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1.  Diversity in the structures and ligand-binding sites of nematode fatty acid and retinol-binding proteins revealed by Na-FAR-1 from Necator americanus 
Biochemical Journal  2015;471(Pt 3):403-414.
Necator americanus fatty acid and retinol-binding protein-1 (Na-FAR-1) is an abundantly expressed FAR from a parasitic hookworm. The present work describes its tissue distribution, structure and ligand-binding characteristics and shows that Na-FAR-1 expands to transport multiple FA molecules in its internal cavity.
Fatty acid and retinol-binding proteins (FARs) comprise a family of unusual α-helix rich lipid-binding proteins found exclusively in nematodes. They are secreted into host tissues by parasites of plants, animals and humans. The structure of a FAR protein from the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is available, but this protein [C. elegans FAR-7 (Ce-FAR-7)] is from a subfamily of FARs that does not appear to be important at the host/parasite interface. We have therefore examined [Necator americanus FAR-1 (Na-FAR-1)] from the blood-feeding intestinal parasite of humans, N. americanus. The 3D structure of Na-FAR-1 in its ligand-free and ligand-bound forms, determined by NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography respectively, reveals an α-helical fold similar to Ce-FAR-7, but Na-FAR-1 possesses a larger and more complex internal ligand-binding cavity and an additional C-terminal α-helix. Titration of apo-Na-FAR-1 with oleic acid, analysed by NMR chemical shift perturbation, reveals that at least four distinct protein–ligand complexes can be formed. Na-FAR-1 and possibly other FARs may have a wider repertoire for hydrophobic ligand binding, as confirmed in the present study by our finding that a range of neutral and polar lipids co-purify with the bacterially expressed recombinant protein. Finally, we show by immunohistochemistry that Na-FAR-1 is present in adult worms with a tissue distribution indicative of possible roles in nutrient acquisition by the parasite and in reproduction in the male.
PMCID: PMC4613501  PMID: 26318523
fatty acid-binding protein; Necator americanus; nematode; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); parasite; protein structure; retinol-binding protein; X-ray
2.  1H, 13C and 15N chemical shift assignments of Na-FAR-1, a helix-rich fatty acid and retinol binding protein of the parasitic nematode Necator americanus 
Biomolecular Nmr Assignments  2012;8(1):19-21.
The fatty acid and retinol-binding (FAR) proteins are a family of unusual helix-rich lipid binding proteins found exclusively in nematodes, and are secreted by a range of parasites of humans, animals and plants. Na-FAR-1 is from the parasitic nematode Necator americanus, an intestinal blood-feeding parasite of humans. Sequence-specific 1H, 13C and 15N resonance assignments have been obtained for the recombinant 170 amino acid protein, using three-dimensional triple-resonance heteronuclear magnetic resonance experiments. Backbone assignments have been obtained for 99.3 % of the non-proline HN/N pairs (146 out of 147). The amide resonance of T45 was not observed, probably due to rapid exchange with solvent water. A total of 96.9 % of backbone resonances were identified, while 97.7 % assignment of amino acid sidechain protons is complete. All Hα(166), Hβ(250) and Hγ(160) and 98.4 % of the Hδ (126 out of 128) atoms were assigned. In addition, 99.4 % Cα (154 out of 155) and 99.3 % Cβ (143 out of 144) resonances have been assigned. No resonances were observed for the NHn groups of R93 NεHε, arginine, Nη1H2, Nη2H2, histidine Nδ1Hδ1, Nε1Hε1 and lysine Nζ3H3. Na-FAR-1 has a similar overall arrangement of α-helices to Ce-FAR-7 of the free-living Caeorhabditis elegans, but with an extra C-terminal helix.
PMCID: PMC3955486  PMID: 23179061
Parasitic nematode; Necator americanus; Fatty-acid and retinol-binding protein; Na-FAR-1; NMR
3.  Characterization of Three Novel Fatty Acid- and Retinoid-Binding Protein Genes (Ha-far-1, Ha-far-2 and Hf-far-1) from the Cereal Cyst Nematodes Heterodera avenae and H. filipjevi 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0160003.
Heterodera avenae and H. filipjevi are major parasites of wheat, reducing production worldwide. Both are sedentary endoparasitic nematodes, and their development and parasitism depend strongly on nutrients obtained from hosts. Secreted fatty acid- and retinol-binding (FAR) proteins are nematode-specific lipid carrier proteins used for nutrient acquisition as well as suppression of plant defenses. In this study, we obtained three novel FAR genes Ha-far-1 (KU877266), Ha-far-2 (KU877267), Hf-far-1 (KU877268). Ha-far-1 and Ha-far-2 were cloned from H. avenae, encoding proteins of 191 and 280 amino acids with molecular masses about 17 and 30 kDa, respectively and sequence identity of 28%. Protein Blast in NCBI revealed that Ha-FAR-1 sequence is 78% similar to the Gp-FAR-1 protein from Globodera pallida, while Ha-FAR-2 is 30% similar to Rs-FAR-1 from Radopholus similis. Only one FAR protein Hf-FAR-1was identified in H. filipjevi; it had 96% sequence identity to Ha-FAR-1. The three proteins are alpha-helix-rich and contain the conserved domain of Gp-FAR-1, but Ha-FAR-2 had a remarkable peptide at the C-terminus which was random-coil-rich. Both Ha-FAR-1 and Hf-FAR-1 had casein kinase II phosphorylation sites, while Ha-FAR-2 had predicted N-glycosylation sites. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the three proteins clustered together, though Ha-FAR-1 and Hf-FAR-1 adjoined each other in a plant-parasitic nematode branch, but Ha-FAR-2 was distinct from the other proteins in the group. Fluorescence-based ligand binding analysis showed the three FAR proteins bound to a fluorescent fatty acid derivative and retinol and with dissociation constants similar to FARs from other species, though Ha-FAR-2 binding ability was weaker than that of the two others. In situ hybridization detected mRNAs of Ha-far-1 and Ha-far-2 in the hypodermis. The qRT-PCR results showed that the Ha-far-1and Ha-far-2 were expressed in all developmental stages; Ha-far-1 expressed 70 times more than Ha-far-2 in all stages. The highest expression level of Ha-far-1 was observed in fourth-stage juvenile (J4), whereas the highest expression level of Ha-far-2 occurred in second-stage juvenile (J2). In conclusion, we have identified two novel far genes from H. avenae and one from H. filipjevi and have provided further indication that nematode far genes are present in a variety of nematode species, where the FAR proteins share similar basic structure, expression pattern and biochemical activities.
PMCID: PMC4968833  PMID: 27479008
4.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of Na-SAA-2 from the human hookworm parasite Necator americanus  
The purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of a surface-associated antigen from the major human hookworm N. americanus is presented.
Human hookworms are among the most pathogenic soil-transmitted helminths. These parasitic nematodes have co-evolved with the host and are able to maintain a high worm burden for decades without killing the human host. However, it is possible to develop vaccines against laboratory-challenge hookworm infections using either irradiated third-state infective larvae (L3) or enzymes from the adult parasites. In an effort to control hookworm infection globally, the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, a product-development partnership with the Sabin Vaccine Institute to develop new control tools including vaccines, has identified a battery of protein antigens, including surface-associated antigens (SAAs) from L3. SAA proteins are characterized by a 13 kDa conserved domain of unknown function. SAA proteins are found on the surface of infective L3 stages (and some adult stages) of different nematode parasites, suggesting that they may play important roles in these organisms. The atomic structures and function of SAA proteins remain undetermined and in an effort to remedy this situation recombinant Na-SAA-2 from the most prevalent human hookworm parasite Necator americanus has been expressed, purified and crystallized. Useful X-ray data have been collected to 2.3 Å resolution from a crystal that belonged to the monoclinic space group C2 with unit-cell parameters a = 73.88, b = 35.58, c = 42.75 Å, β = 116.1°.
PMCID: PMC2815685  PMID: 20124715
surface-associated antigens; hookworm; Necator americanus; ancylostoma; vaccines
5.  Fatty Acid-and Retinol-Binding Protein, Mj-FAR-1 Induces Tomato Host Susceptibility to Root-Knot Nematodes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64586.
Plant-parasitic nematodes produce at least one structurally unique class of small helix-rich retinol- and fatty-acid-binding proteins that have no counterparts in their plant hosts. Herein we describe a protein of the plant-parasitic root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica, which is a member of the nematode-specific fatty-acid- and retinol-binding (Mj-FAR-1) family of proteins. The mj-far-1 mRNA was detected through M. javanica pre-parasitic J2s, migratory and sedentary parasitic stages by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Immunolocalization assays demonstrate that the FAR protein of Meloidogyne is secreted during sedentary stages, as evidenced by the accumulation of FAR at the nematode cuticle surface and along the adjacent host root tissues. Tomato roots constitutively expressing mj-far-1 demonstrated an increased susceptibility to root-knot nematodes infection as observed by accelerated gall induction and expansion, accompanied by a higher percentage of nematodes developing into mature females compared to control roots. RNA interference assays that expressed double-stranded RNA complementary to mj-far-1 in transgenic tomato lines specifically reduced nematode infection levels. Histological analysis of nematode-infested roots indicated that in roots overexpressing mj-far-1, galls contained larger feeding cells and might support a faster nematode development and maturation. Roots overexpressing mj-far-1 suppressed jasmonic acid responsive genes such as the proteinase inhibitor (Pin2) and γ-thionin, illustrating the possible role of Mj-FAR-1 in manipulating the lipid based signaling in planta. This data, suggests that Meloidogyne FAR might have a strategic function during the interaction of the nematode with its plant host. Our study present the first demonstration of an in planta functional characterization and localization of FAR proteins secreted by plant-parasitic nematodes. It provides evidence that Mj-FAR-1 facilitates infection most likely via the manipulation of host lipid-based defenses, as critical components for a successful parasitism by plant-parasitic nematodes.
PMCID: PMC3661543  PMID: 23717636
6.  Molecular Characterization and Functions of Fatty Acid and Retinoid Binding Protein Gene (Ab-far-1) in Aphelenchoides besseyi 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66011.
Rice white tip nematode, Aphelenchoides besseyi, is a kind of plant parasitic nematodes that cause serious losses in rice and many other crops. Fatty acid and retinoid binding protein (FAR) is a specific protein in nematodes and is related to development, reproduction, infection to the host, and disruption of plant defense reactions, so the inhibition of FAR function is the potential approach to control A. besseyi. The full-length of Ab-far-1 cDNA is 805 bp, including 546 bp of ORF that encodes 181 amino acids. Software analysis revealed that the Ab-FAR-1 was rich in α-helix structure, contained a predicted consensus casein kinase II phosphorylation site and a hydrophobic secretory signal peptide, but did not have glycosylation sites. The Ab-FAR-1 had 52% homology to Gp-FAR-1 protein. The Ab-FAR-1 and Gp-FAR-1 were grouped in the same branch according to the phylogenetic tree. Fluorescence-based ligand binding analysis confirmed that the recombinant Ab-FAR-1 (rAb-FAR-1) bound with the fluorescent analogues 11-((5-dimethylaminonaphthalene-1-sulfonyl) amino) undecannoic acid (DAUDA), cis-parinaric acid and retinol, but the oleic acid would compete with the binding site. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) was used to assess the expression level of Ab-far-1 at different development stages of A. besseyi, the highest expression was found in the females, followed by eggs, juveniles and males. Using in situ hybridization technique, Ab-far-1 mRNA was present in the hypodermis of juveniles and adults, the ovaries of females and the testes of males. When A. besseyi was treated with Ab-far-1 dsRNA for 48 h, the silencing efficiency of Ab-far-1 was the best and the number of nematodes on the carrot was the least. Thus FAR plays important roles in the development and reproduction of nematodes. This study is useful and helpful to figure out a new way to control the plant parasitic nematodes.
PMCID: PMC3673936  PMID: 23755297
7.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of Na-ASP-1, a multi-domain pathogenesis-related-1 protein from the human hookworm parasite Necator americanus  
In order to clarify the structural basis of the pathogenesis-related-1 domain, Na-ASP-1, the first multi-domain ASP from the human hookworm parasite N. americanus, has been crystallized. 2.2 Å resolution data have been collected from a crystal belonging to the monoclinic space group P21.
Human hookworm infection is a major cause of anemia and malnutrition in the developing world. In an effort to control hookworm infection, the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative has identified candidate vaccine antigens from the infective larval stage (L3) of the parasite, including a family of pathogenesis-related-1 (PR-1) proteins known as the ancylostoma-secreted proteins (ASPs). The functions of the ASPs are unknown. In addition, it is unclear why some ASPs have one while others have multiple PR-1 domains. There are no known structures of a multi-domain ASP and in an effort to remedy this situation, recombinant Na-ASP-1 has been expressed, purified and crystallized. Na-ASP-1 is a 406-amino-acid multi-domain ASP from the prevalent human hookworm parasite Necator americanus. Useful X-ray data to 2.2 Å have been collected from a crystal that belongs to the monoclinic space group P21 with unit-cell parameters a = 67.7, b = 74.27, c = 84.60 Å, β = 112.12°. An initial molecular-replacement solution has been obtained with one monomer in the asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC1952415  PMID: 16511050
pathogenesis-related proteins; hookworm; ASP; Necator americanus; ancylostoma; vaccines
8.  Structure of monomeric Na-GST-3, a glutathione S-­transferase from the major human hookworm parasite Necator americanus  
The crystal structure of Na-GST-3 from the human hookworm parasite N. americanus is reported.
Necator americanus is the major cause of human hookworm infection, which is a global cause of anemia in the developing world. Ongoing efforts to control hookworm infection include the identification of candidate vaccine antigens as well as potential therapeutic targets from the infective L3 larval stages and adult stages of the parasite. One promising family of proteins are the adult-stage-secreted cytosolic glutathione S-transferases (GSTs). Nematode GSTs facilitate the inactivation and degradation of a variety of electrophilic substrates (drugs) via the nucleophilic addition of reduced glutathione. Parasite GSTs also play significant roles in multi-drug resistance and the modulation of host immune defense mechanisms. Here, the structure of Na-GST-3, one of three GSTs secreted by adult-stage N. americanus, is reported. Unlike most GST structures, the Na-GST-3 crystal contains a monomer in the asymmetric unit. However, the monomer forms a prototypical GST dimer across the crystallographic twofold. A glutathione from the fermentation process is bound to the monomer. The overall binding cavity of Na-GST-3 is reminiscent of that of other N. americanus GSTs and is larger and capable of binding a wider array of ligands than GSTs from organisms that have other major detoxifying mechanisms. Furthermore, despite having low sequence identity to the host GST, Na-GST-3 has a greater tertiary-structure similarity to human sigma-class GST than was observed for the other N. americanus GSTs.
PMCID: PMC3729155  PMID: 23908024
hookworms; GST; Necator americanus; vaccines; inhibition
9.  Serum amyloid A is a retinol binding protein that transports retinol during bacterial infection 
eLife  2014;3:e03206.
Retinol plays a vital role in the immune response to infection, yet proteins that mediate retinol transport during infection have not been identified. Serum amyloid A (SAA) proteins are strongly induced in the liver by systemic infection and in the intestine by bacterial colonization, but their exact functions remain unclear. Here we show that mouse and human SAAs are retinol binding proteins. Mouse and human SAAs bound retinol with nanomolar affinity, were associated with retinol in vivo, and limited the bacterial burden in tissues after acute infection. We determined the crystal structure of mouse SAA3 at a resolution of 2 Å, finding that it forms a tetramer with a hydrophobic binding pocket that can accommodate retinol. Our results thus identify SAAs as a family of microbe-inducible retinol binding proteins, reveal a unique protein architecture involved in retinol binding, and suggest how retinol is circulated during infection.
eLife digest
Vitamins are nutrients that organisms require in order to survive and grow. If an organism is unable to synthesize a vitamin in sufficient quantities, it is essential that it obtain the vitamin through its diet instead.
Vitamin A is found in foods such as eggs, animal liver and carrots, and a diet that is lacking in this vitamin can cause blindness and an increased risk of microbial infections. Vitamin A is not a single compound, but rather a collection of compounds with similar molecular structures. One of these is retinol, which plays a vital role in the body's response to microbial infection. Retinol must bind to specific proteins to be able to move through the bloodstream and be transported around the body.
Serum retinol binding protein transports ingested retinol from the intestine to the liver and other tissues. However, during microbial infection—when retinol transport is particularly important—the amount of this protein dramatically decreases; as such it is unclear how retinol is transported when the body is under attack from pathogens.
It had been suggested that Serum Amyloid A (SAA) proteins, a family of proteins made by some liver and intestinal cells, could be involved in the response to infection, because these proteins' levels increase during infection. However, their exact functions were unknown. Derebe, Zlatkov et al. found that mice fed a diet poor in vitamin A produced fewer SAA proteins in their liver and intestinal cells. However, treating the cells with retinol or the molecule it is broken down into—called retinoic acid—caused more SAAs to be made. Derebe, Zlatkov et al. also discovered that SAAs are associated with retinol in blood samples taken from mice infected with salmonella; and that both mouse and human SAAs bind tightly to retinol. Combined, this evidence suggests that SAAs are the retinol binding proteins that transport retinol during infections.
Derebe, Zlatkov et al. went on to solve the crystal structure of a mouse SAA protein, and showed that four SAA molecules bind together to form a ‘pocket’ that can hold a retinol molecule. Future work will focus on understanding exactly how the transport of retinol by SAAs affects the development of immunity to infections.
PMCID: PMC4129439  PMID: 25073702
retinol transport; serum amyloid A; acute phase response; crystal structure; E. coli; mouse
10.  Solution Structure of a Repeated Unit of the ABA-1 Nematode Polyprotein Allergen of Ascaris Reveals a Novel Fold and Two Discrete Lipid-Binding Sites 
Nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs) are an unusual class of lipid-binding proteins found only in nematodes. They are synthesized as large, tandemly repetitive polyproteins that are post-translationally cleaved into multiple copies of small lipid binding proteins with virtually identical fatty acid and retinol (Vitamin A)-binding characteristics. They are probably central to transport and distribution of small hydrophobic compounds between the tissues of nematodes, and may play key roles in nutrient scavenging, immunomodulation, and IgE antibody-based responses in infection. In some species the repeating units are diverse in amino acid sequence, but, in ascarid and filarial nematodes, many of the units are identical or near-identical. ABA-1A is the most common repeating unit of the NPA of Ascaris suum, and is closely similar to that of Ascaris lumbricoides, the large intestinal roundworm of humans. Immune responses to NPAs have been associated with naturally-acquired resistance to infection in humans, and the immune repertoire to them is under strict genetic control.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The solution structure of ABA-1A was determined by protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The protein adopts a novel seven-helical fold comprising a long central helix that participates in two hollow four-helical bundles on either side. Discrete hydrophobic ligand-binding pockets are found in the N-terminal and C-terminal bundles, and the amino acid sidechains affected by ligand (fatty acid) binding were identified. Recombinant ABA-1A contains tightly-bound ligand(s) of bacterial culture origin in one of its binding sites.
This is the first mature, post-translationally processed, unit of a naturally-occurring tandemly-repetitive polyprotein to be structurally characterized from any source, and it belongs to a new structural class. NPAs have no counterparts in vertebrates, so represent potential targets for drug or immunological intervention. The nature of the (as yet) unidentified bacterial ligand(s) may be pertinent to this, as will our characterization of the unusual binding sites.
Author Summary
Parasitic nematode worms cause serious health problems in humans and other animals. They can induce allergic-type immune responses, which can be harmful but may at the same time protect against the infections. Allergens are proteins that trigger allergic reactions and these parasites produce a type that is confined to nematodes, the nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs). These are synthesized as large precursor proteins comprising repeating units of similar amino acid sequence that are subsequently cleaved into multiple copies of the allergen protein. NPAs bind small lipids such as fatty acids and retinol (Vitamin A) and probably transport these sensitive and insoluble compounds between the tissues of the worms. Nematodes cannot synthesize these lipids, so NPAs may also be crucial for extracting nutrients from their hosts. They may also be involved in altering immune responses by controlling the lipids by which the immune and inflammatory cells communicate. We describe the molecular structure of one unit of an NPA, the well-known ABA-1 allergen of Ascaris, and find its structure to be of a type not previously found for lipid-binding proteins, and we describe the unusual sites where lipids bind within this structure.
PMCID: PMC3079579  PMID: 21526216
11.  Massively Parallel Sequencing and Analysis of the Necator americanus Transcriptome 
The blood-feeding hookworm Necator americanus infects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In order to elucidate fundamental molecular biological aspects of this hookworm, the transcriptome of the adult stage of Necator americanus was explored using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic analyses.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total of 19,997 contigs were assembled from the sequence data; 6,771 of these contigs had known orthologues in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and most of them encoded proteins with WD40 repeats (10.6%), proteinase inhibitors (7.8%) or calcium-binding EF-hand proteins (6.7%). Bioinformatic analyses inferred that the C. elegans homologues are involved mainly in biological pathways linked to ribosome biogenesis (70%), oxidative phosphorylation (63%) and/or proteases (60%); most of these molecules were predicted to be involved in more than one biological pathway. Comparative analyses of the transcriptomes of N. americanus and the canine hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, revealed qualitative and quantitative differences. For instance, proteinase inhibitors were inferred to be highly represented in the former species, whereas SCP/Tpx-1/Ag5/PR-1/Sc7 proteins ( = SCP/TAPS or Ancylostoma-secreted proteins) were predominant in the latter. In N. americanus, essential molecules were predicted using a combination of orthology mapping and functional data available for C. elegans. Further analyses allowed the prioritization of 18 predicted drug targets which did not have homologues in the human host. These candidate targets were inferred to be linked to mitochondrial (e.g., processing proteins) or amino acid metabolism (e.g., asparagine t-RNA synthetase).
This study has provided detailed insights into the transcriptome of the adult stage of N. americanus and examines similarities and differences between this species and A. caninum. Future efforts should focus on comparative transcriptomic and proteomic investigations of the other predominant human hookworm, A. duodenale, for both fundamental and applied purposes, including the prevalidation of anti-hookworm drug targets.
Author Summary
The blood-feeding hookworm Necator americanus infects hundreds of millions of people. To elucidate fundamental molecular biological aspects of this hookworm, the transcriptome of adult Necator americanus was studied using next-generation sequencing and in silico analyses. Contigs (n = 19,997) were assembled from the sequence data; 6,771 of them had known orthologues in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and most encoded proteins with WD40 repeats (10.6%), proteinase inhibitors (7.8%) or calcium-binding EF-hand proteins (6.7%). Bioinformatic analyses inferred that C. elegans homologues are involved mainly in biological pathways linked to ribosome biogenesis (70%), oxidative phosphorylation (63%) and/or proteases (60%). Comparative analyses of the transcriptomes of N. americanus and the canine hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, revealed qualitative and quantitative differences. Essential molecules were predicted using a combination of orthology mapping and functional data available for C. elegans. Further analyses allowed the prioritization of 18 predicted drug targets which did not have human homologues. These candidate targets were inferred to be linked to mitochondrial metabolism or amino acid synthesis. This investigation provides detailed insights into the transcriptome of the adult stage of N. americanus.
PMCID: PMC2867931  PMID: 20485481
12.  Crystals of the Arp2/3 complex in two new space groups with structural information about actin-related protein 2 and potential WASP binding sites 
The actin-polymerizing protein complex Arp2/3 was crystallized in two new space groups. The new electron-density maps from these new crystal forms reveal some details that may help to elucidate how nucleation-promoting factors bind to the complex.
Co-crystals of the bovine Arp2/3 complex with the CA motif from N-WASP in two new space groups were analyzed by X-ray diffraction. The crystals in the orthorhombic space group P212121 contained one complex per asymmetric unit, with unit-cell parameters a = 105.48, b = 156.71, c = 177.84 Å, and diffracted to 3.9 Å resolution. The crystals in the tetragonal space group P41 contained two complexes per asymmetric unit, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 149.93, c = 265.91 Å, and diffracted to 5.0 Å resolution. The electron-density maps of both new crystal forms had densities for small segments of subdomains 1 and 2 of Arp2. Both maps had density at the binding site on Arp3 for the C-terminal EWE tripeptide from N-WASP and a binding site proposed for the C motif of N-WASP in the barbed-end groove of Arp2. The map from the tetragonal crystal form had density near the barbed end of Arp3 that may correspond to the C helix of N-WASP. The noise levels and the low resolution of the maps made the assignment of specific molecular structures for any of these CA peptides impossible.
PMCID: PMC4555924  PMID: 26323303
Arp2/3; Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome; actin
13.  Meloidogyne javanica fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein (Mj-FAR-1) regulates expression of lipid-, cell wall-, stress- and phenylpropanoid-related genes during nematode infection of tomato 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):272.
The secreted Meloidogyne javanica fatty acid- and retinol-binding (FAR) protein Mj-FAR-1 is involved in nematode development and reproduction in host tomato roots. To gain further insight into the role of Mj-FAR-1 in regulating disease development, local transcriptional changes were monitored in tomato hairy root lines with constitutive mj-far-1 expression compared with control roots without inoculation, and 2, 5 and 15 days after inoculation (DAI), using mRNA sequencing analysis.
Gene-expression profiling revealed a total of 3970 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between the two lines. Among the DEGs, 1093, 1039, 1959, and 1328 genes were up- or downregulated 2-fold with false discovery rate < 0.001 in noninoculated roots, and roots 2, 5, and 15 DAI compared with control roots, respectively. Four main groups of genes that might be associated with Mj-FAR-1-mediated susceptibility were identified: 1) genes involved in biotic stress responses such as pathogen-defense mechanisms and hormone metabolism; 2) genes involved in phenylalanine and phenylpropanoid metabolism; 3) genes associated with cell wall synthesis, modification or degradation; and 4) genes associated with lipid metabolism. All of these genes were overrepresented among the DEGs. Studying the distances between the treatments, samples from noninoculated roots and roots at 2 DAI clustered predominantly according to the temporal dynamics related to nematode infection. However, at the later time points (5 and 15 DAI), samples clustered predominantly according to mj-far-1 overexpression, indicating that at these time points Mj-FAR-1 is more important in defining a common transcriptome.
The presence of four groups of DEGs demonstrates a network of molecular events is mediated by Mj-FAR-1 that leads to highly complex manipulation of plant defense responses against nematode invasion. The results shed light on the in vivo role of secreted FAR proteins in parasitism, and add to the mounting evidence that secreted FAR proteins play a major role in nematode parasitism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1426-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4450471  PMID: 25886179
Fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein; Nematode–host interaction; RNA-Seq; Plant defense mechanism; Meloidogyne; Parasitism; Effector
14.  Molecular Cloning, Biochemical Characterization, and Partial Protective Immunity of the Heme-Binding Glutathione S-Transferases from the Human Hookworm Necator americanus▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(4):1552-1563.
Hookworm glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) are critical for parasite blood feeding and survival and represent potential targets for vaccination. Three cDNAs, each encoding a full-length GST protein from the human hookworm Necator americanus (and designated Na-GST-1, Na-GST-2, and Na-GST-3, respectively) were isolated from cDNA based on their sequence similarity to Ac-GST-1, a GST from the dog hookworm Ancylostoma caninum. The open reading frames of the three N. americanus GSTs each contain 206 amino acids with 51% to 69% sequence identity between each other and Ac-GST-1. Sequence alignment with GSTs from other organisms shows that the three Na-GSTs belong to a nematode-specific nu-class GST family. All three Na-GSTs, when expressed in Pichia pastoris, exhibited low lipid peroxidase and glutathione-conjugating enzymatic activities but high heme-binding capacities, and they may be involved in the detoxification and/or transport of heme. In two separate vaccine trials, recombinant Na-GST-1 formulated with Alhydrogel elicited 32 and 39% reductions in adult hookworm burdens (P < 0.05) following N. americanus larval challenge relative to the results for a group immunized with Alhydrogel alone. In contrast, no protection was observed in vaccine trials with Na-GST-2 or Na-GST-3. On the basis of these and other preclinical data, Na-GST-1 is under possible consideration for further vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC2849424  PMID: 20145100
15.  Characterization of a fatty acid and retinol binding protein orthologue from the hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum✯ 
International journal for parasitology  2009;39(14):1561-1571.
Hookworms, bloodfeeding intestinal nematodes, infect nearly one billion people in resource limited countries and are a leading cause of anemia and malnutrition. Like other nematodes, hookworms lack the capacity to synthesize essential fatty acids de novo and therefore must acquire those from exogenous sources. The cDNA corresponding to a putative Ancylostoma ceylanicum fatty acid and retinol binding protein-1 (AceFAR-1) was amplified from adult hookworm mRNA. Studies using quantitative reverse transcriptase real time-PCR demonstrate that AceFAR-1 transcripts are most abundant in the earliest developmental stages of the parasite, and greater in females than males. Using in vitro assays, the recombinant AceFAR-1 (rAceFAR-1) was shown to bind individual fatty acids with equilibrium dissociation constants in the low micromolar range. The pattern of fatty acid uptake by live adult worms cultured ex vivo was similar to the in vitro binding profile of rAceFAR-1, raising the possibility that the native protein may be involved in acquisition of fatty acids by A. ceylanicum. Animals vaccinated orally with rAceFAR-1 and the mucosal adjuvant cholera toxin exhibited a statistically significant (40–47%) reduction in intestinal worm burden compared with controls immunized with antigen or adjuvant alone. Together, these data suggest a potential role for AceFAR-1 in hookworm biology, making it a potentially valuable target for drug and vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC2760681  PMID: 19591834
Hookworm; Fatty acid; Nematode; Ancylostoma; Fatty acid binding protein
16.  In-house SIRAS phasing of the polyunsaturated fatty-acid isomerase from Propionibacterium acnes  
Low iodide concentrations were sufficient to allow SAD and SIRAS phasing of cubic crystals of a novel fatty acid isomerase using Cu Kα radiation.
The polyenoic fatty-acid isomerase from Propionibacterium acnes (PAI) catalyzes the double-bond isomerization of linoleic acid to conjugated linoleic acid, which is a dairy- or meat-derived fatty acid in the human diet. PAI was overproduced in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity as a yellow-coloured protein. The nature of the bound cofactor was analyzed by absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy. Single crystals of PAI were obtained in two crystal forms. Cubic shaped crystals belong to space group I213, with a unit-cell parameter of 160.4 Å, and plate-like crystals belong to the monoclinic space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 133.7, b = 60.8, c = 72.2 Å, β = 115.8°. Both crystal forms contain one molecule per asymmetric unit and diffract to a resolution of better than 2.0 Å. Initial phases were obtained by SIRAS from in-house data from a cubic crystal that was soaked with an unusually low KI concentration of 0.25 M.
PMCID: PMC2150964  PMID: 16511289
fatty-acid isomerases; Propionibacterium acnes
17.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of central structure domains from mumps virus F protein 
Single crystals of the central structure domains from mumps virus F protein have been obtained by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. A diffraction data set has been collected to 2.2 Å resolution.
Fusion of members of the Paramyxoviridae family involves two glycoproteins: the attachment protein and the fusion protein. Changes in the fusion-protein conformation were caused by binding of the attachment protein to the cellular receptor. In the membrane-fusion process, two highly conserved heptad-repeat (HR) regions, HR1 and HR2, are believed to form a stable six-helix coiled-coil bundle. However, no crystal structure has yet been determined for this state in the mumps virus (MuV, a member of the Paramyxoviridae family). In this study, a single-chain protein consisting of two HR regions connected by a flexible amino-acid linker (named 2-Helix) was expressed, purified and crystallized by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. A complete X-ray data set was obtained in-house to 2.2 Å resolution from a single crystal. The crystal belongs to space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 161.2, b = 60.8, c = 40.1 Å, β = 98.4°. The crystal structure will help in understanding the molecular mechanism of Paramyxoviridae family membrane fusion.
PMCID: PMC1978114  PMID: 16511178
mumps virus; fusion proteins
18.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction studies on the bicupin YwfC from Bacillus subtilis  
The bicupin YwfC from B. subtilis was crystallized in two crystal forms and diffraction data were collected to 2.2 Å resolution.
A central tenet of evolutionary biology is that proteins with diverse biochemical functions evolved from a single ancestral protein. A variation on this theme is that the functional repertoire of proteins in a living organism is enhanced by the evolution of single-chain multidomain polypeptides by gene-fusion or gene-duplication events. Proteins with a double-stranded β-helix (cupin) scaffold perform a diverse range of functions. Bicupins are proteins with two cupin domains. There are four bicupins in Bacillus subtilis, encoded by the genes yvrK, yoaN, yxaG and ywfC. The extensive phylogenetic information on these four proteins makes them a good model system to study the evolution of function. The proteins YvrK and YoaN are oxalate decarboxylases, whereas YxaG is a quercetin dioxygenase. In an effort to aid the functional annotation of YwfC as well as to obtain a complete structure–function data set of bicupins, it was proposed to determine the crystal structure of YwfC. The bicupin YwfC was crystallized in two crystal forms. Preliminary crystallographic studies were performed on the diamond-shaped crystals, which belonged to the tetragonal space group P422. These crystals were grown using the microbatch method at 298 K. Native X-ray diffraction data from these crystals were collected to 2.2 Å resolution on a home source. These crystals have unit-cell parameters a = b = 68.7, c = 211.5 Å. Assuming the presence of two molecules per asymmetric unit, the V M value was 2.3 Å3 Da−1 and the solvent content was approximately 45%. Although the crystals appeared less frequently than the tetragonal form, YwfC also crystallizes in the monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 46.7, b = 106.3, c = 48.7 Å, β = 92.7°.
PMCID: PMC2225362  PMID: 17142911
cupin fold; gene duplication; functional diversity
19.  Molecular cloning and characterization of a nematode polyprotein antigen/allergen from the human and animal hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum 
Nematodes are unable to synthesize fatty acids de novo and must acquire them from the environment or host. It is hypothesized that two unique classes of fatty acid and retinol binding proteins that nematodes produce (fatty acid and retinol binding (FAR) and nematode polyprotein antigen/allergen (NPA)) are used to meet this need. A partial cDNA has been cloned corresponding to four subunits of a putative Ancylostoma ceylanicum NPA (AceNPA). The translated amino acid sequence of AceNPA share sequence identity with similar proteins from Dictyocaulus viviparus, Ascaris suum, and Ostertagia ostertagi. Immunoblot experiments using a polyclonal anti-AceNPA IgG revealed proteins corresponding to the expected sizes of single, as well as two or three un-cleaved NPA subunits in adult excretory/secretory proteins and soluble adult worm extracts. Immunohistochemistry experiments localize AceNPA to the cuticle and pseudocoelomic space, suggesting a role in hookworm biology that is distinct from what has previously been defined for other hookworm lipid binding proteins. A single recombinant subunit of AceNPA (rAceNPAb) demonstrated binding in vitro to fluorescent fatty acids DAUDA, cis-parinaric acid, as well as retinol, at equilibrium dissociation constants in the low micromolar range. Further, in vitro data reveal that rAceNPAb binds fatty acids with chain lengths of C12–C22, with the greatest affinities for arachidonic, linoleic (C18), and eicosapentaenoic (C20) acids.
PMCID: PMC4354846  PMID: 25481749
Fatty acid; Nematodes; Ancylostoma ceylanicum
20.  Expression, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of RNA-binding protein Hfq (YmaH) from Bacillus subtilis in complex with an RNA aptamer 
The RNA-binding protein Hfq from B. subtilis was crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method in two crystal forms that belonged to space groups I422 and F222; diffraction data were collected to 2.2 Å resolution from both forms.
The Hfq protein is a hexameric RNA-binding protein which regulates gene expression by binding to RNA under the influence of diverse environmental stresses. Its ring structure binds various types of RNA, including mRNA and sRNA. RNA-bound structures of Hfq from Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus have been revealed to have poly(A) RNA at the distal site and U-rich RNA at the proximal site, respectively. Here, crystals of a complex of the Bacillus subtilis Hfq protein with an A/G-repeat 7-mer RNA (Hfq–RNA) that were prepared using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion technique are reported. The type 1 Hfq–RNA crystals belonged to space group I422, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 123.70, c = 119.13 Å, while the type 2 Hfq–RNA crystals belonged to space group F222, with unit-cell parameters a = 91.92, b = 92.50, c = 114.92 Å. Diffraction data were collected to a resolution of 2.20 Å from both crystal forms. The hexameric structure of the Hfq protein was clearly shown by self-rotation analysis.
PMCID: PMC2864693  PMID: 20445260
RNA chaperones; gene-expression regulation; RNA-binding proteins; Hfq
21.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the DNA-binding domain of a Chlamydia trachomatis OmpR/PhoB-subfamily response regulator homolog, ChxR 
Expression, purification, crystallization, and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of the DNA-binding effector domain from an atypical OmpR response regulator homolog, ChxR, encoded by Chlamydia trachomatis are reported.
Two-component signal transduction systems in bacteria are a primary mechan­ism for responding to environmental stimuli and adjusting gene expression accordingly. Generally in these systems a sensor kinase phosphorylates a response regulator that regulates transcription. Response regulators contain two domains: a receiver domain and an effector domain. The receiver domain is typically phosphorylated and as a result facilitates the DNA-binding and transcriptional activity of the effector domain. The OmpR/PhoB subfamily is the largest of the response-regulator subfamilies and is primarily defined by the winged helix–turn–helix DNA-binding motif within the effector domain. The overall structure of effector domains is highly conserved and contains three defined elements that are critical for transcriptional regulation: a DNA major-groove binding helix, a DNA minor-groove binding wing and a transcriptional activation loop. These functional elements are often diverse in sequence and conformation and reflect the functional differences observed between individual subfamily members. ChxR from Chlamydia trachomatis is an atypical OmpR/PhoB response regulator homolog that has transcriptional activity in the absence of phos­phorylation. To facilitate the precise identification of the functional elements of the ChxR effector domain, this protein was cloned, expressed, purified and crystallized. Crystals were obtained from two separate mother liquors, producing two morphologically distinct crystals. The space group of both crystals was P43212 (or its enantiomorph P41212) with isomorphous unit-cell parameters; the crystals diffracted to 2.2–2.5 Å resolution.
PMCID: PMC2720335  PMID: 19652341
ChxR; DNA-binding domains; OmpR/PhoB subfamily; Chlamydia trachomatis
22.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of Enterococcus casseliflavus aminoglycoside-2′′-phosphotransferase-IVa 
Aminoglycoside-2′′-phosphotransferase-IVa [APH(2′′)-IVa] is an enzyme that is responsible for high-level gentamicin resistance in E. casseliflavus isolates. Three different crystals of wild-type substrate-free APH(2′′)-IVa have been prepared and preliminary X-ray diffraction experiments have been undertaken on all three crystal forms.
The deactivation of aminoglycoside antibiotics by chemical modification is one of the major sources of bacterial resistance to this family of therapeutic compounds, which includes the clinically relevant drugs streptomycin, kanamycin and gentamicin. The aminoglycoside phosphotransferases (APHs) form one such family of enzymes responsible for this resistance. The gene encoding one of these enzymes, aminoglycoside-2′′-phosphotransferase-IVa [APH(2′′)-IVa] from Enterococcus casseliflavus, has been cloned and the protein (comprising 306 amino-acid residues) has been expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. The enzyme was crystallized in three substrate-free forms. Two of the crystal forms belonged to the orthorhombic space group P212121 with similar unit-cell parameters, although one of the crystal forms had a unit-cell volume that was approximately 13% smaller than the other and a very low solvent content of around 38%. The third crystal form belonged to the monoclinic space group P21 and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis was consistent with the presence of two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The orthorhombic crystal forms of apo APH(2′′)-IVa both diffracted to 2.2 Å resolution and the monoclinic crystal form diffracted to 2.4 Å resolution; synchrotron diffraction data were collected from these crystals at SSRL (Stanford, California, USA). Structure determination by molecular replacement using the structure of the related enzyme APH(2′′)-IIa is proceeding.
PMCID: PMC2805544  PMID: 20057078
aminoglycoside-2′′-phosphotransferase-IVa; Enterococcus casseliflavus; antibiotic resistance
23.  Improvement of the quality of lumazine synthase crystals by protein engineering 
Site-directed mutagenesis has been applied to improve the overexpression and purification of the icosahedral enzyme lumazine synthase from B. subtilis as well as to produce a new crystal form. The mutant protein crystallizes in space group R3 and diffracts X-rays to 1.6 Å resolution.
Icosahedral macromolecules have a wide spectrum of potential nanotechno­logical applications, the success of which relies on the level of accuracy at which the molecular structure is known. Lumazine synthase from Bacillus subtilis forms a 150 Å icosahedral capsid consisting of 60 subunits and crystallizes in space group P6322 or C2. However, the quality of these crystals is poor and structural information is only available at 2.4 Å resolution. As classical strategies for growing better diffracting crystals have so far failed, protein engineering has been employed in order to improve the overexpression and purification of the molecule as well as to obtain new crystal forms. Two cysteines were replaced to bypass misfolding problems and a charged surface residue was replaced to force different molecular packings. The mutant protein crystallizes in space group R3, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 313.02, c = 365.77 Å, α = β = 90.0, γ = 120°, and diffracts to 1.6 Å resolution.
PMCID: PMC2443968  PMID: 18607092
lumazine synthase; icosahedral capsid; site-directed mutagenesis; crystal quality
24.  Heterodimeric nitrate reductase (NapAB) from Cupriavidus necator H16: purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis 
Crystals of the oxidized form of the periplasmic nitrate reductase from Cupriavidus necator were obtained using polyethylene glycol 3350 as precipitant
The periplasmic nitrate reductase from Cupriavidus necator (also known as Ralstonia eutropha) is a heterodimer that is able to reduce nitrate to nitrite. It comprises a 91 kDa catalytic subunit (NapA) and a 17 kDa subunit (NapB) that is involved in electron transfer. The larger subunit contains a molybdenum active site with a bis-molybdopterin guanine dinucleotide cofactor as well as one [4Fe–4S] cluster, while the small subunit is a di-haem c-type cytochrome. Crystals of the oxidized form of this enzyme were obtained using polyethylene glycol 3350 as precipitant. A single crystal grown at the High Throughput Crystallization Laboratory of the EMBL in Grenoble diffracted to beyond 1.5 Å at the ESRF (ID14-1), which is the highest resolution reported to date for a nitrate reductase. The unit-cell parameters are a = 142.2, b = 82.4, c = 96.8 Å, β = 100.7°, space group C2, and one heterodimer is present per asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC2335073  PMID: 17554176
nitrate reductase; Fe–S centre; molybdopterin; Cupriavidus necator
25.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of a putative acetylxylan esterase from Talaromyces cellulolyticus  
Acetylxylan esterase from T. cellulolyticus expressed as a truncated form without the cellulose-binding module 1 domain was purified and crystallized. The crystal diffracted to 1.50 Å resolution using synchrotron radiation.
Acetylxylan esterase (AXE) catalyzes the hydrolytic cleavage of the ester bond between acetic acid and hemicellulose in plant cell walls. A putative AXE gene exhibiting high homology to carbohydrate esterase family 3 was found in the genome database of the fungus Talaromyces cellulolyticus (formerly known as Acremonium cellulolyticus). A truncated form of the protein, the catalytic domain of the enzyme, was prepared and crystallized. The best crystal was obtained at 293 K using 0.17 M ammonium sulfate, 28% PEG 4000, 5%(v/v) glycerol, 0.5%(w/v) n-octyl-β-d-glucoside. X-ray diffraction data were collected to 1.50 Å resolution. The crystal belonged to space group P41212 or P43212, with unit-cell parameters a = 70.90, b = 70.90, c = 87.09 Å. One enzyme molecule per asymmetric unit gave a crystal volume per protein mass (V M) of 2.62 Å3 Da−1 and a solvent content of 53.0%(v/v).
PMCID: PMC4259237  PMID: 25484223
biomass; fungus; hemicellulose; cellulase

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