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1.  HIV-Associated Distal Neuropathic Pain is Associated with Smaller Total Cerebral Cortical Gray Matter 
Journal of neurovirology  2014;20(3):209-218.
Despite modern antiretroviral therapy, HIV-associated sensory neuropathy affects over 50% of HIV patients. The clinical expression of HIV neuropathy is highly variable: many individuals report few symptoms, but about half report distal neuropathic pain (DNP), making it one of the most prevalent, disabling and treatment-resistant complications of HIV disease. The presence and intensity of pain is not fully explained by the degree of peripheral nerve damage, making it unclear why some patients do, and others do not, report pain. To better understand central nervous system contributions to HIV DNP, we performed a cross-sectional analysis of structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) volumes in 241 HIV-infected participants from an observational multi-site cohort study at five US sites (CNS HIV Antiretroviral Treatment Effects Research Study, CHARTER). The association between DNP and the structural imaging outcomes was investigated using both linear and nonlinear (Gaussian Kernel support vector) multivariable regression, controlling for key demographic and clinical variables. Severity of DNP symptoms was correlated with smaller total cerebral cortical gray matter volume (R = −0.24; p = 0.004). Understanding the mechanisms for this association between smaller total cortical volumes and DNP may provide insight into HIV DNP chronicity and treatment-resistance.
PMCID: PMC4040150  PMID: 24549970
HIV Distal Neuropathic Pain; Structural MRI; Cortical Volume
2.  Structure-Based Mutational Studies of Substrate Inhibition of Betaine Aldehyde Dehydrogenase BetB from Staphylococcus aureus 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2014;80(13):3992-4002.
Inhibition of enzyme activity by high concentrations of substrate and/or cofactor is a general phenomenon demonstrated in many enzymes, including aldehyde dehydrogenases. Here we show that the uncharacterized protein BetB (SA2613) from Staphylococcus aureus is a highly specific betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase, which exhibits substrate inhibition at concentrations of betaine aldehyde as low as 0.15 mM. In contrast, the aldehyde dehydrogenase YdcW from Escherichia coli, which is also active against betaine aldehyde, shows no inhibition by this substrate. Using the crystal structures of BetB and YdcW, we performed a structure-based mutational analysis of BetB and introduced the YdcW residues into the BetB active site. From a total of 32 mutations, those in five residues located in the substrate binding pocket (Val288, Ser290, His448, Tyr450, and Trp456) greatly reduced the substrate inhibition of BetB, whereas the double mutant protein H448F/Y450L demonstrated a complete loss of substrate inhibition. Substrate inhibition was also reduced by mutations of the semiconserved Gly234 (to Ser, Thr, or Ala) located in the BetB NAD+ binding site, suggesting some cooperativity between the cofactor and substrate binding sites. Substrate docking analysis of the BetB and YdcW active sites revealed that the wild-type BetB can bind betaine aldehyde in both productive and nonproductive conformations, whereas only the productive binding mode can be modeled in the active sites of YdcW and the BetB mutant proteins with reduced substrate inhibition. Thus, our results suggest that the molecular mechanism of substrate inhibition of BetB is associated with the nonproductive binding of betaine aldehyde.
PMCID: PMC4054205  PMID: 24747910
3.  CRISPR RNA binding and DNA target recognition by purified Cascade complexes from Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(1):530-543.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) and their associated Cas proteins comprise a prokaryotic RNA-guided adaptive immune system that interferes with mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids and phages. The type I-E CRISPR interference complex Cascade from Escherichia coli is composed of five different Cas proteins and a 61-nt-long guide RNA (crRNA). crRNAs contain a unique 32-nt spacer flanked by a repeat-derived 5′ handle (8 nt) and a 3′ handle (21 nt). The spacer part of crRNA directs Cascade to DNA targets. Here, we show that the E. coli Cascade can be expressed and purified from cells lacking crRNAs and loaded in vitro with synthetic crRNAs, which direct it to targets complementary to crRNA spacer. The deletion of even one nucleotide from the crRNA 5′ handle disrupted its binding to Cascade and target DNA recognition. In contrast, crRNA variants with just a single nucleotide downstream of the spacer part bound Cascade and the resulting ribonucleotide complex containing a 41-nt-long crRNA specifically recognized DNA targets. Thus, the E. coli Cascade-crRNA system exhibits significant flexibility suggesting that this complex can be engineered for applications in genome editing and opening the way for incorporation of site-specific labels in crRNA.
PMCID: PMC4288178  PMID: 25488810
4.  Toroidal structure and DNA cleavage by the CRISPR-associated [4Fe-4S]-cluster containing Cas4 nuclease SSO0001 from Sulfolobus solfataricus 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2013;135(46):17476-17487.
Cas4 proteins, a core protein family associated with the microbial system of adaptive immunity CRISPR, are predicted to function in the adaptation step of the CRISPR mechanism. Here we show that the Cas4 protein SSO0001 from the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has metal-dependent endonuclease and 5' to 3' exonuclease activities against single-stranded DNA, as well as ATP-independent DNA unwinding activity toward double-stranded DNA. The crystal structure of SSO0001 revealed a decameric toroid formed by five dimers with each protomer containing one [4Fe-4S] cluster and one Mn2+ ion bound in the active site located inside the internal tunnel. The conserved RecB motif and four Cys residues are important for DNA binding and cleavage activities, whereas DNA unwinding depends on several residues located near the [4Fe-4S]-cluster. Our results suggest that Cas4 proteins might contribute to the addition of novel CRISPR spacers through the formation of 3'-DNA overhangs and to the degradation of foreign DNA.
PMCID: PMC3889865  PMID: 24171432
CRISPR interference; Cas4; exonuclease; RecB motif; [4Fe-4S] cluster
5.  The CRISPR-associated Cas4 protein Pcal_0546 from Pyrobaculum calidifontis contains a [2Fe-2S] cluster: crystal structure and nuclease activity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(17):11144-11155.
Cas4 nucleases constitute a core family of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) associated proteins, but little is known about their structure and activity. Here we report the crystal structure of the Cas4 protein Pcal_0546 from Pyrobaculum calidifontis, which revealed a monomeric protein with a RecB-like fold and one [2Fe-2S] cluster coordinated by four conserved Cys residues. Pcal_0546 exhibits metal-dependent 5′ to 3′ exonuclease activity against ssDNA substrates, whereas the Cas4 protein SSO1391 from Sulfolobus solfataricus can cleave ssDNA in both the 5′ to 3′ and 3′ to 5′ directions. The active site of Pcal_0546 contains a bound metal ion coordinated by the side chains of Asp123, Glu136, His146, and the main chain carbonyl of Ile137. Site-directed mutagenesis of Pcal_0546 and SSO1391 revealed that the residues of RecB motifs II, III and QhXXY are critical for nuclease activity, whereas mutations of the conserved Cys residues resulted in a loss of the iron-sulfur cluster, but had no effect on DNA cleavage. Our results revealed the biochemical diversity of Cas4 nucleases, which can have different oligomeric states, contain [4Fe-4S] or [2Fe-2S] clusters, and cleave single stranded DNA in different directions producing single-stranded DNA overhangs, which are potential intermediates for the synthesis of new CRISPR spacers.
PMCID: PMC4176176  PMID: 25200083
6.  Structure and activity of the cold-active and anion-activated carboxyl esterase OLEI01171 from the oil-degrading marine bacterium Oleispira antarctica 
The Biochemical journal  2012;445(2):193-203.
The uncharacterized α/β-hydrolase protein OLEI01171 from the psychrophilic marine bacterium Oleispira antarctica belongs to the PF00756 family of putative esterases, which also includes human esterase D. In the present paper we show that purified recombinant OLEI01171 exhibits high esterase activity against the model esterase substrate α-naphthyl acetate at 5 – 30°C with maximal activity at 15–20°C. The esterase activity of OLEI01171 was stimulated 3–8-fold by the addition of chloride or several other anions (0.1–1.0 M). Compared with mesophilic PF00756 esterases, OLEI01171 exhibited a lower overall protein thermostability. Two crystal structures ofOLEI01171 were solved at 1.75 and 2.1 Å resolution and revealed a classical serine hydrolase catalytic triad and the presence of a chloride or bromide ion bound in the active site close to the catalytic Ser148.Both anions were found to co-ordinate a potential catalytic water molecule located in the vicinity of the catalytic triad His257. The results of the present study suggest that the bound anion perhaps contributes to the polarization of the catalytic water molecule and increases the rate of the hydrolysis of an acyl-enzyme intermediate. Alanine replacement mutagenesis of OLEI01171 identified ten amino acid residues important for esterase activity. The replacement of Asn225 by lysine had no significant effect on the activity or thermostability of OLEI01171, but resulted in a detectable increase of activity at 35–45°C. The present study has provided insight into the molecular mechanisms of activity of a cold-active and anion-activated carboxyl esterase.
PMCID: PMC4127636  PMID: 22519667
anion activation; carboxyl esterase; cold-active enzyme; crystal structure; Oleispira antarctica; protein thermostability
7.  Structure and activity of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa hotdog-fold thioesterases PA5202 and PA2801 
The Biochemical journal  2012;444(3):10.1042/BJ20112032.
The hotdog fold is one of the basic protein folds widely present in bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. Many of these proteins exhibit thioesterase activity against fatty acyl-CoAs and play important roles in lipid metabolism, cellular signaling, and degradation of xenobiotics. The genome of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa contains over 20 genes encoding predicted hotdog-fold proteins, none of which have been experimentally characterized. We have found that two P. aeruginosa hotdog proteins display high thioesterase activity against 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA and glutaryl-CoA (PA5202), and octanoyl-CoA (PA2801). Crystal structures of these proteins were solved (1.70 and 1.75 Å) and revealed a hotdog fold with a potential catalytic carboxylate residue located on the long alpha helix (Asp57 in PA5202 and Glu35 in PA2801). Alanine replacement mutagenesis of PA5202 identified four residues (Asn42, Arg43, Asp57, and Thr76), which are critical for activity and are located in the active site. A P. aeruginosa PA5202 deletion strain showed an increased secretion of the antimicrobial pigment pyocyanine and an increased expression of genes involved in pyocyanin biosynthesis suggesting a functional link between the PA5202 activity and pyocyanin production. Thus, the P. aeruginosa hotdog thioesterases PA5202 and PA2801 have similar structures, but exhibit different substrate preferences and functions.
PMCID: PMC3836677  PMID: 22439787
hotdog fold; thioesterase; crystal structure; pyocyanin; Pseudomonas aeruginosa
8.  Biochemical and Structural Studies of Conserved Maf Proteins Revealed Nucleotide Pyrophosphatases with a Preference for Modified Nucleotides 
Chemistry & Biology  2013;20(11):1386-1398.
Maf (for multicopy associated filamentation) proteins represent a large family of conserved proteins implicated in cell division arrest but whose biochemical activity remains unknown. Here, we show that the prokaryotic and eukaryotic Maf proteins exhibit nucleotide pyrophosphatase activity against 5-methyl-UTP, pseudo-UTP, 5-methyl-CTP, and 7-methyl-GTP, which represent the most abundant modified bases in all organisms, as well as against canonical nucleotides dTTP, UTP, and CTP. Overexpression of the Maf protein YhdE in E. coli cells increased intracellular levels of dTMP and UMP, confirming that dTTP and UTP are the in vivo substrates of this protein. Crystal structures and site-directed mutagenesis of Maf proteins revealed the determinants of their activity and substrate specificity. Thus, pyrophosphatase activity of Maf proteins toward canonical and modified nucleotides might provide the molecular mechanism for a dual role of these proteins in cell division arrest and house cleaning.
Graphical Abstract
•Maf proteins represent a family of nucleoside triphosphate pyrophosphatases•Maf proteins hydrolyze the canonical nucleotides dTTP, UTP, and CTP•Maf proteins are also active against m5UTP, m5CTP, pseudo-UTP, and m7GTP•Maf structures reveal the molecular mechanisms of their substrate selectivity
Tchigvintsev et al. show that Maf proteins are a family of nucleotide pyrophosphatases active against both canonical and modified nucleotides. This suggests that Mafs might have a dual role in cell division and in the prevention of the incorporation of modified nucleotides into cellular nucleic acids.
PMCID: PMC3899018  PMID: 24210219
9.  Biochemical studies of the multicopper oxidase (small laccase) from Streptomyces coelicolor using bioactive phytochemicals and site-directed mutagenesis 
Microbial Biotechnology  2013;6(5):588-597.
Multicopper oxidases can act on a broad spectrum of phenolic and non-phenolic compounds. These enzymes include laccases, which are widely distributed in plants and fungi, and were more recently identified in bacteria. Here, we present the results of biochemical and mutational studies of small laccase (SLAC), a multicopper oxidase from Streptomyces coelicolor (SCO6712). In addition to typical laccase substrates, SLAC was tested using phenolic compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity. SLAC showed oxidase activity against 12 of 23 substrates tested, including caffeic acid, ferulic acid, resveratrol, quercetin, morin, kaempferol and myricetin. The kinetic parameters of SLAC were determined for 2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulphonic acid), 2,6-dimethoxyphenol, quercetin, morin and myricetin, and maximum reaction rates were observed with myricetin, where kcat and Km values at 60°C were 8.1 (± 0.8) s−1 and 0.9 (± 0.3) mM respectively. SLAC had a broad pH optimum for activity (between pH 4 and 8) and temperature optimum at 60–70°C. It demonstrated remarkable thermostability with a half-life of over 10 h at 80°C and over 7 h at 90°C. Site-directed mutagenesis revealed 17 amino acid residues important for SLAC activity including the 10 His residues involved in copper coordination. Most notably, the Y229A and Y230A mutant proteins showed over 10-fold increase in activity compared with the wild-type SLAC, which was correlated to higher copper incorporation, while kinetic analyses with S929A predicts localization of this residue near the meta-position of aromatic substrates.
Funding Information Funding for this research was provided by the Government of Ontario for the project ‘FFABnet: Functionalized Fibre and Biochemicals’ (ORF-RE-05-005), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3918160  PMID: 23815400
10.  Nucleotide degradation and ribose salvage in yeast 
Metabolomics, genetics and biochemistry were combined to obtain the first complete map of the nucleotide degradation and ribose salvage pathway in yeast. This pathway promotes yeast survival in starvation and oxidative stress.
During carbon starvation, ribose salvage from nucleotides promotes yeast survival.The salvage pathway requires the previously misannotated nucleotidase Phm8.Ribose-derived carbon accumulates as sedoheptulose-7-phosphate.This carbon reserve enables rapid NADPH production in oxidative stress.
Nucleotide degradation is a universal metabolic capability. Here we combine metabolomics, genetics and biochemistry to characterize the yeast pathway. Nutrient starvation, via PKA, AMPK/SNF1, and TOR, triggers autophagic breakdown of ribosomes into nucleotides. A protein not previously associated with nucleotide degradation, Phm8, converts nucleotide monophosphates into nucleosides. Downstream steps, which involve the purine nucleoside phosphorylase, Pnp1, and pyrimidine nucleoside hydrolase, Urh1, funnel ribose into the nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathway. During carbon starvation, the ribose-derived carbon accumulates as sedoheptulose-7-phosphate, whose consumption by transaldolase is impaired due to depletion of transaldolase's other substrate, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. Oxidative stress increases glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate, resulting in rapid consumption of sedoheptulose-7-phosphate to make NADPH for antioxidant defense. Ablation of Phm8 or double deletion of Pnp1 and Urh1 prevent effective nucleotide salvage, resulting in metabolite depletion and impaired survival of starving yeast. Thus, ribose salvage provides means of surviving nutrient starvation and oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC4039369  PMID: 23670538
autophagy; mass spectrometry; metabolism; nutrient starvation; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
11.  A dual function of the CRISPR-Cas system in bacterial antivirus immunity and DNA repair 
Molecular microbiology  2010;79(2):484-502.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPRs) and the associated proteins (Cas) comprise a system of adaptive immunity against viruses and plasmids in prokaryotes. Cas1 is a CRISPR-associated protein that is common to all CRISPR-containing prokaryotes but its function remains obscure. Here we show that the purified Cas1 protein of Escherichia coli (YgbT) exhibits nuclease activity against single-stranded and branched DNAs including Holliday junctions, replication forks, and 5′-flaps. The crystal structure of YgbT and site-directed mutagenesis have revealed the potential active site. Genome-wide screens show that YgbT physically and genetically interacts with key components of DNA repair systems, including recB, recC and ruvB. Consistent with these findings, the ygbT deletion strain showed increased sensitivity to DNA damage and impaired chromosomal segregation. Similar phenotypes were observed in strains with deletion of CRISPR clusters, suggesting that the function of YgbT in repair involves interaction with the CRISPRs. These results show that YgbT belongs to a novel, structurally distinct family of nucleases acting on branched DNAs and suggest that, in addition to antiviral immunity, at least some components of the CRISPR-Cas system have a function in DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC3071548  PMID: 21219465
Cas1; CRISPR; DNA recombination; DNA repair; nuclease; YgbT
12.  Structural insight into the mechanism of cyclic di-GMP hydrolysis by EAL domain phosphodiesterases 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;402(3):524-538.
Cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP) is a ubiquitous second messenger regulating diverse cellular functions including motility, biofilm formation, cell cycle progression and virulence in bacteria. In the cell, degradation of c-di-GMP is catalyzed by highly specific EAL domain phosphodiesterases whose catalytic mechanism is still unclear. Here, we purified 13 EAL domain proteins from various organisms and demonstrated that their catalytic activity is associated with the presence of 10 conserved EAL domain residues. The crystal structure of the TDB1265 EAL domain was determined in a free state (1.8 Å) and in complex with c-di-GMP (2.35 Å) and unveiled the role of the conserved residues in substrate binding and catalysis. The structure revealed the presence of two metal ions directly coordinated by six conserved residues, two oxygens of the c-di-GMP phosphate, and potential catalytic water molecule. Our results support a two-metal-ion catalytic mechanism of c-di-GMP hydrolysis by EAL domain phosphodiesterases.
PMCID: PMC2945410  PMID: 20691189
EAL domain; cyclic di-GMP; phosphodiesterase; X-ray crystallography; Thiobacillus denitrificans
13.  Functional and Structural Characterization of Four Glutaminases from Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis† 
Biochemistry  2008;47(21):5724-5735.
Glutaminases belong to the large superfamily of serine-dependent β-lactamases and penicillin-binding proteins, and they catalyze the hydrolytic deamidation of l-glutamine to l-glutamate. In this work, we purified and biochemically characterized four predicted glutaminases from Escherichia coli (YbaS and YneH) and Bacillus subtilis (YlaM and YbgJ). The proteins demonstrated strict specificity to l-glutamine and did not hydrolyze d-glutamine or l-asparagine. In each organism, one glutaminase showed higher affinity to glutamine (E. coli YbaS and B. subtilis YlaM; Km 7.3 and 7.6 mM, respectively) than the second glutaminase (E. coli YneH and B. subtilis YbgJ; Km 27.6 and 30.6 mM, respectively). The crystal structures of the E. coli YbaS and the B. subtilis YbgJ revealed the presence of a classical β-lactamase-like fold and conservation of several key catalytic residues of β-lactamases (Ser74, Lys77, Asn126, Lys268, and Ser269 in YbgJ). Alanine replacement mutagenesis demonstrated that most of the conserved residues located in the putative glutaminase catalytic site are essential for activity. The crystal structure of the YbgJ complex with the glutaminase inhibitor 6-diazo-5-oxo-l-norleucine revealed the presence of a covalent bond between the inhibitor and the hydroxyl oxygen of Ser74, providing evidence that Ser74 is the primary catalytic nucleophile and that the glutaminase reaction proceeds through formation of an enzyme–glutamyl intermediate. Growth experiments with the E. coli glutaminase deletion strains revealed that YneH is involved in the assimilation of l-glutamine as a sole source of carbon and nitrogen and suggested that both glutaminases (YbaS and YneH) also contribute to acid resistance in E. coli.
PMCID: PMC2735108  PMID: 18459799
14.  Biochemical and structural characterization of a novel family of cystathionine beta-synthase domain proteins fused to a Zn ribbon-like domain 
Journal of molecular biology  2007;375(1):301-315.
We have identified a novel family of proteins, in which the N-terminal Cystathionine Beta-Synthase (CBS) domain is fused to the C-terminal Zn ribbon domain. Four proteins were over-expressed in E. coli and purified: TA0289 from Thermoplasma acidophilum, TV1335 from Thermoplasma vulcanum, PF1953 from Pyrococcus furiosus, and PH0267 from Pyrococcus horikoshii. The purified proteins had red/purple color in solution and an absorption spectrum typical of rubredoxins. Metal analysis of purified proteins revealed the presence of several metals with iron and zinc being the most abundant metals (2 to 67% of iron and 12 to 74% of zinc). Crystal structures of both mercury- and iron-bound TA0289 (1.5–2.0 Å resolution) revealed a dimeric protein whose inter-subunit contacts are formed exclusively by the α helices of two CBS sub-domains, whereas the C-terminal domain has a classical Zn-ribbon planar architecture. All proteins were reversibly reduced by chemical reductants (ascorbate or dithionite) or by the general rubredoxin reductase NorW from E. coli in the presence of NADH. Reduced TA0289 was found to be able to transfer electrons to cytochrome C from horse heart. Likewise, the purified Zn ribbon protein KTI11 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae had purple color in solution and a rubredoxin-like absorption spectrum, contained both iron and zinc, and was reduced by the rubredoxin reductase NorW from E. coli. Thus, recombinant Zn ribbon domains from archaea and yeast demonstrate a rubredoxin-like electron carrier activity in vitro. We suggest that in vivo some Zn ribbon domains might also bind iron and therefore possess an electron carrier activity adding another physiological role to this large family of important proteins.
PMCID: PMC2613313  PMID: 18021800
15.  Failure of Hairpin-Ended and Nicked DNA To Activate DNA-Dependent Protein Kinase: Implications for V(D)J Recombination 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(11):6853-6858.
V(D)J recombination is initiated by a coordinated cleavage reaction that nicks DNA at two sites and then forms a hairpin coding end and blunt signal end at each site. Following cleavage, the DNA ends are joined by a process that is incompletely understood but nevertheless depends on DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), which consists of Ku and a 460-kDa catalytic subunit (DNA-PKCS or p460). Ku directs DNA-PKCS to DNA ends to efficiently activate the kinase. In vivo, the mouse SCID mutation in DNA-PKCS disrupts joining of the hairpin coding ends but spares joining of the open signal ends. To better understand the mechanism of V(D)J recombination, we measured the activation of DNA-PK by the three DNA structures formed during the cleavage reaction: open ends, DNA nicks, and hairpin ends. Although open DNA ends strongly activated DNA-PK, nicked DNA substrates and hairpin-ended DNA did not. Therefore, even though efficient processing of hairpin coding ends requires DNA-PKCS, this may occur by activation of the kinase bound to the cogenerated open signal end rather than to the hairpin end itself.
PMCID: PMC109268  PMID: 9774698

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