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1.  Characterization of Native and Recombinant Forms of an Unusual Cobalt-Dependent Proline Dipeptidase (Prolidase) from the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(18):4781-4789.
Proline dipeptidase (prolidase) was purified from cell extracts of the proteolytic, hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus by multistep chromatography. The enzyme is a homodimer (39.4 kDa per subunit) and as purified contains one cobalt atom per subunit. Its catalytic activity also required the addition of Co2+ ions (Kd, 0.24 mM), indicating that the enzyme has a second metal ion binding site. Co2+ could be replaced by Mn2+ (resulting in a 25% decrease in activity) but not by Mg2+, Ca2+, Fe2+, Zn2+, Cu2+, or Ni2+. The prolidase exhibited a narrow substrate specificity and hydrolyzed only dipeptides with proline at the C terminus and a nonpolar amino acid (Met, Leu, Val, Phe, or Ala) at the N terminus. Optimal prolidase activity with Met-Pro as the substrate occurred at a pH of 7.0 and a temperature of 100°C. The N-terminal amino acid sequence of the purified prolidase was used to identify in the P. furiosus genome database a putative prolidase-encoding gene with a product corresponding to 349 amino acids. This gene was expressed in Escherichia coli and the recombinant protein was purified. Its properties, including molecular mass, metal ion dependence, pH and temperature optima, substrate specificity, and thermostability, were indistinguishable from those of the native prolidase from P. furiosus. Furthermore, the Km values for the substrate Met-Pro were comparable for the native and recombinant forms, although the recombinant enzyme exhibited a twofold greater Vmax value than the native protein. The amino acid sequence of P. furiosus prolidase has significant similarity with those of prolidases from mesophilic organisms, but the enzyme differs from them in its substrate specificity, thermostability, metal dependency, and response to inhibitors. The P. furiosus enzyme appears to be the second Co-containing member (after methionine aminopeptidase) of the binuclear N-terminal exopeptidase family.
PMCID: PMC107500  PMID: 9733678
2.  Crystal Structural and Functional Analysis of the Putative Dipeptidase from Pyrococcus horikoshii OT3 
Journal of Biophysics  2009;2009:434038.
The crystal structure of a putative dipeptidase (Phdpd) from Pyrococcus horikoshii OT3 was solved using X-ray data at 2.4 Å resolution. The protein is folded into two distinct entities. The N-terminal domain consists of the general topology of the α/β fold, and the C-terminal domain consists of five long mixed strands, four helices, and two 310 helices. The structure of Phdpd is quite similar to reported structures of prolidases from P. furiosus (Zn-Pfprol) and P. horikoshii (Zn-Phdpd), where Zn ions are observed in the active site resulting in an inactive form. However, Phdpd did not contain metals in the crystal structure and showed prolidase activity in the absence of additional Co ions, whereas the specific activities increased by 5 times in the presence of a sufficient concentration (1.2 mM) of Co ions. The substrate specificities (X-Pro) of Phdpd were broad compared with those of Zn-Phdpd in the presence of Co ions, whose relative activities are 10% or less for substrates other than Met-Pro, which is the most favorable substrate. The binding constants of Zn-Phdpd with three metals (Zn, Co, and Mn) were higher than those of Phdpd and that with Zn was higher by greater than 2 orders, which were determined by DSC experiments. From the structural comparison of both forms and the above experimental results, it could be elucidated why the protein with Zn2+ ions is inactive.
PMCID: PMC2814137  PMID: 20130794
3.  Kinetic and Structural Evidences on Human Prolidase Pathological Mutants Suggest Strategies for Enzyme Functional Rescue 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58792.
Prolidase is the only human enzyme responsible for the digestion of iminodipeptides containing proline or hydroxyproline at their C-terminal end, being a key player in extracellular matrix remodeling. Prolidase deficiency (PD) is an intractable loss of function disease, characterized by mutations in the prolidase gene. The exact causes of activity impairment in mutant prolidase are still unknown. We generated three recombinant prolidase forms, hRecProl-231delY, hRecProl-E412K and hRecProl-G448R, reproducing three mutations identified in homozygous PD patients. The enzymes showed very low catalytic efficiency, thermal instability and changes in protein conformation. No variation of Mn(II) cofactor affinity was detected for hRecProl-E412K; a compromised ability to bind the cofactor was found in hRecProl-231delY and Mn(II) was totally absent in hRecProl-G448R. Furthermore, local structure perturbations for all three mutants were predicted by in silico analysis. Our biochemical investigation of the three causative alleles identified in perturbed folding/instability, and in consequent partial prolidase degradation, the main reasons for enzyme inactivity. Based on the above considerations we were able to rescue part of the prolidase activity in patients’ fibroblasts through the induction of Heath Shock Proteins expression, hinting at new promising avenues for PD treatment.
PMCID: PMC3596340  PMID: 23516557
4.  Structural Basis of Substrate Selectivity of E. coli Prolidase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111531.
Prolidases, metalloproteases that catalyze the cleavage of Xaa-Pro dipeptides, are conserved enzymes found in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In humans, prolidase is crucial for the recycling of collagen. To further characterize the essential elements of this enzyme, we utilized the Escherichia coli prolidase, PepQ, which shares striking similarity with eukaryotic prolidases. Through structural and bioinformatic insights, we have extended previous characterizations of the prolidase active site, uncovering a key component for substrate specificity. Here we report the structure of E. coli PepQ, solved at 2.0 Å resolution. The structure shows an antiparallel, dimeric protein, with each subunit containing N-terminal and C-terminal domains. The C-terminal domain is formed by the pita-bread fold typical for this family of metalloproteases, with two Mg(II) ions coordinated by five amino-acid ligands. Comparison of the E. coli PepQ structure and sequence with homologous structures and sequences from a diversity of organisms reveals distinctions between prolidases from Gram-positive eubacteria and archaea, and those from Gram-negative eubacteria, including the presence of loop regions in the E. coli protein that are conserved in eukaryotes. One such loop contains a completely conserved arginine near the catalytic site. This conserved arginine is predicted by docking simulations to interact with the C-terminus of the substrate dipeptide. Kinetic analysis using both a charge-neutralized substrate and a charge-reversed variant of PepQ support this conclusion, and allow for the designation of a new role for this key region of the enzyme active site.
PMCID: PMC4213023  PMID: 25354344
5.  Cloning and expression of a gene encoding a bacterial enzyme for decontamination of organophosphorus nerve agents and nucleotide sequence of the enzyme. 
Organophosphorus acid (OPA) anhydrolase enzymes have been found in a wide variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. Interest in these enzymes has been prompted by their ability to catalyze the hydrolysis of toxic organophosphorus cholinesterase-inhibiting compounds, including pesticides and chemical nerve agents. The natural substrates for these enzymes are unknown. The gene (opaA) which encodes an OPA anhydrolase (OPAA-2) was isolated from an Alteromonas sp. strain JD6.5 EcoRI-lambda ZAPII chromosomal library expressed in Escherichia coli and identified by immunodetection with anti-OPAA-2 serum. OPA anhydrolase activity expressed by the immunopositive recombinant clones was demonstrated by using diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP) as a substrate. A comparison of the recombinant enzyme with native, purified OPAA-2 showed they had the same apparent molecular mass (60 kDa), antigenic properties, and enzyme activity against DFP and the chemical nerve agents sarin, soman, and O-cyclohexyl methylphosphonofluoridate. The gene expressing this activity was found in a 1.74-kb PstI-HindIII fragment of the original 6.1-kb EcoRI DNA insert. The nucleotide sequence of this PstI-HindIII fragment revealed an open reading frame of 1,551 nucleotides, coding for a protein of 517 amino acid residues. Amino acid sequence comparison of OPAA-2 with the protein database showed that OPAA-2 is similar to a 647-amino-acid sequence produced by an open reading frame which appears to be the E. coli pepQ gene. Further comparison of OPAA-2, the E. coli PepQ protein sequence, E. coli aminopeptidase P, and human prolidase showed regions of different degrees of similarity or functionally conserved amino acid substitutions. These findings, along with preliminary data confirming the presence of prolidase activity expressed by OPAA-2, suggest that the OPAA-2 enzyme may, in nature, be used in peptide metabolism.
PMCID: PMC167937  PMID: 8633861
6.  The First Agmatine/Cadaverine Aminopropyl Transferase: Biochemical and Structural Characterization of an Enzyme Involved in Polyamine Biosynthesis in the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(16):6057-6067.
We report here the characterization of the first agmatine/cadaverine aminopropyl transferase (ACAPT), the enzyme responsible for polyamine biosynthesis from an archaeon. The gene PF0127 encoding ACAPT in the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant protein was purified to homogeneity. P. furiosus ACAPT is a homodimer of 65 kDa. The broad substrate specificity of the enzyme toward the amine acceptors is unique, as agmatine, 1,3-diaminopropane, putrescine, cadaverine, and sym-nor-spermidine all serve as substrates. While maximal catalytic activity was observed with cadaverine, agmatine was the preferred substrate on the basis of the kcat/Km value. P. furiosus ACAPT is thermoactive and thermostable with an apparent melting temperature of 108°C that increases to 112°C in the presence of cadaverine. Limited proteolysis indicated that the only proteolytic cleavage site is localized in the C-terminal region and that the C-terminal peptide is not necessary for the integrity of the active site. The crystal structure of the enzyme determined to 1.8-Å resolution confirmed its dimeric nature and provided insight into the proteolytic analyses as well as into mechanisms of thermal stability. Analysis of the polyamine content of P. furiosus showed that spermidine, cadaverine, and sym-nor-spermidine are the major components, with small amounts of sym-nor-spermine and N-(3-aminopropyl)cadaverine (APC). This is the first report in Archaea of an unusual polyamine APC that is proposed to play a role in stress adaptation.
PMCID: PMC1952034  PMID: 17545282
7.  Influence of intermolecular contacts on the structure of recombinant prolidase from Thermococcus sibiricus  
The structure of recombinant prolidase from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus sibiricus (Tsprol) was determined at 2.6 Å resolution.
Prolidases are peptidases that are specific for dipeptides with proline as the second residue. The structure of recombinant prolidase from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus sibiricus (Tsprol) was determined at 2.6 Å resolution. The homodimer of Tsprol is characterized by a complete lack of interactions between the N- and C-terminal domains of the two subunits and hence can be considered to be the most open structure when compared with previously structurally studied prolidases. This structure exists owing to intermolecular coordination bonds between cadmium ions derived from the crystallization solution and histidine residues of a His tag and aspartate and glutamate residues, which link the dimers to each other. This linking leads to the formation of a crystal with a loose packing of protein molecules and low resistance to mechanical influence and temperature increase.
PMCID: PMC3515363  PMID: 23143231
His tag; cadmium ions; prolidases; Thermococcus sibiricus
8.  The opiorphin gene (ProL1) and its homologues function in erectile physiology 
BJU international  2008;102(6):736-740.
To determine if ProL1, a member of the opiorphin family of genes, can modulate erectile physiology, as it encodes a peptide which acts as a neutral endopeptidase inhibitor, other examples of which (Vcsa1, hSMR3A) modulate erectile physiology.
We cloned members of the opiorphin family of genes into the same mammalian expression backbone (pVAX); 100 μg of these plasmids (pVAX-Vcsa1, -hSMR3A, -hSMR3B and -ProL1) were injected intracorporally into retired breeder rats and the affect on erectile physiology assessed visually, by histology and by measuring the intracavernous pressure (ICP) and blood pressure (BP). As a positive control, rats were treated with pVAX-hSlo (expressing the MaxiK potassium channel) and as a negative control the empty backbone plasmid was injected (pVAX). We also compared the level of expression of ProL1 in corporal tissue of patients not reporting erectile dysfunction (ED), ED associated with diabetes and ED not caused by diabetes.
Gene transfer of plasmids expressing all members of the opiorphin family had a similar and significant effect on erectile physiology. At the concentration used in these experiments (100 μg) they resulted in higher resting ICP, and histological and visual analysis showed evidence of a priapiclike condition. After electrostimulation of the cavernous nerve, rats had significantly better ICP/BP than the negative control (pVAX). Gene transfer of pVAX-hSlo increased the ICP/BP ratio to a similar extent to the opiorphin homologues, but with no evidence for a priapic-like condition. Corpora cavernosa tissue samples obtained from men with ED, regardless of underlying causes, had significant down-regulation of both hSMR3A and ProL1.
All members of the human opiorphin family of genes can potentially modulate erectile physiology. Both hSMR3 and ProL1 are down-regulated in the corpora of men with ED, and therefore both genes can potentially act as markers of ED.
PMCID: PMC2872073  PMID: 18410445
Vcsa1; hSMR3; ProL1; opiorphin; erectile dysfunction; priapism
9.  Crystal Structures of Brain Group-VIII Phospholipase A2 in Non-aged Complexes with the Organophosphorus Nerve Agents Soman and Sarin†‡ 
Biochemistry  2009;48(15):3425-3435.
Insecticide and nerve agent organophosphorus compounds are potent inhibitors of the serine hydrolase superfamily of enzymes. Nerve agents, such as sarin, soman, tabun and VX exert their toxicity by inhibiting human acetycholinesterase at nerve synapses. Following the initial phosphonylation of the active site serine, the enzyme may reactivate spontaneously or through reaction with an appropriate nucleophilic oxime. Alternatively, the enzyme-nerve agent complex can undergo a secondary process, called “aging”, which dealkylates the nerve agent adduct and results in a product that is highly resistant to reactivation by any known means. Here we report the structures of paraoxon, soman and sarin complexes of group-VIII phospholipase A2 from bovine brain. In each case, the crystal structures indicate a non-aged adduct; a stereoselective preference for binding of the PSCS isomer of soman and the PS isomer of sarin was also noted. The stability of the non-aged complexes was corroborated by trypsin digest and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, which indicates non-aged complexes are formed with diisopropylfluorophosphate, soman and sarin. The PS stereoselectivity for reaction with sarin was confirmed by reaction of racemic sarin, followed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry using a chiral column to separate and quantitate each stereoisomer. The PS stereoisomers of soman and sarin are known to be the more toxic stereoisomers, as they react preferentially to inhibit human acetylcholinesterase. The results obtained for non-aged complexes of group-VIII phospholipase A2 are compared to those obtained for other serine hydrolases and discussed to partly explain determinants of OP aging. Furthermore, structural insights can now be exploited to engineer variant versions of this enzyme with enhanced nerve agent binding and hydrolysis functions.
PMCID: PMC2671691  PMID: 19271773
type-Ib PAF-AH; LIS1; group-VIII PLA2; organophosphorus; nerve agent; paraoxon; sarin; soman; non-aged; unaged; aging
10.  Crystal Structures of Human Group-VIIA Phospholipase A2 Inhibited by Organophosphorus Nerve Agents Exhibit Non-aged Complexes ☆,☆☆ 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;78(4):420-429.
The enzyme group-VIIA phospholipase A2 (gVIIA-PLA2) is bound to lipoproteins in human blood and hydrolyzes the ester bond at the sn-2 position of phospholipid substrates with a short sn-2 chain. The enzyme belongs to a serine hydrolase superfamily of enzymes, which react with organophosphorus (OP) nerve agents. OPs ultimately exert their toxicity by inhibiting human acetycholinesterase at nerve synapses, but may additionally have detrimental effects through inhibition of other serine hydrolases. We have solved the crystal structures of gVIIA-PLA2 following inhibition with the OPs diisopropylfluorophosphate, sarin, soman and tabun. The sarin and soman complexes displayed a racemic mix of PR and PS stereoisomers at the P-chiral center. The tabun complex displayed only the PR stereoisomer in the crystal. In all cases, the crystal structures contained intact OP adducts that had not aged. Aging refers to a secondary process OP complexes can go through, which dealkylates the nerve agent adduct and results in a form that is highly resistant to either spontaneous or oxime-mediated reactivation. Non-aged OP complexes of the enzyme were corroborated by trypsin digest and matrix assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry of OP-enzyme complexes. The lack of stereoselectivity of sarin reaction was confirmed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry using a chiral column to separate and quantitate the unbound stereoisomers of sarin following incubation with enzyme. The structural details and characterization of nascent reactivity of several toxic nerve agents is discussed with a long term goal of developing gVIIA-PLA2 as a catalytic bioscavenger of OP nerve agents.
PMCID: PMC2759606  PMID: 19394314
phospholipase A2; Lp-PLA2; PAF-AH; organophosphate; nerve agent
11.  Engineering a Hyperthermophilic Archaeon for Temperature-Dependent Product Formation 
mBio  2012;3(2):e00053-12.
Microorganisms growing near the boiling point have enormous biotechnological potential but only recently have molecular engineering tools become available for them. We have engineered the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally at 100°C, to switch its end products of fermentation in a temperature-controlled fashion without the need for chemical inducers. The recombinant strain (LAC) expresses a gene (ldh) encoding lactate dehydrogenase from the moderately thermophilic Caldicellulosiruptor bescii (optimal growth temperature [Topt] of 78°C) controlled by a “cold shock” promoter that is upregulated when cells are transferred from 98°C to 72°C. At 98°C, the LAC strain fermented sugar to produce acetate and hydrogen as end products, and lactate was not detected. When the LAC strain was grown at 72°C, up to 3 mM lactate was produced instead. Expression of a gene from a moderately thermophilic bacterium in a hyperthermophilic archaeon at temperatures at which the hyperthermophile has low metabolic activity provides a new perspective to engineering microorganisms for bioproduct and biofuel formation.
IMPORTANCE Extremely thermostable enzymes from microorganisms that grow near or above the boiling point of water are already used in biotechnology. However, the use of hyperthermophilic microorganisms themselves for biotechnological applications has been limited by the lack of their genetic accessibility. Recently, a genetic system for Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally near 100°C, was developed in our laboratory. In this study, we present the first heterologous protein expression system for a microorganism that grows optimally at 100°C, a first step towards the potential expression of genes involved in biomass degradation or biofuel production in hyperthermophiles. Moreover, we developed the first system for specific gene induction in P. furiosus. As the cold shock promoter for protein expression used in this study is activated at suboptimal growth temperatures of P. furiosus, it is a powerful genetic tool for protein expression with minimal interference of the host’s metabolism and without the need for chemical inducers.
Extremely thermostable enzymes from microorganisms that grow near or above the boiling point of water are already used in biotechnology. However, the use of hyperthermophilic microorganisms themselves for biotechnological applications has been limited by the lack of their genetic accessibility. Recently, a genetic system for Pyrococcus furiosus, which grows optimally near 100°C, was developed in our laboratory. In this study, we present the first heterologous protein expression system for a microorganism that grows optimally at 100°C, a first step towards the potential expression of genes involved in biomass degradation or biofuel production in hyperthermophiles. Moreover, we developed the first system for specific gene induction in P. furiosus. As the cold shock promoter for protein expression used in this study is activated at suboptimal growth temperatures of P. furiosus, it is a powerful genetic tool for protein expression with minimal interference of the host’s metabolism and without the need for chemical inducers.
PMCID: PMC3345578  PMID: 22511351
12.  Cloning, Expression, and Characterization of Aminopeptidase P from the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Thermococcus sp. Strain NA1 
Genomic analysis of a hyperthermophilic archaeon, Thermococcus sp. strain NA1, revealed the presence of a 1,068-bp open reading frame encoding a protein consisting of 356 amino acids with a calculated molecular mass of 39,714 Da (GenBank accession no. DQ144132). Sequence analysis showed that it was similar to the putative aminopeptidase P (APP) of Thermococcus kodakaraensis KOD1. Amino acid residues important for catalytic activity and the metal binding ligands conserved in bacterial, nematode, insect, and mammalian APPs were also conserved in the Thermococcus sp. strain NA1 APP. The archaeal APP, designated TNA1_APP (Thermococcus sp. strain NA1 APP), was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant enzyme hydrolyzed the amino-terminal Xaa-Pro bond of Lys(Nɛ-Abz)-Pro-Pro-pNA and the dipeptide Met-Pro (Km, 0.96 mM), revealing its functional identity. Further enzyme characterization showed the enzyme to be a Co2+-, Mn2+-, or Zn2+-dependent metallopeptidase. Optimal APP activity with Met-Pro as the substrate occurred at pH 5 and a temperature of 100°C. The APP was thermostable, with a half-life of >100 min at 80°C. This study represents the first characterization of a hyperthermophilic archaeon APP.
PMCID: PMC1393192  PMID: 16517635
13.  Role of the β1 Subunit in the Function and Stability of the 20S Proteasome in the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(2):583-590.
The hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus genome encodes three proteasome component proteins: one α protein (PF1571) and two β proteins (β1-PF1404 and β2-PF0159), as well as an ATPase (PF0115), referred to as proteasome-activating nucleotidase. Transcriptional analysis of the P. furiosus dynamic heat shock response (shift from 90 to 105°C) showed that the β1 gene was up-regulated over twofold within 5 minutes, suggesting a specific role during thermal stress. Consistent with transcriptional data, two-dimensional sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed that incorporation of the β1 protein relative to β2 into the 20S proteasome (core particle [CP]) increased with increasing temperature for both native and recombinant versions. For the recombinant enzyme, the β2/β1 ratio varied linearly with temperature from 3.8, when assembled at 80°C, to 0.9 at 105°C. The recombinant α+β1+β2 CP assembled at 105°C was more thermostable than either the α+β1+β2 version assembled at 90°C or the α+β2 version assembled at either 90°C or 105°C, based on melting temperature and the biocatalytic inactivation rate at 115°C. The recombinant CP assembled at 105°C was also found to have different catalytic rates and specificity for peptide hydrolysis, compared to the 90°C assembly (measured at 95°C). Combination of the α and β1 proteins neither yielded a large proteasome complex nor demonstrated any significant activity. These results indicate that the β1 subunit in the P. furiosus 20S proteasome plays a thermostabilizing role and influences biocatalytic properties, suggesting that β subunit composition is a factor in archaeal proteasome function during thermal stress, when polypeptide turnover is essential to cell survival.
PMCID: PMC1797377  PMID: 17114253
14.  Enzymatic Analysis of an Amylolytic Enzyme from the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus Reveals Its Novel Catalytic Properties as both an α-Amylase and a Cyclodextrin-Hydrolyzing Enzyme 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(10):5988-5995.
Genomic analysis of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus revealed the presence of an open reading frame (ORF PF1939) similar to the enzymes in glycoside hydrolase family 13. This amylolytic enzyme, designated PFTA (Pyrococcus furiosus thermostable amylase), was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant PFTA was extremely thermostable, with an optimum temperature of 90°C. The substrate specificity of PFTA suggests that it possesses characteristics of both α-amylase and cyclodextrin-hydrolyzing enzyme. Like typical α-amylases, PFTA hydrolyzed maltooligosaccharides and starch to produce mainly maltotriose and maltotetraose. However, it could also attack and degrade pullulan and β-cyclodextrin, which are resistant to α-amylase, to primarily produce panose and maltoheptaose, respectively. Furthermore, acarbose, a potent α-amylase inhibitor, was drastically degraded by PFTA, as is typical of cyclodextrin-hydrolyzing enzymes. These results confirm that PFTA possesses novel catalytic properties characteristic of both α-amylase and cyclodextrin-hydrolyzing enzyme.
PMCID: PMC522074  PMID: 15466542
15.  Hyperthermophile Protein Behavior: Partially-Structured Conformations of Pyrococcus furiosus Rubredoxin Monomers Generated through Forced Cold-Denaturation and Refolding 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e80014.
Some years ago, we showed that thermo-chemically denatured, partially-unfolded forms of Pyrococcus furiosus triosephosphateisomerase (PfuTIM) display cold-denaturation upon cooling, and heat-renaturation upon reheating, in proportion with the extent of initial partial unfolding achieved. This was the first time that cold-denaturation was demonstrated for a hyperthermophile protein, following unlocking of surface salt bridges. Here, we describe the behavior of another hyperthermophile protein, the small, monomeric, 53 residues-long rubredoxin from Pyrococcus furiosus (PfRd), which is one of the most thermostable proteins known to man. Like PfuTIM, PfRd too displays cold-denaturation after initial thermo-chemical perturbation, however, with two differences: (i) PfRd requires considerably higher temperatures as well as higher concentrations of guanidium hydrochloride (Gdm.HCl) than PfuTIM; (ii) PfRd's cold-denaturation behavior during cooling after thermo-chemical perturbation is incompletely reversible, unlike PfuTIM's, which was clearly reversible (from each different conformation generated). Differential cold-denaturation treatments allow PfRd to access multiple partially-unfolded states, each of which is clearly highly kinetically-stable. We refer to these as ‘Trishanku’ unfolding intermediates (or TUIs). Fascinatingly, refolding of TUIs through removal of Gdm.HCl generates multiple partially-refolded, monomeric, kinetically-trapped, non-native ‘Trishanku’ refolding intermediates (or TRIs), which differ from each other and from native PfRd and TUIs, in structural content and susceptibility to proteolysis. We find that the occurrence of cold denaturation and observations of TUI and TRI states is contingent on the oxidation status of iron, with redox agents managing to modulate the molecule's behavior upon gaining access to PfRd's iron atom. Mass spectrometric examination provides no evidence of the formation of disulfide bonds, but other experiments suggest that the oxidation status of iron (and its extent of burial) together determine whether or not PfRd shows cold denaturation, and also whether redox agents are able to modulate its behavior.
PMCID: PMC3945965  PMID: 24603413
16.  Purification and characterization of an alpha-glucosidase from a hyperthermophilic archaebacterium, Pyrococcus furiosus, exhibiting a temperature optimum of 105 to 115 degrees C. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1990;172(7):3654-3660.
Pyrococcus furiosus is a strictly anaerobic hyperthermophilic archaebacterium with an optimal growth temperature of about 100 degrees C. When this organism was grown in the presence of certain complex carbohydrates, the production of several amylolytic enzymes was noted. These enzymes included an alpha-glucosidase that was located in the cell cytoplasm. This alpha-glucosidase has been purified 310-fold and corresponded to a protein band of 125 kilodaltons as resolved by 10% sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The enzyme exhibited optimum activity at pH 5.0 to 6.0 and over a temperature range of 105 to 115 degrees C. Kinetic analysis conducted at 108 degrees C revealed hydrolysis of the substrates p-nitrophenyl-alpha-D-glucopyranoside (PNPG), methyl-alpha-D-glucopyranoside, maltose, and isomaltose. Trace activity was detected towards p-nitrophenyl-beta-D-glucopyranoside, and no activity could be detected towards starch or sucrose. Inhibition studies conducted at 108 degrees C with PNPG as the substrate and maltose as the inhibitor yielded a Ki for maltose of 14.3 mM. Preincubation for 30 min at 98 degrees C in 100 mM dithiothreitol and 1.0 M urea had little effect on enzyme activity, whereas preincubation in 1.0% sodium dodecyl sulfate and 1.0 M guanidine hydrochloride resulted in significant loss of enzyme activity. Purified alpha-glucosidase from P. furiosus exhibited remarkable thermostability; incubation of the enzyme at 98 degrees C resulted in a half life of nearly 48 h.
PMCID: PMC213339  PMID: 2163383
17.  Purification and characterization of a prolidase from Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei IFPL 731. 
A peptidase showing a high level of specificity towards dipeptides of the X-Pro type was purified to homogeneity from the cell extract of Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei IFPL 731. The enzyme was a monomer having a molecular mass of 41 kDa. The pH and temperature optima were 6.5 to 7.5 and 55 degrees C, respectively. Metal chelating agents completely inhibited enzyme activity, indicating that the prolidase was a metalloenzyme. The Michaelis constant (K(m)) and Vmax for several proline-containing dipeptides were determined.
PMCID: PMC168322  PMID: 8979358
18.  Preliminary time-of-flight neutron diffraction study on diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) from Loligo vulgaris  
Diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) effectively hydrolyzes a number of organophosphorus nerve agents, including sarin, cyclohexylsarin, soman and tabun. Neutron diffraction data have been collected from DFPase crystals to 2.2 Å resolution in an effort to gain further insight into the mechanism of this enzyme.
The enzyme diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) from Loligo vulgaris is capable of decontaminating a wide variety of toxic organophosphorus nerve agents. DFPase is structurally related to a number of enzymes, such as the medically important paraoxonase (PON). In order to investigate the reaction mechanism of this phosphotriesterase and to elucidate the protonation state of the active-site residues, large-sized crystals of DFPase have been prepared for neutron diffraction studies. Available H atoms have been exchanged through vapour diffusion against D2O-containing mother liquor in the capillary. A neutron data set has been collected to 2.2 Å resolution on a relatively small (0.43 mm3) crystal at the spallation source in Los Alamos. The sample size and asymmetric unit requirements for the feasibility of neutron diffraction studies are summarized.
PMCID: PMC2330113  PMID: 17183172
neutron diffraction; DFPase; time-of-flight; phosphotriesterase
19.  An Endoglucanase, EglA, from the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus Hydrolyzes β-1,4 Bonds in Mixed-Linkage (1→3),(1→4)-β-d-Glucans and Cellulose 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(1):284-290.
The eglA gene, encoding a thermostable endoglucanase from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus, was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The nucleotide sequence of the gene predicts a 319-amino-acid protein with a calculated molecular mass of 35.9 kDa. The endoglucanase has a 19-amino-acid signal peptide but not cellulose-binding domain. The P. furiosus endoglucanase has significant amino acid sequence similarities, including the conserved catalytic nucleophile and proton donor, with endoglucanases from glucosyl hydrolase family 12. The purified recombinant enzyme hydrolyzed β-1,4 but not β-1,3 glucosidic linkages and had the highest specific activity on cellopentaose (degree of polymerization [DP] = 5) and cellohexaose (DP = 6) oligosaccharides. To a lesser extent, EglA also hydrolyzed shorter cellodextrins (DP < 5) as well as the amorphous portions of polysaccharides which contain only β-1,4 bonds such as carboxymethyl cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, Whatman paper, and cotton linter. The highest specific activity toward polysaccharides occurred with mixed-linkage β-glucans such as barley β-glucan and lichenan. Kinetics studies with cellooliogsaccharides and p-nitrophenyl-cellooligosaccharides indicated that the enzyme had three glucose binding subsites (−I, −II, and −III) for the nonreducing end and two glucose binding subsites (+I and +II) for the reducing end from the scissile glycosidic linkage. The enzyme had temperature and pH optima of 100°C and 6.0, respectively; a half-life of 40 h at 95°C; and a denaturing temperature of 112°C as determined by differential scanning calorimetry. The discovery of a thermostable enzyme with this substrate specificity has implications for both the evolution of enzymes involved in polysaccharide hydrolysis and the occurrence of growth substrates in hydrothermal vent environments.
PMCID: PMC103560  PMID: 9864341
20.  Nerve Agent Hydrolysis Activity Designed into a Human Drug Metabolism Enzyme 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17441.
Organophosphorus (OP) nerve agents are potent suicide inhibitors of the essential neurotransmitter-regulating enzyme acetylcholinesterase. Due to their acute toxicity, there is significant interest in developing effective countermeasures to OP poisoning. Here we impart nerve agent hydrolysis activity into the human drug metabolism enzyme carboxylesterase 1. Using crystal structures of the target enzyme in complex with nerve agent as a guide, a pair of histidine and glutamic acid residues were designed proximal to the enzyme's native catalytic triad. The resultant variant protein demonstrated significantly increased rates of reactivation following exposure to sarin, soman, and cyclosarin. Importantly, the addition of these residues did not alter the high affinity binding of nerve agents to this protein. Thus, using two amino acid substitutions, a novel enzyme was created that efficiently converted a group of hemisubstrates, compounds that can start but not complete a reaction cycle, into bona fide substrates. Such approaches may lead to novel countermeasures for nerve agent poisoning.
PMCID: PMC3060870  PMID: 21445272
21.  Recyclable Thermoresponsive Polymer-Cellulase Bioconjugates for Biomass Depolymerization 
Here we report the construction and characterization of a recoverable, thermoresponsive polymer-endoglucanase bioconjugate that matches the activity of unmodified enzymes on insoluble cellulose substrates. Two copolymers exhibiting a thermoresponsive lower critical solution temperature (LCST) were created through the copolymerization of an aminooxy-bearing methacrylamide with N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) or N-isopropylmethacrylamide (NIPMa). The aminooxy group provided a handle through which the LCST was adjusted through small-molecule quenching. This allowed materials with LCSTs ranging from 20.9 °C to 60.5 °C to be readily obtained after polymerization. The thermostable endoglucanase EGPh from the hypothermophilic Pyrococcus horikoshii was transaminated with pyridoxal-5’-phosphate to produce a ketone-bearing protein, which was then site-selectively modified through oxime linkage with benzylalkoxyamine or 5 kDa-poly(ethylene glycol)-alkoxyamine. These modified proteins showed activity comparable to the controls when assayed on an insoluble cellulosic substrate. Two polymer bioconjugates were then constructed using transaminated EGPh and the aminooxy-bearing copolymers. After twelve hours, both bioconjugates produced an equivalent amount of free reducing sugars as the unmodified control using insoluble cellulose as a substrate. The recycling ability of the NIPAm copolymer-EGPh conjugate was determined through three rounds of activity, maintaining over 60% activity after two cycles of reuse and affording significantly more soluble carbohydrates than unmodified enzyme alone. When assayed on acid-pretreated Miscanthus, this bioconjugate increased the amount of reducing sugars by 2.8-fold over three rounds of activity. The synthetic strategy of this bioconjugate allows the LCST of the material to be changed readily from a common stock of copolymer and the method of attachment is applicable to a variety of proteins, enabling the same approach to be amenable to thermophile-derived cellulases or to the separation of multiple species using polymers with different recovery temperatures.
PMCID: PMC3593141  PMID: 23270527
22.  Purification and Characterization of the Alanine Aminotransferase from the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus and Its Role in Alanine Production 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(9):2559-2566.
Alanine aminotransferase (AlaAT) was purified from cell extracts of the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus by multistep chromatography. The enzyme has an apparent molecular mass of 93.5 kDa, as estimated by gel filtration, and consists of two identical subunits of 46 kDa, as deduced by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and the gene sequence. The AlaAT displayed a broader substrate specificity than AlaATs from eukaryal sources and exhibited significant activity with alanine, glutamate, and aspartate with either 2-oxoglutarate or pyruvate as the amino acceptor. Optimal activity was found in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.8 and at a temperature of over 95°C. The N-terminal amino acid sequence of the purified AlaAT was determined and enabled the identification of the gene encoding AlaAT (aat) in the P. furiosus genome database. The gene was expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant enzyme was purified. The pH and temperature dependence, molecular mass, and kinetic parameters of the recombinant were indistinguishable from those of the native enzyme from P. furiosus. The kcat/Km values for alanine and pyruvate formation were 41 and 33 s−1 mM−1, respectively, suggesting that the enzyme is not biased toward either the formation of pyruvate, or alanine. Northern analysis identified a single 1.2-kb transcript for the aat gene. In addition, both the aat and gdh (encoding the glutamate dehydrogenase) transcripts appear to be coregulated at the transcriptional level, because the expression of both genes was induced when the cells were grown on pyruvate. The coordinated control found for the aat and gdh genes is in good agreement with these enzymes acting in a concerted manner to form an electron sink in P. furiosus.
PMCID: PMC111321  PMID: 10762259
23.  Characterization of Amylolytic Enzymes, Having Both α-1,4 and α-1,6 Hydrolytic Activity, from the Thermophilic Archaea Pyrococcus furiosus and Thermococcus litoralis 
Extracellular pullulanases were purified from cell-free culture supernatants of the marine thermophilic archaea Thermococcus litoralis (optimal growth temperature, 90°C) and Pyrococcus furiosus (optimal growth temperature, 98°C). The molecular mass of the T. litoralis enzyme was estimated at 119,000 Da by electrophoresis, while the P. furiosus enzyme exhibited a molecular mass of 110,000 Da under the same conditions. Both enzymes tested positive for bound sugar by the periodic acid-Schiff technique and are therefore glycoproteins. The thermoactivity and thermostability of both enzymes were enhanced in the presence of 5 mM Ca2+, and under these conditions, enzyme activity could be measured at temperatures of up to 130 to 140°C. The addition of Ca2+ also affected substrate binding, as evidenced by a decrease in Km for both enzymes when assayed in the presence of this metal. Each of these enzymes was able to hydrolyze, in addition to the α-1,6 linkages in pullulan, α-1,4 linkages in amylose and soluble starch. Neither enzyme possessed activity against maltohexaose or other smaller α-1,4-linked oligosaccharides. The enzymes from T. litoralis and P. furiosus appear to represent highly thermostable amylopullulanases, versions of which have been isolated from less-thermophilic organisms. The identification of these enzymes further defines the saccharide-metabolizing systems possessed by these two organisms.
PMCID: PMC182328  PMID: 16349019
24.  The intein of the Thermoplasma A-ATPase A subunit: Structure, evolution and expression in E. coli 
BMC Biochemistry  2001;2:13.
Inteins are selfish genetic elements that excise themselves from the host protein during post translational processing, and religate the host protein with a peptide bond. In addition to this splicing activity, most reported inteins also contain an endonuclease domain that is important in intein propagation.
The gene encoding the Thermoplasma acidophilum A-ATPase catalytic subunit A is the only one in the entire T. acidophilum genome that has been identified to contain an intein. This intein is inserted in the same position as the inteins found in the ATPase A-subunits encoding gene in Pyrococcus abyssi, P. furiosus and P. horikoshii and is found 20 amino acids upstream of the intein in the homologous vma-1 gene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In contrast to the other inteins in catalytic ATPase subunits, the T. acidophilum intein does not contain an endonuclease domain.
T. acidophilum has different codon usage frequencies as compared to Escherichia coli. Initially, the low abundance of rare tRNAs prevented expression of the T. acidophilum A-ATPase A subunit in E. coli. Using a strain of E. coli that expresses additional tRNAs for rare codons, the T. acidophilum A-ATPase A subunit was successfully expressed in E. coli.
Despite differences in pH and temperature between the E. coli and the T. acidophilum cytoplasms, the T. acidophilum intein retains efficient self-splicing activity when expressed in E. coli. The small intein in the Thermoplasma A-ATPase is closely related to the endonuclease containing intein in the Pyrococcus A-ATPase. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that this intein was horizontally transferred between Pyrococcus and Thermoplasma, and that the small intein has persisted in Thermoplasma apparently without homing.
PMCID: PMC60005  PMID: 11722801
25.  Transcriptional responses of the nerve agent-sensitive brain regions amygdala, hippocampus, piriform cortex, septum, and thalamus following exposure to the organophosphonate anticholinesterase sarin 
Although the acute toxicity of organophosphorus nerve agents is known to result from acetylcholinesterase inhibition, the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of neuropathology following nerve agent-induced seizure are not well understood. To help determine these pathways, we previously used microarray analysis to identify gene expression changes in the rat piriform cortex, a region of the rat brain sensitive to nerve agent exposure, over a 24-h time period following sarin-induced seizure. We found significant differences in gene expression profiles and identified secondary responses that potentially lead to brain injury and cell death. To advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in sarin-induced toxicity, we analyzed gene expression changes in four other areas of the rat brain known to be affected by nerve agent-induced seizure (amygdala, hippocampus, septum, and thalamus).
We compared the transcriptional response of these four brain regions to sarin-induced seizure with the response previously characterized in the piriform cortex. In this study, rats were challenged with 1.0 × LD50 sarin and subsequently treated with atropine sulfate, 2-pyridine aldoxime methylchloride, and diazepam. The four brain regions were collected at 0.25, 1, 3, 6, and 24 h after seizure onset, and total RNA was processed for microarray analysis.
Principal component analysis identified brain region and time following seizure onset as major sources of variability within the dataset. Analysis of variance identified genes significantly changed following sarin-induced seizure, and gene ontology analysis identified biological pathways, functions, and networks of genes significantly affected by sarin-induced seizure over the 24-h time course. Many of the molecular functions and pathways identified as being most significant across all of the brain regions were indicative of an inflammatory response. There were also a number of molecular responses that were unique for each brain region, with the thalamus having the most distinct response to nerve agent-induced seizure.
Identifying the molecular mechanisms involved in sarin-induced neurotoxicity in these sensitive brain regions will facilitate the development of novel therapeutics that can potentially provide broad-spectrum protection in five areas of the central nervous system known to be damaged by nerve agent-induced seizure.
PMCID: PMC3180277  PMID: 21777430
Nerve Agent; Chemical Warfare; Organophosphate; Sarin; Seizure; Neuroinflammation; Cytokine; Chemokine; Microarray; Transcriptomics

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