unit of the triclinic crystal form the substrate-binding sites of IspE are occluded by structural elements of the partner, suggesting that the ‘triclinic dimer’ is an artefact of the crystal lattice. The surface area of interaction in the triclinic form is almost double that observed in the monoclinic form, implying that the dimeric assembly in the monoclinic form may also be an artifact of crystallization.
PMCID: PMC2833027  PMID: 20208151
mevalonate-independent pathway; isoprenoid biosynthesis; kinases
7.  Cytidine derivatives as IspF inhibitors of Burkolderia pseudomallei 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters  2013;23(24):10.1016/j.bmcl.2013.09.101.
Published biological data suggest that the methyl erythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway, a non-mevalonate isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway, is essential for certain bacteria and other infectious disease organisms. One highly conserved enzyme in the MEP pathway is 2C-methyl-D-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF). Fragment-bound complexes of IspF from Burkholderia pseudomallei were used to design and synthesize a series of molecules linking the cytidine moiety to different zinc pocket fragment binders. Testing by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) found one molecule in the series to possess binding affinity equal to that of cytidine diphosphate, despite lacking any metal-coordinating phosphate groups. Close inspection of the SPR data suggest different binding stoichiometries between IspF and test compounds. Crystallographic analysis shows important variations between the binding mode of one synthesized compound and the pose of the bound fragment from which it was designed. The binding modes of these molecules add to our structural knowledge base for IspF and suggest future refinements in this compound series.
PMCID: PMC3874807  PMID: 24157367
Fragment screening; MEP pathway; IspF; Non-mevalonate; Anti-infective; SPR
8.  Characterization of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis 4-Diphosphocytidyl-2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol Synthase: Potential for Drug Development▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):8922-8927.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis utilizes the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for biosynthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate and its isomer, dimethylallyl diphosphate, precursors of all isoprenoid compounds. This pathway is of interest as a source of new drug targets, as it is absent from humans and disruption of the responsible genes has shown a lethal phenotype for Escherichia coli. In the MEP pathway, 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol is formed from 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) and CTP in a reaction catalyzed by a 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol synthase (IspD). In the present work, we demonstrate that Rv3582c is essential for M. tuberculosis: Rv3582c has been cloned and expressed, and the encoded protein has been purified. The purified M. tuberculosis IspD protein was capable of catalyzing the formation of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol in the presence of MEP and CTP. The enzyme was active over a broad pH range (pH 6.0 to 9.0), with peak activity at pH 8.0. The activity was absolutely dependent upon divalent cations, with 20 mM Mg2+ being optimal, and replacement of CTP with other nucleotide 5′-triphosphates did not support activity. Under the conditions tested, M. tuberculosis IspD had Km values of 58.5 μM for MEP and 53.2 μM for CTP. Calculated kcat and kcat/Km values were 0.72 min−1 and 12.3 mM−1 min−1 for MEP and 1.0 min−1 and 18.8 mM−1 min−1 for CTP, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2168624  PMID: 17921290
9.  Trinuclear Metal Clusters in Catalysis by Terpenoid Synthases 
Terpenoid synthases are ubiquitous enzymes that catalyze the formation of structurally and stereochemically diverse isoprenoid natural products. Many isoprenoid coupling enzymes and terpenoid cyclases from bacteria, fungi, protists, plants, and animals share the class I terpenoid synthase fold. Despite generally low amino acid sequence identity among these examples, class I terpenoid synthases contain conserved metal binding motifs that coordinate to a trinuclear metal cluster. This cluster not only serves to bind and orient the flexible isoprenoid substrate in the precatalytic Michaelis complex, but it also triggers the departure of the diphosphate leaving group to generate a carbocation that initiates catalysis. Additional conserved hydrogen bond donors assist the metal cluster in this function. Crystal structure analysis reveals that the constellation of three metal ions required for terpenoid synthase catalysis is generally identical among all class I terpenoid synthases of known structure.
PMCID: PMC3090183  PMID: 21562622
enzyme catalysis; inorganic pyrophosphate; geranyl diphosphate; farnesyl diphosphate; Mg2+
10.  DXP synthase-catalyzed C-N bond formation: Nitroso substrate specificity studies guide selective inhibitor design 
1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) synthase catalyzes the first step in the non-mammalian isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway to form DXP from pyruvate and d-glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (d-GAP) in a thiamin diphosphate-dependent manner. Its unique structure and mechanism distinguish DXP synthase from its homologs, suggesting it should be pursued as an anti-infective drug target. However, few reports describe development of selective inhibitors of this enzyme. Here, we reveal a function of DXP synthase that catalyzes C-N bond formation and exploit aromatic nitroso substrates as active site probes. Substrate specificity studies reveal high affinity of DXP synthase for aromatic nitroso substrates compared to the related ThDP-dependent enzyme Pyruvate Dehydrogenase (PDH). Results from inhibition and mutagenesis studies indicate nitroso substrates bind to E. coli DXP synthase in a manner distinct from d-GAP. Our results suggest that incorporation of aryl acceptor substrate mimics into unnatural bisubstrate analogs will impart selectivity to DXP synthase inhibitors. As proof of concept, we show selective inhibition of DXP synthase by benzylacetylphosphonate (BnAP).
PMCID: PMC3767973  PMID: 23824585
enzyme inhibitors; kinetics; isoprenoid biosynthesis; substrate specificity; 1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) synthase
11.  A Structure-Based Approach to Ligand Discovery for 2C-Methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate Synthase: A Target for Antimicrobial Therapy† 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2009;52(8):2531-2542.
The nonmevalonate route to isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential in Gram-negative bacteria and apicomplexan parasites. The enzymes of this pathway are absent from mammals, contributing to their appeal as chemotherapeutic targets. One enzyme, 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF), has been validated as a target by genetic approaches in bacteria. Virtual screening against Escherichia coli IspF (EcIspF) was performed by combining a hierarchical filtering methodology with molecular docking. Docked compounds were inspected and 10 selected for experimental validation. A surface plasmon resonance assay was developed and two weak ligands identified. Crystal structures of EcIspF complexes were determined to support rational ligand development. Cytosine analogues and Zn2+-binding moieties were characterized. One of the putative Zn2+-binding compounds gave the lowest measured KD to date (1.92 ± 0.18 μM). These data provide a framework for the development of IspF inhibitors to generate lead compounds of therapeutic potential against microbial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2669732  PMID: 19320487
12.  Synthesis of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 2-phosphate and kinetic studies of Mycobacterium tuberculosis IspF, a potential drug target 
Chemistry & biology  2010;17(2):117-122.
Many pathogenic bacteria utilize the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway for the biosynthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate, two major building blocks of isoprenoid compounds. The fifth enzyme in the MEP pathway, 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate (ME-CPP) synthase (IspF), catalyzes the conversion of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 2-phosphate (CDP-ME2P) to ME-CPP with a corresponding release of cytidine 5-monophosphate (CMP). Since there is no ortholog of IspF in human cells IspF is of interest as a potential drug target. However, study of IspF has been hindered by a lack of enantiopure CDP-ME2P. Herein, we report the first synthesis of enantiomerically pure CDP-ME2P from commercially available D-arabinose. Cloned, expressed, and purified M. tuberculosis IspF was able to utilize the synthetic CDP-ME2P as a substrate, a result confirmed by mass spectrometry. A convenient, sensitive, in vitro IspF assay was developed by coupling the CMP released during production of ME-CPP to mononucleotide kinase, which can be used for high throughput screening.
PMCID: PMC2837070  PMID: 20189102
13.  A Versatile Photoactivatable Probe Designed to Label the Diphosphate Binding Site of Farnesyl Diphosphate Utilizing Enzymes 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2009;17(13):4797-4805.
Farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) is a substrate for a diverse number of enzymes found in nature. Photoactive analogues of isoprenoid diphosphates containing either benzophenone, diazotrifluropropionate or azide groups have been useful for studying both the enzymes that synthesize FPP as well as those that employ FPP as a substrate. Here we describe the synthesis and properties of a new class of FPP analogues that links an unmodified farnesyl group to a diphosphate mimic containing a photoactive benzophenone moiety; thus, importantly, these compounds are photoactive FPP analogues that contain no modifications of the isoprenoid portion of the molecule that may interfere with substrate binding in the active site of an FPP utilizing enzyme. Two isomeric compounds containing meta- and para-substituted benzophenones were prepared. These two analogues inhibit S. cerevisiae protein farnesyltransferase (ScPFTase) with IC50 values of 5.8 (meta isomer) and 3.0 µM (para isomer); the more potent analogue, the para isomer, was shown to be a competitive inhibitor of ScPFTase with respect to FPP with a KI of 0.46 µM. Radiolabeled forms of both analogues selectively labelled the β-subunit of ScPFTase. The para isomer was also shown to label E. coli farnesyl diphosphate synthase and Drosophila melanogaster farnesyl diphosphate synthase. Finally, the para isomer was shown to be an alternative substrate for a sesquiterpene synthase from Nostoc sp. strain PCC7120, a cyanobacterial source; the compound also labeled the purified enzyme upon photolysis. Taken together, these results using a number of enzymes demonstrate that this new class of probes should be useful for a plethora of studies of FPP-utilizing enzymes.
PMCID: PMC2774786  PMID: 19447628
Benzophenone; Farnesyl Transferase; Farnesyl Diphosphate Synthase; Sesquiterpene Cyclase; Photoaffinity Labeling
14.  Unexpected reactivity of 2-fluorolinalyl diphosphate in the active site of crystalline 2-methylisoborneol synthase 
Biochemistry  2013;52(31):10.1021/bi400797c.
The crystal structure of 2-methylisoborneol synthase (MIBS) from Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) has been determined in its unliganded state and in complex with 2 Mg2+ ions and cis-2-fluorogeranyl diphosphate at 1.85 Å and 2.00 Å resolution, respectively. Under normal circumstances, MIBS catalyzes the cyclization of the naturally-occurring, non-canonical 11-carbon isoprenoid substrate, 2-methylgeranyl diphosphate, which first undergoes an ionization-isomerization-ionization sequence through the tertiary diphosphate intermediate 2-methyllinalyl diphosphate to enable subsequent cyclization chemistry. MIBS does not exhibit catalytic activity with 2-fluorogeranyl diphosphate, and we recently reported the crystal structure of MIBS complexed with this unreactive substrate analogue [Köksal, M., Chou, W. K. W., Cane, D. E., Christianson, D. W. (2012) Biochemistry 51, 3011–3020]. However, cocrystallization of MIBS with the fluorinated analogue of the tertiary allylic diphosphate intermediate, 2-fluorolinalyl diphosphate, reveals unexpected reactivity for the intermediate analogue and yields the crystal structure of the complex with the primary allylic diphosphate, 2-fluoroneryl diphosphate. Comparison with the structure of the unliganded enzyme reveals that the crystalline enzyme active site remains partially open, presumably due to the binding of only 2 Mg2+ ions. Assays in solution indicate that MIBS catalyzes the generation of (1R)-(+)-camphor from the substrate 2-fluorolinalyl diphosphate, suggesting that both 2-fluorolinalyl diphosphate and 2-methyllinalyl diphosphate follow the identical cyclization mechanism leading to 2-substituted isoborneol products; however, the initially generated 2-fluoroisoborneol cyclization product is unstable and undergoes elimination of hydrogen fluoride to yield (1R)-(+)-camphor.
PMCID: PMC3859731  PMID: 23844678
15.  Leveraging structure determination with fragment screening for infectious disease drug targets: MECP synthase from Burkholderia pseudomallei 
As part of the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease, we seek to enhance structural genomics with ligand-bound structure data which can serve as a blueprint for structure-based drug design. We have adapted fragment-based screening methods to our structural genomics pipeline to generate multiple ligand-bound structures of high priority drug targets from pathogenic organisms. In this study, we report fragment screening methods and structure determination results for 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclo-diphosphate (MECP) synthase from Burkholderia pseudomallei, the gram-negative bacterium which causes melioidosis. Screening by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy as well as crystal soaking followed by X-ray diffraction led to the identification of several small molecules which bind this enzyme in a critical metabolic pathway. A series of complex structures obtained with screening hits reveal distinct binding pockets and a range of small molecules which form complexes with the target. Additional soaks with these compounds further demonstrate a subset of fragments to only bind the protein when present in specific combinations. This ensemble of fragment-bound complexes illuminates several characteristics of MECP synthase, including a previously unknown binding surface external to the catalytic active site. These ligand-bound structures now serve to guide medicinal chemists and structural biologists in rational design of novel inhibitors for this enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3123455  PMID: 21359640
SSGCID; Infectious disease; NMR; X-ray crystallography; Fragment-based screening; MEP pathway; MECP synthase; IspF; Burkholderia pseudomallei
16.  X-ray structures of isopentenyl phosphate kinase 
ACS chemical biology  2010;5(5):517-527.
Isoprenoid compounds are ubiquitous in nature, participating in important biological phenomena such as signal transduction, aerobic cellular respiration, photosynthesis, insect communication, and many others. They are derived from the 5-carbon isoprenoid substrates isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and its isomer dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). In Archaea and Eukarya, these building blocks are synthesized via the mevalonate pathway. However, the genes required to convert mevalonate phosphate (MP) to IPP are missing in several species of Archaea. An enzyme with isopentenyl phosphate kinase (IPK) activity was recently discovered in Methanocaldococcus jannaschii (MJ), suggesting a departure from the classical sequence of converting MP to IPP. We have determined the high-resolution crystal structures of isopentenyl phosphate kinases in complex with both substrates and products from Thermoplasma acidophilum (THA), as well as the IPK from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus (MTH), by means of single-wavelength anomalous diffraction (SAD) and molecular replacement. A histidine residue (His50) in THA IPK makes a hydrogen bond with the terminal phosphates of IP and IPP, poising these molecules for phosphoryl transfer through an in-line geometry. Moreover, a lysine residue (Lys14) makes hydrogen bonds with non-bridging oxygen atoms at Pα and Pγ and with the Pβ- Pγ bridging oxygen atom in ATP. These interactions suggest a transition state-stabilizing role for this residue. Lys14 is a part of a newly discovered “lysine triangle” catalytic motif in IPK’s that also includes Lys5 and Lys205. Moreover, His50, Lys5, Lys14, and Lys205 are conserved in all IPK’s and can therefore serve as fingerprints for identifying new homologues.
PMCID: PMC2879073  PMID: 20402538
17.  Mutagenesis of Isopentenyl Phosphate Kinase to Enhance Geranyl Phosphate Kinase Activity 
ACS chemical biology  2012;7(7):10.1021/cb300106e.
Isopentenyl phosphate kinase (IPK) catalyzes the ATP-dependent phosphorylation of isopentenyl phosphate (IP) to form isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) during biosynthesis of isoprenoid metabolites in Archaea. The structure of IPK from the archeaon Thermoplasma acidophilum (THA) was recently reported and guided the reconstruction of the IP binding site to accommodate the longer chain isoprenoid monophosphates geranyl phosphate (GP) and farnesyl phosphate (FP). We created four mutants of THA IPK with different combinations of alanine substitutions for Tyr70, Val73, Val130 and Ile140, amino acids with bulky side chains that limited the size of the side chain of the isoprenoid phosphate substrate that could be accommodated in the active site. The mutants had substantially increased GP kinase activity, with 20 to 200–fold increases in kcatGP and 30–130–fold increases in kcatGP/KMGP relative to that of wild type THA IPK. The mutations also resulted in a 106–fold drop in kcatIP/KMIP compared to wild-type IPK. No significant change in the kinetic parameters for the cosubstrate ATP were observed, signifying that binding between the nucleotide binding site and the IP binding site was not cooperative. The shift in substrate selectivity from IP to GP, and to a lesser extent, FP, in the mutants could act as a starting point for the creation of more efficient GP or FP kinases whose products could be exploited for the chemoenzymatic synthesis of radiolabeled isoprenoid diphosphates.
PMCID: PMC3856688  PMID: 22533411
18.  Toxoplasma gondii Relies on Both Host and Parasite Isoprenoids and Can Be Rendered Sensitive to Atorvastatin 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003665.
Intracellular pathogens have complex metabolic interactions with their host cells to ensure a steady supply of energy and anabolic building blocks for rapid growth. Here we use the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii to probe this interaction for isoprenoids, abundant lipidic compounds essential to many cellular processes including signaling, trafficking, energy metabolism, and protein translation. Synthesis of precursors for isoprenoids in Apicomplexa occurs in the apicoplast and is essential. To synthesize longer isoprenoids from these precursors, T. gondii expresses a bifunctional farnesyl diphosphate/geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (TgFPPS). In this work we construct and characterize T. gondii null mutants for this enzyme. Surprisingly, these mutants have only a mild growth phenotype and an isoprenoid composition similar to wild type parasites. However, when extracellular, the loss of the enzyme becomes phenotypically apparent. This strongly suggests that intracellular parasite salvage FPP and/or geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) from the host. We test this hypothesis using inhibitors of host cell isoprenoid synthesis. Mammals use the mevalonate pathway, which is susceptible to statins. We document strong synergy between statin treatment and pharmacological or genetic interference with the parasite isoprenoid pathway. Mice can be cured with atorvastatin (Lipitor) from a lethal infection with the TgFPPs mutant. We propose a double-hit strategy combining inhibitors of host and parasite pathways as a novel therapeutic approach against Apicomplexan parasites.
Author Summary
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite and is not able to replicate outside the host cell. The parasite lives in a specialized parasitophorous vacuole in contact with the host cytoplasm through the parasitophorous vacuole membrane. It is highly likely that a very active exchange of metabolites occurs between parasite and host cell. We present evidence for this exchange for isoprenoids, abundant lipidic compounds essential to many cellular processes including signaling, trafficking, energy metabolism, and protein translation. Our work shows that intracellular T. gondii tachyzoites are able to salvage farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) and/or geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) from the host, and the parasite is able to grow even when its endogenous production is shut down. However, when extracellular, the parasite depends entirely on its own production of isoprenoids. We propose to use a combination of inhibitors that would hit both the host and the parasite pathways as a novel therapeutic approach against Toxoplasma gondii that could also work against other Apicomplexan parasites.
PMCID: PMC3798403  PMID: 24146616
19.  1-Deoxy-d-Xylulose 5-Phosphate Synthase, the Gene Product of Open Reading Frame (ORF) 2816 and ORF 2895 in Rhodobacter capsulatus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(1):1-11.
In eubacteria, green algae, and plant chloroplasts, isopentenyl diphosphate, a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of isoprenoids, is synthesized by the methylerythritol phosphate pathway. The five carbons of the basic isoprenoid unit are assembled by joining pyruvate and d-glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate. The reaction is catalyzed by the thiamine diphosphate-dependent enzyme 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase. In Rhodobacter capsulatus, two open reading frames (ORFs) carry the genes that encode 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase. ORF 2816 is located in the photosynthesis-related gene cluster, along with most of the genes required for synthesis of the photosynthetic machinery of the bacterium, whereas ORF 2895 is located elsewhere in the genome. The proteins encoded by ORF 2816 and ORF 2895, 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase A and B, containing a His6 tag, were synthesized in Escherichia coli and purified to greater than 95% homogeneity in two steps. 1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase A appears to be a homodimer with 68 kDa subunits. A new assay was developed, and the following steady-state kinetic constants were determined for 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase A and B: Kmpyruvate = 0.61 and 3.0 mM, Kmd-glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate = 150 and 120 μM, and Vmax = 1.9 and 1.4 μmol/min/mg in 200 mM sodium citrate (pH 7.4). The ORF encoding 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase B complemented the disrupted essential dxs gene in E. coli strain FH11.
PMCID: PMC94844  PMID: 11114895
20.  Mutation of Archaeal Isopentenyl Phosphate Kinase Highlights Mechanism and Guides Phosphorylation of Additional Isoprenoid Monophosphates 
ACS Chemical Biology  2010;5(6):589-601.
The biosynthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) from either the mevalonate (MVA) or the 1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) pathway provides the key metabolite for primary and secondary isoprenoid biosynthesis. Isoprenoid metabolism plays crucial roles in membrane stability, steroid biosynthesis, vitamin production, protein localization, defense and communication, photoprotection, sugar transport, and glycoprotein biosynthesis. Recently, an alternative branch of the MVA pathway was discovered in the archaeon Methanocaldococcus jannaschii involving a small molecule kinase, isopentenyl phosphate kinase (IPK). IPK belongs to the amino acid kinase (AAK) superfamily. In vitro, IPK phosphorylates isopentenyl monophosphate (IP) in an ATP and Mg2+-dependent reaction producing IPP. Here, we describe crystal structures of IPK from M. jannaschii refined to nominal resolutions of 2.0−2.8 Å. Notably, an active site histidine residue (His60) forms a hydrogen bond with the terminal phosphate of both substrate and product. This His residue serves as a marker for a subset of the AAK family that catalyzes phosphorylation of phosphate or phosphonate functional groups; the larger family includes carboxyl-directed kinases, which lack this active site residue. Using steady-state kinetic analysis of H60A, H60N, and H60Q mutants, the protonated form of the Nε2 nitrogen of His60 was shown to be essential for catalysis, most likely through hydrogen bond stabilization of the transition state accompanying transphosphorylation. Moreover, the structures served as the starting point for the engineering of IPK mutants capable of the chemoenzymatic synthesis of longer chain isoprenoid diphosphates from monophosphate precursors.
PMCID: PMC2887675  PMID: 20392112
21.  A photoactive isoprenoid diphosphate analogue containing a stable phosphonate linkage: synthesis and biochemical studies with prenyltransferases 
The Journal of organic chemistry  2007;72(13):4587-4595.
A number of biochemical processes rely on isoprenoids, including the post-translational modification of signaling proteins and the biosynthesis of a wide array of compounds. Photoactivatable analogues have been developed to study isoprenoid utilizing enzymes such as the isoprenoid synthases and prenyltransferases. While these initial analogues proved to be excellent structural analogues with good cross linking capability, they lack the stability needed when the goals include isolation of cross-linked species, tryptic digestion, and subsequent peptide sequencing. Here, the synthesis of a benzophenone-based farnesyl diphosphate analogue containing a stable phosphonophosphate group is described. Inhibition kinetics, photolabeling experiments, as well as x-ray crystallographic analysis with a protein prenyltransferase are described, verifying this compound as a good isoprenoid mimetic. In addition, the utility of this new analogue was explored by using it to photoaffinity label crude protein extracts obtained from Hevea brasiliensis latex. Those experiments suggest that a small protein, Rubber Elongation Factor, interacts directly with farnesyl diphosphate during rubber biosynthesis. These results indicate that this benzophenone-based isoprenoid analogue will be useful for identifying enzymes that utilize farnesyl diphosphate as a substrate.
PMCID: PMC2561318  PMID: 17477573
22.  Structure of geranyl diphosphate C-methyltransferase from Streptomyces coelicolor and implications for the mechanism of isoprenoid modification† 
Biochemistry  2012;51(14):3003-3010.
Geranyl diphosphate C-methyltransferase (GPPMT) from Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) is the first methyltransferase discovered that modifies an acyclic isoprenoid diphosphate, geranyl diphosphate (GPP), to yield a non-canonical acyclic allylic diphosphate product, 2-methylgeranyl diphosphate, which serves as the substrate for a subsequent cyclization reaction catalyzed by a terpenoid cyclase, methylisoborneol synthase. Here, we report the crystal structures of GPPMT in complex with GPP or the substrate analogue geranyl-S-thiolodiphosphate (GSPP) along with S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine in the cofactor binding site, resulting from in situ demethylation of S-adenosyl-l-methionine, at 2.05 Å and 1.82 Å resolution, respectively. These structures suggest that both GPP and GSPP can undergo catalytic methylation in crystalline GPPMT, followed by dissociation of the isoprenoid product. S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine remains bound in the active site, however, and does not exchange with a fresh molecule of cofactor S-adenosyl-l-methionine. These structures provide important clues regarding the molecular mechanism of the reaction, especially with regard to the face of the 2,3 double bond of GPP that is methylated as well as the stabilization of the resulting carbocation intermediate through cation-π interactions.
PMCID: PMC3323675  PMID: 22455498
23.  Metabolite Profiling Identified Methylerythritol Cyclodiphosphate Efflux as a Limiting Step in Microbial Isoprenoid Production 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e47513.
Isoprenoids are natural products that are all derived from isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP). These precursors are synthesized either by the mevalonate (MVA) pathway or the 1-Deoxy-D-Xylulose 5-Phosphate (DXP) pathway. Metabolic engineering of microbes has enabled overproduction of various isoprenoid products from the DXP pathway including lycopene, artemisinic acid, taxadiene and levopimaradiene. To date, there is no method to accurately measure all the DXP metabolic intermediates simultaneously so as to enable the identification of potential flux limiting steps. In this study, a solid phase extraction coupled with ultra performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (SPE UPLC-MS) method was developed. This method was used to measure the DXP intermediates in genetically engineered E. coli. Unexpectedly, methylerythritol cyclodiphosphate (MEC) was found to efflux when certain enzymes of the pathway were over-expressed, demonstrating the existence of a novel competing pathway branch in the DXP metabolism. Guided by these findings, ispG was overexpressed and was found to effectively reduce the efflux of MEC inside the cells, resulting in a significant increase in downstream isoprenoid production. This study demonstrated the necessity to quantify metabolites enabling the identification of a hitherto unrecognized pathway and provided useful insights into rational design in metabolic engineering.
PMCID: PMC3487848  PMID: 23133596
24.  Geranylgeranyl Diphosphate Synthase in Fission Yeast Is a Heteromer of Farnesyl Diphosphate Synthase (FPS), Fps1, and an FPS-like Protein, Spo9, Essential for Sporulation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(9):3568-3581.
Both farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPS) and geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (GGPS) are key enzymes in the synthesis of various isoprenoid-containing compounds and proteins. Here, we describe two novel Schizosaccharomyces pombe genes, fps1+ and spo9+, whose products are similar to FPS in primary structure, but whose functions differ from one another. Fps1 is essential for vegetative growth, whereas, a spo9 null mutant exhibits temperature-sensitive growth. Expression of fps1+, but not spo9+, suppresses the lethality of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae FPS-deficient mutant and also restores ubiquinone synthesis in an Escherichia coli ispA mutant, which lacks FPS activity, indicating that S. pombe Fps1 in fact functions as an FPS. In contrast to a typical FPS gene, no apparent GGPS homologues have been found in the S. pombe genome. Interestingly, although neither fps1+ nor spo9+ expression alone in E. coli confers clear GGPS activity, coexpression of both genes induces such activity. Moreover, the GGPS activity is significantly reduced in the spo9 mutant. In addition, the spo9 mutation perturbs the membrane association of a geranylgeranylated protein, but not that of a farnesylated protein. Yeast two-hybrid and coimmunoprecipitation analyses indicate that Fps1 and Spo9 physically interact. Thus, neither Fps1 nor Spo9 alone functions as a GGPS, but the two proteins together form a complex with GGPS activity. Because spo9 was originally identified as a sporulation-deficient mutant, we show here that expansion of the forespore membrane is severely inhibited in spo9Δ cells. Electron microscopy revealed significant accumulation membrane vesicles in spo9Δ cells. We suggest that lack of GGPS activity in a spo9 mutant results in impaired protein prenylation in certain proteins responsible for secretory function, thereby inhibiting forespore membrane formation.
PMCID: PMC1951748  PMID: 17596513
25.  Crystal Structure of (+)-δ-Cadinene Synthase from Gossypium arboreum and Evolutionary Divergence of Metal Binding Motifs for Catalysis†,‡ 
Biochemistry  2009;48(26):6175-6183.
(+)-δ-Cadinene synthase (DCS) from Gossypium arboreum (tree cotton) is a sesquiterpene cyclase that catalyzes the cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate in the first committed step of the biosynthesis of gossypol, a phytoalexin that defends the plant from bacterial and fungal pathogens. Here, we report the X-ray crystal structure of unliganded DCS at 2.4 Å resolution and the structure of its complex with three putative Mg2+ ions and the substrate analogue inhibitor 2-fluorofarnesyl diphosphate (2F-FPP) at 2.75 Å resolution. These structures illuminate unusual features that accommodate the trinuclear metal cluster required for substrate binding and catalysis. Like other terpenoid cyclases, DCS contains a characteristic aspartate-rich motif D307DTYD311 on helix D that interacts with Mg2+A and Mg2+C. However, DCS appears to be unique among terpenoid cyclases in that it does not contain the “NSE/DTE” motif on helix H that specifically chelates Mg2+B, which is usually found as the signature sequence (N, D)D(L, I, V)X(S, T)XXXE (boldface indicates Mg2+B ligands). Instead, DCS contains a second aspartate-rich motif, D451DVAE455, that interacts with Mg2+B. In this regard, DCS is more similar to the isoprenoid chain elongation enzyme farnesyl diphosphate synthase, which also contains two aspartate-rich motifs, rather than the greater family of terpenoid cyclases. Nevertheless, the structure of the DCS-2F-FPP complex shows that the structure of the trinuclear magnesium cluster is generally similar to that of other terpenoid cyclases despite the alternative Mg2+B-binding motif. Analyses of DCS mutants with alanine substitutions in the D307DTYD311 and D451DVAE455 segments reveal the contributions of these segments to catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2714943  PMID: 19489610

Results 1-25 (795872)