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1.  Structure of the cystathionine γ-synthase MetB from Mycobacterium ulcerans  
Cystathionine γ-synthase (CGS) is a transferase that catalyzes the reaction between O 4-succinyl-l-homoserine and l-cysteine to produce l-­cystathionine and succinate. The crystal structure of CGS from M. ulcerans is presented covalently linked to the cofactor pyridoxal phosphate (PLP). A second structure contains PLP as well as a highly ordered HEPES molecule in the active site acting as a pseudo-ligand. This is the first structure ever reported from the pathogen M. ulcerans.
Cystathionine γ-synthase (CGS) is a transulfurication enzyme that catalyzes the first specific step in l-methionine biosynthesis by the reaction of O 4-succinyl-l-­homoserine and l-cysteine to produce l-cystathionine and succinate. Controlling the first step in l-methionine biosythesis, CGS is an excellent potential drug target. Mycobacterium ulcerans is a slow-growing mycobacterium that is the third most common form of mycobacterial infection, mainly infecting people in Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia. Infected patients display a variety of skin ailments ranging from indolent non-ulcerated lesions as well as ulcerated lesions. Here, the crystal structure of CGS from M. ulcerans covalently linked to the cofactor pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) is reported at 1.9 Å resolution. A second structure contains PLP as well as a highly ordered HEPES molecule in the active site acting as a pseudo-ligand. These results present the first structure of a CGS from a mycobacterium and allow comparison with other CGS enzymes. This is also the first structure reported from the pathogen M. ulcerans.
PMCID: PMC3169418  PMID: 21904066
pyridoxal phosphate; l-methionine; O4-succinyl-l-homoserine; l-cysteine; l-cystathionine; AAT-I superfamily; Mycobacteria ulcerans; cystathionine γ-synthase
2.  Tyrosine aminotransferase: biochemical and structural properties and molecular dynamics simulations 
Protein & cell  2010;1(11):1023-1032.
Tyrosine aminotransferase (TAT) catalyzes the transamination of tyrosine and other aromatic amino acids. The enzyme is thought to play a role in tyrosinemia type II, hepatitis and hepatic carcinoma recovery. The objective of this study is to investigate its biochemical and structural characteristics and substrate specificity in order to provide insight regarding its involvement in these diseases. Mouse TAT (mTAT) was cloned from a mouse cDNA library, and its recombinant protein was produced using Escherichia coli cells and purified using various chromatographic techniques. The recombinant mTAT is able to catalyze the transamination of tyrosine using α-ketoglutaric acid as an amino group acceptor at neutral pH. The enzyme also can use glutamate and phenylalanine as amino group donors and p-hydroxy-phenylpyruvate, phenylpyruvate and alpha-ketocaproic acid as amino group acceptors. Through macromolecular crystallography we have determined the mTAT crystal structure at 2.9 Å resolution. The crystal structure revealed the interaction between the pyridoxal-5′-phosphate cofactor and the enzyme, as well as the formation of a disulphide bond. The detection of disulphide bond provides some rational explanation regarding previously observed TAT inactivation under oxidative conditions and reactivation of the inactive TAT in the presence of a reducing agent. Molecular dynamics simulations using the crystal structures of Trypanosoma cruzi TAT and human TAT provided further insight regarding the substrate-enzyme interactions and substrate specificity. The biochemical and structural properties of TAT and the binding of its cofactor and the substrate may help in elucidation of the mechanism of TAT inhibition and activation.
PMCID: PMC3023147  PMID: 21153519
tyrosine aminotransferase; crystal structure; substrate specificity; tyrosine; tyrosinemia
3.  Asymmetry of the Active Site Loop Conformation between Subunits of Glutamate-1-semialdehyde Aminomutase in Solution 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:353270.
Glutamate-1-semialdehyde aminomutase (GSAM) is a dimeric, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP)- dependent enzyme catalysing in plants and some bacteria the isomerization of L-glutamate-1-semialdehyde to 5-aminolevulinate, a common precursor of chlorophyll, haem, coenzyme B12, and other tetrapyrrolic compounds. During the catalytic cycle, the coenzyme undergoes conversion from pyridoxamine 5′-phosphate (PMP) to PLP. The entrance of the catalytic site is protected by a loop that is believed to switch from an open to a closed conformation during catalysis. Crystallographic studies indicated that the structure of the mobile loop is related to the form of the cofactor bound to the active site, allowing for asymmetry within the dimer. Since no information on structural and functional asymmetry of the enzyme in solution is available in the literature, we investigated the active site accessibility by determining the cofactor fluorescence quenching of PMP- and PLP-GSAM forms. PLP-GSAM is partially quenched by potassium iodide, suggesting that at least one catalytic site is accessible to the anionic quencher and therefore confirming the asymmetry observed in the crystal structure. Iodide induces release of the cofactor from PMP-GSAM, apparently from only one catalytic site, therefore suggesting an asymmetry also in this form of the enzyme in solution, in contrast with the crystallographic data.
PMCID: PMC3747428  PMID: 23984351
4.  A novel mechanism of sulfur transfer catalyzed by O-acetylhomoserine sulfhydrylase in the methionine-biosynthetic pathway of Wolinella succinogenes  
MetY is the first reported structure of an O-acetylhomoserine sulfhydrylase that utilizes a protein thiocarboxylate intermediate as the sulfur source in a novel methionine-biosynthetic pathway instead of catalyzing a direct sulfhydrylation reaction.
O-Acetylhomoserine sulfhydrylase (OAHS) is a pyridoxal 5′-­phosphate (PLP) dependent sulfide-utilizing enzyme in the l-cysteine and l-methionine biosynthetic pathways of various enteric bacteria and fungi. OAHS catalyzes the conversion of O-acetylhomoserine to homocysteine using sulfide in a process known as direct sulfhydrylation. However, the source of the sulfur has not been identified and no structures of OAHS have been reported in the literature. Here, the crystal structure of Wolinella succinogenes OAHS (MetY) determined at 2.2 Å resolution is reported. MetY crystallized in space group C2 with two monomers in the asymmetric unit. Size-exclusion chromatography, dynamic light scattering and crystal packing indicate that the biological unit is a tetramer in solution. This is further supported by the crystal structure, in which a tetramer is formed using a combination of non­­crystallographic and crystallographic twofold axes. A search for structurally homologous proteins revealed that MetY has the same fold as cystathionine γ-lyase and methionine γ-lyase. The active sites of these enzymes, which are also PLP-dependent, share a high degree of structural similarity, suggesting that MetY belongs to the γ-elimination subclass of the Cys/Met metabolism PLP-dependent family of enzymes. The structure of MetY, together with biochemical data, provides insight into the mechanism of sulfur transfer to a small molecule via a protein thiocarboxylate intermediate.
PMCID: PMC3176619  PMID: 21931214
Wolinella succinogenes; O-acetylhomoserine sulfhydrylases; pyridoxal 5′-phosphate; γ-elimination; direct sulfhydrylation; Cys/Met metabolism; O-acetylhomoserine; protein thiocarboxylate
5.  Crystal Structures of Complexes of the Branched-Chain Aminotransferase from Deinococcus radiodurans with α-Ketoisocaproate and l-Glutamate Suggest the Radiation Resistance of This Enzyme for Catalysis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(22):6206-6216.
Branched-chain aminotransferases (BCAT), which utilize pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) as a cofactor, reversibly catalyze the transfer of the α-amino groups of three of the most hydrophobic branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, to α-ketoglutarate to form the respective branched-chain α-keto acids and glutamate. The BCAT from Deinococcus radiodurans (DrBCAT), an extremophile, was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli for structure and functional studies. The crystal structures of the native DrBCAT with PLP and its complexes with l-glutamate and α-ketoisocaproate (KIC), respectively, have been determined. The DrBCAT monomer, comprising 358 amino acids, contains large and small domains connected with an interdomain loop. The cofactor PLP is located at the bottom of the active site pocket between two domains and near the dimer interface. The substrate (l-glutamate or KIC) is bound with key residues through interactions of the hydrogen bond and the salt bridge near PLP inside the active site pocket. Mutations of some interaction residues, such as Tyr71, Arg145, and Lys202, result in loss of the specific activity of the enzymes. In the interdomain loop, a dynamic loop (Gly173 to Gly179) clearly exhibits open and close conformations in structures of DrBCAT without and with substrates, respectively. DrBCAT shows the highest specific activity both in nature and under ionizing radiation, but with lower thermal stability above 60°C, than either BCAT from Escherichia coli (eBCAT) or from Thermus thermophilus (HB8BCAT). The dimeric molecular packing and the distribution of cysteine residues at the active site and the molecular surface might explain the resistance to radiation but small thermal stability of DrBCAT.
PMCID: PMC3486342  PMID: 22984263
6.  A New Type of Na+-Driven ATP Synthase Membrane Rotor with a Two-Carboxylate Ion-Coupling Motif 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(6):e1001596.
Multi-disciplinary methods reveal a novel type of ion binding in the rotor ring of the F1Fo-ATP synthase from the opportunistic pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum.
The anaerobic bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum uses glutamate decarboxylation to generate a transmembrane gradient of Na+. Here, we demonstrate that this ion-motive force is directly coupled to ATP synthesis, via an F1Fo-ATP synthase with a novel Na+ recognition motif, shared by other human pathogens. Molecular modeling and free-energy simulations of the rotary element of the enzyme, the c-ring, indicate Na+ specificity in physiological settings. Consistently, activity measurements showed Na+ stimulation of the enzyme, either membrane-embedded or isolated, and ATP synthesis was sensitive to the Na+ ionophore monensin. Furthermore, Na+ has a protective effect against inhibitors targeting the ion-binding sites, both in the complete ATP synthase and the isolated c-ring. Definitive evidence of Na+ coupling is provided by two identical crystal structures of the c11 ring, solved by X-ray crystallography at 2.2 and 2.6 Å resolution, at pH 5.3 and 8.7, respectively. Na+ ions occupy all binding sites, each coordinated by four amino acids and a water molecule. Intriguingly, two carboxylates instead of one mediate ion binding. Simulations and experiments demonstrate that this motif implies that a proton is concurrently bound to all sites, although Na+ alone drives the rotary mechanism. The structure thus reveals a new mode of ion coupling in ATP synthases and provides a basis for drug-design efforts against this opportunistic pathogen.
Author Summary
Essential cellular processes such as biosynthesis, transport, and motility are sustained by the energy released in the hydrolysis of ATP, the universal energy carrier in living cells. Most ATP in the cell is produced by a membrane-bound enzyme, the ATP synthase, through a rotary mechanism that is coupled to the translocation of ions across the membrane. The majority of ATP synthases are energized by transmembrane electrochemical gradients of protons (proton-motive force), but a number of organisms, including some important human pathogens, use gradients of sodium ions instead (sodium-motive force). The ion specificity of ATP synthases is determined by a membrane-embedded sub-complex, the c-ring, which is the smallest known biological rotor. The functional mechanism of the rotor ring and its variations among different organisms are of wide interest, because of this enzyme's impact on metabolism and disease, and because of its potential for nanotechnology applications. Here, we characterize a previously unrecognized type of Na+-driven ATP synthase from the opportunistic human pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is implicated in periodontal diseases. We analyzed this ATP synthase and its rotor ring through a multi-disciplinary approach, combining cell-growth and biochemical assays, X-ray crystallography and computer-simulation methods. Two crystal structures of the membrane rotor were solved, at low and high pH, revealing an atypical ion-recognition motif mediated by two carboxylate side-chains. This motif is shared by other human pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Streptococcus pneumonia, whose ATP synthases are targets of novel antibiotic drugs. The implications of this ion-recognition mode on the mechanism of the ATP synthase and the cellular bioenergetics of F. nucleatum were thus examined. Our results provide the basis for future pharmacological efforts against this important pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3692424  PMID: 23824040
7.  Poisoning Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate-Dependent Enzymes: A New Strategy to Target the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4406.
The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is able to synthesize de novo pyridoxal 5-phosphate (PLP), a crucial cofactor, during erythrocytic schizogony. However, the parasite possesses additionally a pyridoxine/pyridoxal kinase (PdxK) to activate B6 vitamers salvaged from the host. We describe a strategy whereby synthetic pyridoxyl-amino acid adducts are channelled into the parasite. Trapped upon phosphorylation by the plasmodial PdxK, these compounds block PLP-dependent enzymes and thus impair the growth of P. falciparum. The novel compound PT3, a cyclic pyridoxyl-tryptophan methyl ester, inhibited the proliferation of Plasmodium very efficiently (IC50-value of 14 µM) without harming human cells. The non-cyclic pyridoxyl-tryptophan methyl ester PT5 and the pyridoxyl-histidine methyl ester PHME were at least one order of magnitude less effective or completely ineffective in the case of the latter. Modeling in silico indicates that the phosphorylated forms of PT3 and PT5 fit well into the PLP-binding site of plasmodial ornithine decarboxylase (PfODC), the key enzyme of polyamine synthesis, consistent with the ability to abolish ODC activity in vitro. Furthermore, the antiplasmodial effect of PT3 is directly linked to the capability of Plasmodium to trap this pyridoxyl analog, as shown by an increased sensitivity of parasites overexpressing PfPdxK in their cytosol, as visualized by GFP fluorescence.
PMCID: PMC2634962  PMID: 19197387
8.  Structure of recombinant Leishmania donovani pteridine reductase reveals a disordered active site 
The structure of L. donovani pteridine reductase has been targeted to assist in a program of structure-based inhibitor research. Crystals that diffracted to 2.5 Å resolution were obtained and the structure has been solved. Unfortunately, the active site is disordered and this crystal form is unsuitable for use in characterizing enzyme–ligand interactions.
Pteridine reductase (PTR1) is a potential target for drug development against parasitic Trypanosoma and Leishmania species, protozoa that are responsible for a range of serious diseases found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. As part of a structure-based approach to inhibitor development, specifically targeting Leishmania species, well ordered crystals of L. donovani PTR1 were sought to support the characterization of complexes formed with inhibitors. An efficient system for recombinant protein production was prepared and the enzyme was purified and crystallized in an orthorhombic form with ammonium sulfate as the precipitant. Diffraction data were measured to 2.5 Å resolution and the structure was solved by molecular replacement. However, a sulfate occupies a phosphate-binding site used by NADPH and occludes cofactor binding. The nicotinamide moiety is a critical component of the active site and without it this part of the structure is disordered. The crystal form obtained under these conditions is therefore unsuitable for the characterization of inhibitor complexes.
PMCID: PMC3079966  PMID: 21206018
antifolates; pteridine reductase; Leishmania; pterins; Trypanosoma
9.  Structural Insights into the Mechanism of the PLP Synthase Holoenzyme from Thermotoga maritima†,‡ 
Biochemistry  2006;45(49):14609-14620.
Pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) is the biologically active form of vitamin B6 and is an important cofactor for several of the enzymes involved in the metabolism of amine-containing natural products such as amino acids and amino-sugars. The PLP synthase holoenzyme consists of two subunits: YaaD catalyzes the condensation of ribulose 5-phosphate, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate and ammonia and YaaE catalyzes the production of ammonia from glutamine. Here we describe the structure of the PLP synthase complex (YaaD-YaaE) from Thermotoga maritima at 2.9 Å resolution. This complex consists of a core of 12 YaaD monomers with 12 noninteracting YaaE monomers attached to the core. Compared to the previously published structure of PdxS (a YaaD ortholog in Geobacillus stearothermophilus), the N-terminus (1–18), which includes helix α0, the β2-α2 loop(46–56), which includes new helix α2a, and the C-terminus (270–280) of YaaD, are ordered in the complex but disordered in PdxS. A ribulose 5-phosphate is bound to YaaD via an imine with Lys82. Previous studies have demonstrated a similar imine at Lys149 and not at Lys81 (equivalent to Lys150 and 82 in T. maritima) for the Bacillus subtilis enzyme suggesting the possibility that two separate sites on YaaD are involved in PLP formation. A phosphate from the crystallization solution is found bound to YaaD and also serves as a marker for a possible second active site. An ammonia channel that connects the active site of YaaE with the ribulose 5-phosphate binding site was identified. This channel is similar to one found in imidazole glycerol phosphate synthase; however, when the β-barrels of the two complexes are superimposed, the glutaminase domains are rotated by about 180° with respect to each other.
PMCID: PMC2586675  PMID: 17144654
10.  Metal-Catalyzed Oxidation of Phenylalanine-Sensitive 3-Deoxy-d-arabino-Heptulosonate-7-Phosphate Synthase from Escherichia coli: Inactivation and Destabilization by Oxidation of Active-Site Cysteines 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(5):1636-1642.
The in vitro instability of the phenylalanine-sensitive 3-deoxy-d-arabino-heptulosonate-7-phosphate synthase [DAHPS(Phe)] from Escherichia coli has been found to be due to a metal-catalyzed oxidation mechanism. DAHPS(Phe) is one of three differentially feedback-regulated isoforms of the enzyme which catalyzes the first step of aromatic biosynthesis, the formation of DAHP from phosphoenolpyruvate and d-erythrose-4-phosphate. The activity of the apoenzyme decayed exponentially, with a half-life of about 1 day at room temperature, and the heterotetramer slowly dissociated to the monomeric state. The enzyme was stabilized by the presence of phosphoenolpyruvate or EDTA, indicating that in the absence of substrate, a trace metal(s) was the inactivating agent. Cu2+ and Fe2+, but none of the other divalent metals that activate the enzyme, greatly accelerated the rate of inactivation and subunit dissociation. Both anaerobiosis and the addition of catalase significantly reduced Cu2+-catalyzed inactivation. In the spontaneously inactivated enzyme, there was a net loss of two of the seven thiols per subunit; this value increased with increasing concentrations of added Cu2+. Dithiothreitol completely restored the enzymatic activity and the two lost thiols in the spontaneously inactivated enzyme but was only partially effective in reactivation of the Cu2+-inactivated enzyme. Mutant enzymes with conservative replacements at either of the two active-site cysteines, Cys61 or Cys328, were insensitive to the metal attack. Peptide mapping of the Cu2+-inactivated enzyme revealed a disulfide linkage between these two cysteine residues. All results indicate that DAHPS(Phe) is a metal-catalyzed oxidation system wherein bound substrate protects active-site residues from oxidative attack catalyzed by bound redox metal cofactor. A mechanism of inactivation of DAHPS is proposed that features a metal redox cycle that requires the sequential oxidation of its two active-site cysteines.
PMCID: PMC93556  PMID: 10049398
11.  The molecular structure of Rv2074, a probable pyridoxine 5′-phosphate oxidase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, at 1.6 Å resolution 
The crystal structure of a probable pyridoxine 5′-phosphate oxidase, Rv2074 from M. tuberculosis, has been solved by the two-wavelength anomalous dispersion method and has been refined at 1.6 Å resolution. Two citric acid molecules are bound fortuitously to the possible active site of Rv2074.
The crystal structure of a conserved hypothetical protein corresponding to open reading frame Rv2074 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) has been solved by the two-wavelength anomalous dispersion method. Refinement of the molecular structure at 1.6 Å resolution resulted in an R work of 0.178 and an R free of 0.204. The crystal asymmetric unit contains an Rv2074 monomer; however, the crystallographic twofold symmetry operation of space group P43212 generates dimeric Rv2074. Each monomer folds into a six-stranded antiparallel β-barrel flanked by two α-helices. The three-dimensional structure of Rv2074 is very similar to that of Mtb Rv1155, a probable pyridoxine 5′-­phosphate oxidase (PNPOx), which corroborates well with the relatively high sequence similarity (52%) between the two. A structural comparison between Rv2074 and Rv1155 revealed that the core structure (a six-stranded β-barrel) is also well conserved; the major differences between the two lie in the N- and C-­termini and in the small helical domain. Two citric acid molecules were observed in the active site of Rv2074, the crystals of which were grown in 0.2 M sodium citrate buffer pH 5.0. The citric acid molecules are bound to Rv2074 by hydrogen-bonding interactions with Thr55, Gln60 and Lys61. One of the two citric acid molecules occupies the same spatial position that corresponds to the position of the phosphate and ribose sugar moieties of the flavin mononucleotide (FMN) in the Mtb Rv1155–FMN, Escherichia coli PNPOx–FMN and human PNPOx–FMN complex structures. Owing to its extensive structural similarity with Mtb Rv1155 and to the E. coli and human PNPOx enzymes, Rv2074 may be involved in the final step in the biosynthesis of pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP; a vitamin B6).
PMCID: PMC2242915  PMID: 16880544
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; β-barrel; citric acid; pyridoxine 5′-phosphate oxidase
12.  Structural Analysis of WbpE from Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1: A Nucleotide Sugar Aminotransferase Involved in O-antigen Assembly† 
Biochemistry  2010;49(33):7227-7237.
In recent years, the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa has emerged as a major source of hospital-acquired infections. Effective treatment has proven increasingly difficult due to the spread of multidrug resistant strains and thus requires a deeper understanding of the biochemical mechanisms of pathogenicity. The central carbohydrate of the P. aeruginosa PAO1 (O5) B-band O-antigen, ManNAc(3NAc)A, has been shown to be critical for virulence and is produced in a stepwise manner by five enzymes in the Wbp pathway (WbpA, WbpB, WbpE, WbpD and WbpI). Herein, we present the crystal structure of the aminotransferase WbpE from P. aeruginosa PAO1 in complex with the cofactor pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP) and product UDP-GlcNAc(3NH2)A as the external aldimine at 1.9 Å resolution. We also report the structures of WbpE in complex with PMP alone as well as the PLP internal aldimine, and show that the dimeric structure of WbpE observed in the crystal structure is confirmed by analytical ultracentrifugation. Analysis of these structures reveals that the active site of the enzyme is composed of residues from both subunits. In particular, we show that a key residue (Arg229), which has previously been implicated in direct interactions with the carboxylate moiety of α-ketoglutarate, is also uniquely positioned to bestow specificity for the 6″ carboxyl group of GlcNAc(3NH2)A through a salt bridge. This finding is intriguing, because while an analogous basic residue is present in WbpE homologs that do not process C6″-carboxyl-modified saccharides, recent structural studies reveal that this side chain is retracted to accommodate a neutral C-6″ carbon. This work represents the first structural analysis of a nucleotide sugar aminotransferase with a bound product modified at the C2″, C3″, and C6″ positions and provides insight into a novel target for treatment of P. aeruginosa infection.
PMCID: PMC2923267  PMID: 20604544
13.  Structure and reactivity of Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase: inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate 
Molecular Microbiology  2006;61(6):1457-1468.
The protozoan Trypanosoma brucei has a functional pteridine reductase (TbPTR1), an NADPH-dependent short-chain reductase that participates in the salvage of pterins, which are essential for parasite growth. PTR1 displays broad-spectrum activity with pterins and folates, provides a metabolic bypass for inhibition of the trypanosomatid dihydrofolate reductase and therefore compromises the use of antifolates for treatment of trypanosomiasis. Catalytic properties of recombinant TbPTR1 and inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate have been characterized and the crystal structure of the ternary complex with cofactor NADP+ and the inhibitor determined at 2.2 Å resolution. This enzyme shares 50% amino acid sequence identity with Leishmania major PTR1 (LmPTR1) and comparisons show that the architecture of the cofactor binding site, and the catalytic centre are highly conserved, as are most interactions with the inhibitor. However, specific amino acid differences, in particular the placement of Trp221 at the side of the active site, and adjustment of the β6-α6 loop and α6 helix at one side of the substrate-binding cleft significantly reduce the size of the substrate binding site of TbPTR1 and alter the chemical properties compared with LmPTR1. A reactive Cys168, within the active site cleft, in conjunction with the C-terminus carboxyl group and His267 of a partner subunit forms a triad similar to the catalytic component of cysteine proteases. TbPTR1 therefore offers novel structural features to exploit in the search for inhibitors of therapeutic value against African trypanosomiasis.
PMCID: PMC1618733  PMID: 16968221
14.  O-Acetylserine Sulfhydrylase from Methanosarcina thermophila 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(1):45-50.
Cysteine is the major source of fixed sulfur for the synthesis of sulfur-containing compounds in organisms of the Bacteria and Eucarya domains. Though pathways for cysteine biosynthesis have been established for both of these domains, it is unknown how the Archaea fix sulfur or synthesize cysteine. None of the four archaeal genomes sequenced to date contain open reading frames with identities to either O-acetyl-l-serine sulfhydrylase (OASS) or homocysteine synthase, the only sulfur-fixing enzymes known in nature. We report the purification and characterization of OASS from acetate-grown Methanosarcina thermophila, a moderately thermophilic methanoarchaeon. The purified OASS contained pyridoxal 5′-phosphate and catalyzed the formation of l-cysteine and acetate from O-acetyl-l-serine and sulfide. The N-terminal amino acid sequence has high sequence similarity with other known OASS enzymes from the Eucarya and Bacteria domains. The purified OASS had a specific activity of 129 μmol of cysteine/min/mg, with a Km of 500 ± 80 μM for sulfide, and exhibited positive cooperativity and substrate inhibition with O-acetyl-l-serine. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed a single band at 36 kDa, and native gel filtration chromatography indicated a molecular mass of 93 kDa, suggesting that the purified OASS is either a homodimer or a homotrimer. The optimum temperature for activity was between 40 and 60°C, consistent with the optimum growth temperature for M. thermophila. The results of this study provide the first evidence for a sulfur-fixing enzyme in the Archaea domain. The results also provide the first biochemical evidence for an enzyme with the potential for involvement in cysteine biosynthesis in the Archaea.
PMCID: PMC94238  PMID: 10613861
15.  Inhibition of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Transaminase BioA by Aryl Hydrazines and Hydrazides 
7,8-diaminopelargonic acid synthase (BioA) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a recently validated target for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). Using biophysical fragment screening and structural characterization of compounds, we have identified a potent aryl hydrazine inhibitor of BioA that reversibly modifies the pyridoxal-5’-phosphate (PLP) cofactor, forming a stable quinonoid. Analogous hydrazides also form covalent adducts that can be observed crystallographically but are incapable of inactivating the enzyme. In the X-ray crystal structures, small molecules induce unexpected conformational remodeling in the substrate binding site. We compare these conformational changes to those induced upon binding of the substrate (7-keto-8-aminopelargonic acid), and characterize the inhibition kinetics and the X-ray crystal structures of BioA with the hydrazine compound and analogs to unveil the mechanism of this reversible covalent modification.
PMCID: PMC4020011  PMID: 24482078
tuberculosis; X-ray crystal structures; transaminase; reversible covalent inhibitor; hydrazine
16.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of human cystathionine β-synthase 
This article describes the crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of a protein construct (hCBS516–525) that contains the full-length cystathionine β-synthase from Homo sapiens (hCBS) and just lacks amino-acid residues 516–525.
Human cystathionine β-synthase (CBS) is a pyridoxal-5′-phosphate-dependent hemeprotein, whose catalytic activity is regulated by S-adenosylmethionine. CBS catalyzes the β-replacement reaction of homocysteine (Hcy) with serine to yield cystathionine. CBS is a key regulator of plasma levels of the thrombogenic Hcy and deficiency in CBS is the single most common cause of homocystinuria, an inherited metabolic disorder of sulfur amino acids. The properties of CBS enzymes, such as domain organization, oligomerization degree or regulatory mechanisms, are not conserved across the eukaryotes. The current body of knowledge is insufficient to understand these differences and their impact on CBS function and physiology. To overcome this deficiency, we have addressed the crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of a protein construct (hCBS516–525) that contains the full-length CBS from Homo sapiens (hCBS) and just lacks amino-acid residues 516–525, which are located in a disordered loop. The human enzyme yielded crystals belonging to space group I222, with unit-cell parameters a = 124.98, b = 136.33, c = 169.83 Å and diffracting X-rays to a resolution of 3.0 Å. The crystal structure appears to contain two molecules in the asymmetric unit which presumably correspond to a dimeric form of the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3515372  PMID: 23143240
cystathionine β-synthase; CBS domain; homocysteine; cysteine biosynthesis; heme; pyridoxal-5′-phosphate; S-adenosylmethionine; transsulfuration pathway
17.  A gold-containing drug against parasitic polyamine metabolism: the X-ray structure of trypanothione reductase from Leishmania infantum in complex with auranofin reveals a dual mechanism of enzyme inhibition 
Amino Acids  2011;42(2-3):803-811.
Auranofin is a gold(I)-containing drug in clinical use as an antiarthritic agent. Recent studies showed that auranofin manifests interesting antiparasitic actions very likely arising from inhibition of parasitic enzymes involved in the control of the redox metabolism. Trypanothione reductase is a key enzyme of Leishmania infantum polyamine-dependent redox metabolism, and a validated target for antileishmanial drugs. As trypanothione reductase contains a dithiol motif at its active site and gold(I) compounds are known to be highly thiophilic, we explored whether auranofin might behave as an effective enzyme inhibitor and as a potential antileishmanial agent. Notably, enzymatic assays revealed that auranofin causes indeed a pronounced enzyme inhibition. To gain a deeper insight into the molecular basis of enzyme inhibition, crystals of the auranofin-bound enzyme, in the presence of NADPH, were prepared, and the X-ray crystal structure of the auranofin–trypanothione reductase–NADPH complex was solved at 3.5 Å resolution. In spite of the rather low resolution, these data were of sufficient quality as to identify the presence of the gold center and of the thiosugar of auranofin, and to locate them within the overall protein structure. Gold binds to the two active site cysteine residues of TR, i.e. Cys52 and Cys57, while the thiosugar moiety of auranofin binds to the trypanothione binding site; thus auranofin appears to inhibit TR through a dual mechanism. Auranofin kills the promastigote stage of L. infantum at micromolar concentration; these findings will contribute to the design of new drugs against leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC3266496  PMID: 21833767
Gold; Auranofin; Leishmania; Trypanothione reductase
18.  Crystal Structure of the N-Acetyltransferase Domain of Human N-Acetyl-L-Glutamate Synthase in Complex with N-Acetyl-L-Glutamate Provides Insights into Its Catalytic and Regulatory Mechanisms 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70369.
N-acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS) catalyzes the conversion of AcCoA and L-glutamate to CoA and N-acetyl-L-glutamate (NAG), an obligate cofactor for carbamyl phosphate synthetase I (CPSI) in the urea cycle. NAGS deficiency results in elevated levels of plasma ammonia which is neurotoxic. We report herein the first crystal structure of human NAGS, that of the catalytic N-acetyltransferase (hNAT) domain with N-acetyl-L-glutamate bound at 2.1 Å resolution. Functional studies indicate that the hNAT domain retains catalytic activity in the absence of the amino acid kinase (AAK) domain. Instead, the major functions of the AAK domain appear to be providing a binding site for the allosteric activator, L-arginine, and an N-terminal proline-rich motif that is likely to function in signal transduction to CPS1. Crystalline hNAT forms a dimer similar to the NAT-NAT dimers that form in crystals of bifunctional N-acetylglutamate synthase/kinase (NAGS/K) from Maricaulis maris and also exists as a dimer in solution. The structure of the NAG binding site, in combination with mutagenesis studies, provide insights into the catalytic mechanism. We also show that native NAGS from human and mouse exists in tetrameric form, similar to those of bifunctional NAGS/K.
PMCID: PMC3722096  PMID: 23894642
19.  The Crystal Structures of the Tryparedoxin-Tryparedoxin Peroxidase Couple Unveil the Structural Determinants of Leishmania Detoxification Pathway 
Leishmaniasis is a neglected disease caused by Leishmania, an intracellular protozoan parasite which possesses a unique thiol metabolism based on trypanothione. Trypanothione is used as a source of electrons by the tryparedoxin/tryparedoxin peroxidase system (TXN/TXNPx) to reduce the hydroperoxides produced by macrophages during infection. This detoxification pathway is not only unique to the parasite but is also essential for its survival; therefore, it constitutes a most attractive drug target. Several forms of TXNPx, with very high sequence identity to one another, have been found in Leishmania strains, one of which has been used as a component of a potential anti-leishmanial polyprotein vaccine. The structures of cytosolic TXN and TXNPx from L. major (LmTXN and LmTXNPx) offer a unique opportunity to study peroxide reduction in Leishmania parasites at a molecular level, and may provide new tools for multienzyme inhibition-based drug discovery. Structural analyses bring out key structural features to elucidate LmTXN and LmTXNPx function. LmTXN displays an unusual N-terminal α-helix which allows the formation of a stable domain-swapped dimer. In LmTXNPx, crystallized in reducing condition, both the locally unfolded (LU) and fully folded (FF) conformations, typical of the oxidized and reduced protein respectively, are populated. The structural analysis presented here points to a high flexibility of the loop that includes the peroxidatic cysteine which facilitates Cys52 to form an inter-chain disulfide bond with the resolving cysteine (Cys173), thereby preventing over-oxidation which would inactivate the enzyme. Analysis of the electrostatic surface potentials of both LmTXN and LmTXNPx unveils the structural elements at the basis of functionally relevant interaction between the two proteins. Finally, the structural analysis of TXNPx allows us to identify the position of the epitopes that make the protein antigenic and therefore potentially suitable to be used in an anti-leishmanial polyprotein vaccine.
Author Summary
Leishmania spp. are protozoa responsible for Leishmaniases, neglected diseases killing up to 60,000 people every year. Current therapies rely mainly on antimonial drugs that are inadequate due to poor drug efficacy and safety, combined with increasing drug resistance. To overcome these problems, there is an urgent need to find new and more affordable drugs. Leishmania reduces the hydrogen peroxide produced by macrophages during the infection by means of the tryparedoxin/tryparedoxin peroxidase couple. The two enzymes are potentially suitable drug targets since they are both necessary for parasite survival and absent in the human host. To understand the molecular basis of peroxide reduction in the Leishmania parasites, we have solved the X-ray crystal structures of both enzymes. Structural analyses highlight oligomerization of the two proteins and allow the regions responsible for their interaction to be identified. Moreover, based on the X-ray structures and on electronic microscopy data present in literature for the homologous proteins from Trypanosoma brucei, we have generated a model of interaction between tryparedoxin and tryparedoxin peroxidase from L. major. From the X-ray structure and from this model, we have identified the epitopes of tryparedoxin peroxidase, which is part of a potential threecomponent vaccine that is presently being studied in animal models and in human.
PMCID: PMC3424247  PMID: 22928053
20.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of cysteine synthase from Entamoeba histolytica  
A preliminary crystallographic study of cysteine synthase, a major enzyme in the cysteine-biosynthesis pathway, from the amoebic pathogen E. histolytica.
Entamoeba histolytica, the causative agent of human amoebiasis, is essentially anaerobic, requiring a small amount of oxygen for growth. It cannot tolerate the higher concentration of oxygen present in human tissues or blood. However, during tissue invasion it is exposed to a higher level of oxygen, leading to oxygen stress. Cysteine, which is a vital thiol in E. histolytica, plays an essential role in its oxygen-defence mechanisms. The major route of cysteine biosynthesis in this parasite is the condensation of O-acetylserine with sulfide by the de novo cysteine-biosynthetic pathway, which involves cysteine synthase (EhCS) as a key enzyme. In this study, EhCS was cloned, expressed in Escherichia coli and purified by affinity and size-exclusion chromatography. The purified protein was crystallized in space group P41 with two molecules per asymmetric unit and a complete data set was collected to a resolution of 1.86 Å. A molecular-replacement solution was obtained using the Salmonella typhimurium O-­acetylserine sulfhydrylase structure as a probe and had a correlation coefficient of 37.7% and an R factor of 48.8%.
PMCID: PMC2335080  PMID: 17554175
cysteine synthase; Entamoeba histolytica
21.  Crystal structures of Burkholderia cenocepacia dihydropteroate synthase in the apo-form and complexed with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate 
The enzyme dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) participates in the de novo synthesis of folate cofactors by catalyzing the formation of 7,8-dihydropteroate from condensation of p-aminobenzoic acid with 6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropteroate pyrophosphate. DHPS is absent from humans, who acquire folates from diet, and has been validated as an antimicrobial therapeutic target by chemical and genetic means. The bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen and an infective agent of cystic fibrosis patients. The organism is highly resistant to antibiotics and there is a recognized need for the identification of new drugs against Burkholderia and related Gram-negative pathogens. Our characterization of the DHPS active site and interactions with the enzyme product are designed to underpin early stage drug discovery.
An efficient recombinant protein expression system for DHPS from B. cenocepacia (BcDHPS) was prepared, the dimeric enzyme purified in high yield and crystallized. The structure of the apo-enzyme and the complex with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate have been determined to 2.35 Å and 1.95 Å resolution respectively in distinct orthorhombic crystal forms. The latter represents the first crystal structure of the DHPS-pterin product complex, reveals key interactions involved in ligand binding, and reinforces data generated by other structural studies. Comparisons with orthologues identify plasticity near the substrate-binding pocket and in particular a range of loop conformations that contribute to the architecture of the DHPS active site. These structural data provide a foundation for hit discovery. An intriguing observation, an artifact of the analysis, that of a potential sulfenamide bond within the ligand complex structure is mentioned.
Structural similarities between BcDHPS and orthologues from other Gram-negative species are evident as expected on the basis of a high level of sequence identity. The presence of 7,8-dihydropteroate in the binding site provides details about ligand recognition by the enzyme and the different states of the enzyme allow us to visualize distinct conformational states of loops adjacent to the active site. Improved drugs to combat infections by Burkholderia sp. and related Gram-negative bacteria are sought and our study now provides templates to assist that process and allow us to discuss new ways of inhibiting DHPS.
PMCID: PMC3098144  PMID: 21554707
22.  Structural and thermodynamic basis of the inhibition of Leishmania major farnesyl diphosphate synthase by nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates 
Structural insights into L. major farnesyl diphosphate synthase, a key enzyme in the mevalonate pathway, are described.
Farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPPS) is an essential enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of sterols (cholesterol in humans and ergosterol in yeasts, fungi and trypanosomatid parasites) as well as in protein prenylation. It is inhibited by bisphos­phonates, a class of drugs used in humans to treat diverse bone-related diseases. The development of bisphosphonates as antiparasitic compounds targeting ergosterol biosynthesis has become an important route for therapeutic intervention. Here, the X-ray crystallographic structures of complexes of FPPS from Leishmania major (the causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis) with three bisphosphonates determined at resolutions of 1.8, 1.9 and 2.3 Å are reported. Two of the inhibitors, 1-(2-hydroxy-2,2-diphosphonoethyl)-3-phenylpyridinium (300B) and 3-butyl-1-(2,2-diphosphonoethyl)pyridinium (476A), co-crystallize with the homoallylic substrate isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and three Ca2+ ions. A third inhibitor, 3-fluoro-1-(2-hydroxy-2,2-diphosphonoethyl)pyridinium (46I), was found to bind two Mg2+ ions but not IPP. Calorimetric studies showed that binding of the inhibitors is entropically driven. Comparison of the structures of L. major FPPS (LmFPPS) and human FPPS provides new information for the design of bisphosphonates that will be more specific for inhibition of LmFPPS. The asymmetric structure of the LmFPPS–46I homodimer indicates that binding of the allylic substrate to both monomers of the dimer results in an asymmetric dimer with one open and one closed homoallylic site. It is proposed that IPP first binds to the open site, which then closes, opening the site on the other monomer, which closes after binding the second IPP, leading to the symmetric fully occupied FPPS dimer observed in other structures.
PMCID: PMC3949514  PMID: 24598749
farnesyl diphosphate synthase; FPP; IPP; Leishmania major
23.  Structure of Leishmania major Methionyl-tRNA Synthetase in Complex with Intermediate Products Methionyladenylate and Pyrophosphate 
Biochimie  2010;93(3):570-582.
Leishmania parasites cause two million new cases of leishmaniasis each year with several hundreds of millions people at risk. Due to the paucity and shortcomings of available drugs, we have undertaken the crystal structure determination of a key enzyme from Leishmania major in hopes of creating a platform for the rational design of new therapeutics. Crystals of the catalytic core of methionyl-tRNA synthetase from L. major (LmMetRS) were obtained with the substrates MgATP and methionine present in the crystallization medium. These crystals yielded the 2.0 Å resolution structure of LmMetRS in complex with two products, methionyladenylate and pyrophosphate, along with a Mg2+ ion that bridges them. This is the first class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (aaRS) structure with pyrophosphate bound. The residues of the class I aaRS signature sequence motifs, KISKS and HIGH, make numerous contacts with the pyrophosphate. Substantial differences between the LmMetRS structure and previously reported complexes of E. coli MetRS (EcMetRS) with analogs of the methionyladenylate intermediate product are observed, even though one of these analogs only differs by one atom from the intermediate. The source of these structural differences is attributed to the presence of the product pyrophosphate in LmMetRS. Analysis of the LmMetRS structure in light of the Aquifex aeolicus MetRS-tRNAMet complex shows that major rearrangements of multiple structural elements of enzyme and/or tRNA are required to allow the CCA acceptor triplet to reach the methionyladenylate intermediate in the active site. Comparison with sequences of human cytosolic and mitochondrial MetRS reveals interesting differences near the ATP- and methionine-binding regions of LmMetRS, suggesting that it should be possible to obtain compounds that selectively inhibit the parasite enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3039092  PMID: 21144880
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase; protozoa; drug target; leishmaniasis; trypanosomiasis; enzyme product complex
24.  A double mutation of Escherichia coli 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase disrupts six hydrogen bonds with, yet fails to prevent binding of, an isoprenoid diphosphate 
A double mutation designed to disrupt binding of isoprenoid diphosphate to an enzyme involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis was made and the structure determined. Despite the removal of six hydrogen-bonding interactions, the ligand, acquired during production in E. coli, remains bound. The reasons for this are discussed.
The essential enzyme 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MECP) synthase, found in most eubacteria and the apicomplexan parasites, participates in isoprenoid-precursor biosynthesis and is a validated target for the development of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs. The structure and mechanism of the enzyme have been elucidated and the recent exciting finding that the enzyme actually binds diphosphate-containing isoprenoids at the interface formed by the three subunits that constitute the active protein suggests the possibility of feedback regulation of MECP synthase. To investigate such a possibility, a form of the enzyme was sought that did not bind these ligands but which would retain the quaternary structure necessary to create the active site. Two amino acids, Arg142 and Glu144, in Escherichia coli MECP synthase were identified as contributing to ligand binding. Glu144 interacts directly with Arg142 and positions the basic residue to form two hydrogen bonds with the terminal phosphate group of the isoprenoid diphosphate ligand. This association occurs at the trimer interface and three of these arginines interact with the ligand phosphate group. A dual mutation was designed (Arg142 to methionine and Glu144 to leucine) to disrupt the electrostatic attractions between the enzyme and the phosphate group to investigate whether an enzyme without isoprenoid diphosphate could be obtained. A low-resolution crystal structure of the mutated MECP synthase Met142/Leu144 revealed that geranyl diphosphate was retained despite the removal of six hydrogen bonds normally formed with the enzyme. This indicates that these two hydrophilic residues on the surface of the enzyme are not major determinants of isoprenoid binding at the trimer interface but rather that hydrophobic interactions between the hydrocarbon tail and the core of the enzyme trimer dominate ligand binding.
PMCID: PMC1952448  PMID: 16511114
MECP synthase; site-directed mutagenesis; isoprenoid biosynthesis
25.  Structural characterization of substrate and inhibitor binding to farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa  
The crystal structures of farnesyl diphosphate synthase from the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa in complex with substrates and inhibitors have been determined. The study reveals the presence of an allosteric binding pocket also in bacterial enzymes that, similar to the human enzyme, could be the target for the design of specific and potent inhibitors.
Locus PA4043 in the genome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 has been annotated as coding for a farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase (FPPS). This open reading frame was cloned and expressed recombinantly in Escherichia coli. The dimeric enzyme shows farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase activity and is strongly inhibited by ibandronate and zoledronate, drugs that are presently in clinical use. The structures of the unliganded enzyme and complexes with the substrate geranyl diphosphate (GPP), the inhibitor ibandronate and two compounds obtained from a differential scanning fluorimetry-based screen of a fragment library were determined by X-ray crystallography to resolutions of better than 2.0 Å. The enzyme shows the typical α-helical fold of farnesyl pyrophosphate synthases. The substrate GPP binds in the S1 substrate site in an open conformation of the enzyme. In the enzyme–ibandronate complex three inhibitor molecules are bound in the active site of the enzyme. One inhibitor molecule occupies the allylic substrate site (S1) of each subunit, as observed in complexes of nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate inhibitors of farnesyl synthases from other species. Two (in subunit A) and one (in subunit B) additional ibandronate molecules are bound in the active site. The structures of the fragment complexes show two molecules bound in a hydrophobic pocket adjacent to the active site. This allosteric pocket, which has previously only been described for FPPS from eukaryotic organisms, is thus also present in enzymes from pathogenic prokaryotes and might be utilized for the design of inhibitors of bacterial FPPS with a different chemical scaffold to the highly charged bisphosphonates, which are less likely to pass bacterial membranes.
PMCID: PMC4356374  PMID: 25760619
Pseudomonas aeruginosa; farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase; ligand complexes; enzyme inhibitor; enzyme assay; isoprenoid biosynthesis

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