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1.  Structure of the RNA Polymerase Assembly Factor Crl and Identification of Its Interaction Surface with Sigma S 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(18):3279-3288.
Bacteria utilize multiple sigma factors that associate with core RNA polymerase (RNAP) to control transcription in response to changes in environmental conditions. In Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica, Crl positively regulates the σS regulon by binding to σS to promote its association with core RNAP. We recently characterized the determinants in σS responsible for specific binding to Crl. However, little is known about the determinants in Crl required for this interaction. Here, we present the X-ray crystal structure of a Crl homolog from Proteus mirabilis in conjunction with in vivo and in vitro approaches that probe the Crl-σS interaction in E. coli. We show that the P. mirabilis, Vibrio harveyi, and E. coli Crl homologs function similarly in E. coli, indicating that Crl structure and function are likely conserved throughout gammaproteobacteria. We utilize phylogenetic conservation and bacterial two-hybrid analyses to predict residues in Crl important for the interaction with σS. The results of p-benzoylphenylalanine (BPA)-mediated UV cross-linking studies further support the model in which an evolutionarily conserved central cleft is the surface on Crl that binds to σS. Within this conserved binding surface, we identify a key residue in Crl that is critical for activation of EσS-dependent transcription in vivo and in vitro. Our study provides a physical basis for understanding the σS-Crl interaction.
PMCID: PMC4135691  PMID: 25002538
2.  Structure-Guided, Single-Point Modifications in the Phosphinic Dipeptide Structure Yield Highly Potent and Selective Inhibitors of Neutral Aminopeptidases 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(19):8140-8151.
Seven crystal structures of alanyl aminopeptidase from Neisseria meningitides (the etiological agent of meningitis, NmAPN) complexed with organophosphorus compounds were resolved to determine the optimal inhibitor–enzyme interactions. The enantiomeric phosphonic acid analogs of Leu and hPhe, which correspond to the P1 amino acid residues of well-processed substrates, were used to assess the impact of the absolute configuration and the stereospecific hydrogen bond network formed between the aminophosphonate polar head and the active site residues on the binding affinity. For the hPhe analog, an imperfect stereochemical complementarity could be overcome by incorporating an appropriate P1 side chain. The constitution of P1′-extended structures was rationally designed and the lead, phosphinic dipeptide hPhePψ[CH2]Phe, was modified in a single position. Introducing a heteroatom/heteroatom-based fragment to either the P1 or P1′ residue required new synthetic pathways. The compounds in the refined structure were low nanomolar and subnanomolar inhibitors of N. meningitides, porcine and human APNs, and the reference leucine aminopeptidase (LAP). The unnatural phosphinic dipeptide analogs exhibited a high affinity for monozinc APNs associated with a reasonable selectivity versus dizinc LAP. Another set of crystal structures containing the NmAPN dipeptide ligand were used to verify and to confirm the predicted binding modes; furthermore, novel contacts, which were promising for inhibitor development, were identified, including a π–π stacking interaction between a pyridine ring and Tyr372.
PMCID: PMC4331105  PMID: 25192493
3.  A Novel Cofactor-binding Mode in Bacterial IMP Dehydrogenases Explains Inhibitor Selectivity* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2015;290(9):5893-5911.
Background: IMP dehydrogenase (IMPDH) is an important drug target because of its role in de novo purine nucleotide biosynthesis.
Results: First substrate/cofactor- and substrate/inhibitor-bound complexes of bacterial IMPDHs are determined.
Conclusion: A new distinct binding mode of the cofactor adenosine moiety is revealed.
Significance: This work offers new insights for the design of more potent and selective inhibitors and the evolution of the active site.
The steadily rising frequency of emerging diseases and antibiotic resistance creates an urgent need for new drugs and targets. Inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMP dehydrogenase or IMPDH) is a promising target for the development of new antimicrobial agents. IMPDH catalyzes the oxidation of IMP to XMP with the concomitant reduction of NAD+, which is the pivotal step in the biosynthesis of guanine nucleotides. Potent inhibitors of bacterial IMPDHs have been identified that bind in a structurally distinct pocket that is absent in eukaryotic IMPDHs. The physiological role of this pocket was not understood. Here, we report the structures of complexes with different classes of inhibitors of Bacillus anthracis, Campylobacter jejuni, and Clostridium perfringens IMPDHs. These structures in combination with inhibition studies provide important insights into the interactions that modulate selectivity and potency. We also present two structures of the Vibrio cholerae IMPDH in complex with IMP/NAD+ and XMP/NAD+. In both structures, the cofactor assumes a dramatically different conformation than reported previously for eukaryotic IMPDHs and other dehydrogenases, with the major change observed for the position of the NAD+ adenosine moiety. More importantly, this new NAD+-binding site involves the same pocket that is utilized by the inhibitors. Thus, the bacterial IMPDH-specific NAD+-binding mode helps to rationalize the conformation adopted by several classes of prokaryotic IMPDH inhibitors. These findings offer a potential strategy for further ligand optimization.
PMCID: PMC4342496  PMID: 25572472
Antibiotic Resistance; Enzyme Inhibitor; Ligand-binding Protein; Microbial Pathogenesis; Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD); Cryptosporidium parvum-selective Inhibitors; Antibacterial; Cofactor-binding Site; Inosine 5′-Monophosphate Dehydrogenase
4.  New LIC Vectors For Production of Proteins from Genes Containing Rare Codons 
In the effort to produce proteins coded by diverse genomes, structural genomics projects often must express genes containing codons that are rare in the production strain. To address this problem, genes expressing tRNAs corresponding to those codons are typically coexpressed from a second plasmid in the host strain, or from genes incorporated into production plasmids. Here we describe the modification of a series of LIC pMCSG vectors currently used in the high-throughput production of proteins to include crucial tRNA genes covering rare codons for Arg (AGG/AGA) and Ile (AUA). We also present variants of these new vectors that allow analysis of ligand binding or co-expression of multiple proteins introduced through two independent LIC steps. Additionally, to accommodate the cloning of multiple large proteins, the size of the plasmids was reduced by approximately one kilobase through the removal of non-essential DNA from the base vector. Production of proteins from core vectors of this series validated the desired enhanced capabilities: higher yields of proteins expressed from genes with rare codons occurred in most cases, biotinylated derivatives enabled detailed automated ligand binding analysis, and multiple proteins introduced by dual LIC cloning were expressed successfully and in near balanced stoichiometry, allowing tandem purification of interacting proteins.
PMCID: PMC3933008  PMID: 24057978
LIC; rare codons; tRNA genes; His-tag; co-expression; biotinylation; ligand binding; high-throughput; structural genomics
5.  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
6.  The kinase LYK5 is a major chitin receptor in Arabidopsis and forms a chitin-induced complex with related kinase CERK1 
eLife  null;3:e03766.
Chitin is a fungal microbe-associated molecular pattern recognized in Arabidopsis by a lysin motif receptor kinase (LYK), AtCERK1. Previous research suggested that AtCERK1 is the major chitin receptor and mediates chitin-induced signaling through homodimerization and phosphorylation. However, the reported chitin binding affinity of AtCERK1 is quite low, suggesting another receptor with high chitin binding affinity might be present. Here, we propose that AtLYK5 is the primary chitin receptor in Arabidopsis. Mutations in AtLYK5 resulted in a significant reduction in chitin response. However, AtLYK5 shares overlapping function with AtLYK4 and, therefore, Atlyk4/Atlyk5-2 double mutants show a complete loss of chitin response. AtLYK5 interacts with AtCERK1 in a chitin-dependent manner. Chitin binding to AtLYK5 is indispensable for chitin-induced AtCERK1 phosphorylation. AtLYK5 binds chitin at a much higher affinity than AtCERK1. The data suggest that AtLYK5 is the primary receptor for chitin, forming a chitin inducible complex with AtCERK1 to induce plant immunity.
eLife digest
Invading fungi are responsible for many of the plant diseases that affect global crop production. Plants have to be able to identify these fungi, and activate the right defense strategies if they are to protect themselves. Chitin is a polymer that is found in the cell walls of all fungi, but not in plants, so if the plant detects chitin, it knows that a potentially harmful fungus may be nearby.
The detection of chitin, and the resulting activation of a plant's defenses, requires a receptor protein called CERK1. In rice, CERK1 needs to interact with another receptor protein called CEBiP, which binds to chitin. However, in Arabidopsis thaliana—which is widely studied in plant research—CERK1 can bind to chitin on its own, although this interaction is very weak, so it has been suggested that a second protein may be involved.
Cao et al. have now found that a receptor protein called LYK5, which is very similar to CERK1, is much better at attaching to chitin in A. thaliana. It can also bind to CERK1, but only when chitin is present, and is required for activation of basic plant defenses. The experiments suggest that LYK5 detects chitin on behalf of CERK1, in a similar way to how CEBiP works in rice.
The next step in this research is to work out how CERK1 and LYK5 are able to activate plant defenses.
PMCID: PMC4356144  PMID: 25340959
Arabidoposis; plant innate immunity; chitin receptor; CERK1; LYK5; Arabidopsis
7.  Covering complete proteomes with X-ray structures: a current snapshot 
The current and the attainable coverage by X-ray structures of proteins and their functions on the scale of the ‘protein universe’ are estimated. A detailed analysis of the coverage across nearly 2000 proteomes from all superkingdoms of life and functional annotations is performed, with particular focus on the human proteome and the family of GPCR proteins.
Structural genomics programs have developed and applied structure-determination pipelines to a wide range of protein targets, facilitating the visualization of macromolecular interactions and the understanding of their molecular and biochemical functions. The fundamental question of whether three-dimensional structures of all proteins and all functional annotations can be determined using X-ray crystallography is investigated. A first-of-its-kind large-scale analysis of crystallization propensity for all proteins encoded in 1953 fully sequenced genomes was performed. It is shown that current X-ray crystallographic knowhow combined with homology modeling can provide structures for 25% of modeling families (protein clusters for which structural models can be obtained through homology modeling), with at least one structural model produced for each Gene Ontology functional annotation. The coverage varies between superkingdoms, with 19% for eukaryotes, 35% for bacteria and 49% for archaea, and with those of viruses following the coverage values of their hosts. It is shown that the crystallization propensities of proteomes from the taxonomic superkingdoms are distinct. The use of knowledge-based target selection is shown to substantially increase the ability to produce X-ray structures. It is demonstrated that the human proteome has one of the highest attainable coverage values among eukaryotes, and GPCR membrane proteins suitable for X-ray structure determination were determined.
PMCID: PMC4220968  PMID: 25372670
crystallization propensity; proteome coverage; fDETECT
8.  Structural and functional characterization of solute binding proteins for aromatic compounds derived from lignin: p-coumaric acid and related aromatic acids 
Proteins  2013;81(10):1709-1726.
Lignin comprises 15.25% of plant biomass and represents a major environmental carbon source for utilization by soil microorganisms. Access to this energy resource requires the action of fungal and bacterial enzymes to break down the lignin polymer into a complex assortment of aromatic compounds that can be transported into the cells. To improve our understanding of the utilization of lignin by microorganisms, we characterized the molecular properties of solute binding proteins of ATP.binding cassette transporter proteins that interact with these compounds. A combination of functional screens and structural studies characterized the binding specificity of the solute binding proteins for aromatic compounds derived from lignin such as p-coumarate, 3-phenylpropionic acid and compounds with more complex ring substitutions. A ligand screen based on thermal stabilization identified several binding protein clusters that exhibit preferences based on the size or number of aromatic ring substituents. Multiple X-ray crystal structures of protein-ligand complexes for these clusters identified the molecular basis of the binding specificity for the lignin-derived aromatic compounds. The screens and structural data provide new functional assignments for these solute.binding proteins which can be used to infer their transport specificity. This knowledge of the functional roles and molecular binding specificity of these proteins will support the identification of the specific enzymes and regulatory proteins of peripheral pathways that funnel these compounds to central metabolic pathways and will improve the predictive power of sequence-based functional annotation methods for this family of proteins.
PMCID: PMC4095797  PMID: 23606130
ABC transporter; functional annotation; Rhodopseudomonas palustris; solute-binding protein; p.coumaric acid
9.  Crystal Structures of the F and pSLT Plasmid TraJ N-Terminal Regions Reveal Similar Homodimeric PAS Folds with Functional Interchangeability 
Biochemistry  2014;53(36):5810-5819.
In the F family of conjugative plasmids, TraJ is an essential transcriptional activator of the tra operon that encodes most of the proteins required for conjugation. Here we report for the first time the X-ray crystal structures of the TraJ N-terminal domains from the prototypic F plasmid (TraJF11−130) and from the Salmonella virulence plasmid pSLT (TraJpSLT1−128). Both structures contain similar Per-ARNT-Sim (PAS) folds, which further homodimerize through the N-terminal helix and the structurally conserved β-sheet of the PAS fold from each protomer. Mutational analysis reveals that the observed dimeric interface is critical for TraJF transcriptional activation, indicating that dimerization of TraJ is required for its in vivo function. TraJ is specific in activating its cognate tra operon promoter; however, heterologous PAS domains from pSLT and R100 TraJ can functionally replace the TraJF PAS domain, suggesting that the allelic specificity of TraJ is solely mediated by the region C-terminal to the PAS domain.
PMCID: PMC4165441  PMID: 25148268
10.  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
11.  Expression of a Highly Toxic Protein, Bax, in Escherichia coli by Attachment of a Leader Peptide Derived from the GroES Cochaperone 
Attempts to express a truncated form of murine Bax in the periplasm by using an expression vector that attached the OmpA signal sequence to the protein failed to alleviate this toxicity. In contrast, attachment of a peptide based on a portion of the E. coli cochaperone GroES reduced Bax’s toxicity significantly and allowed good expression. The peptide, which was attached to the N-terminus, included the amino acid sequence of the mobile loop of GroES that has been demonstrated to interact with the chaperonin, GroEL. Under normal growth conditions, expression of this construct was still toxic, but generated a small amount of detectable recombinant Bax. However, when cells were grown in the presence of 2% ethanol, which stimulated overproduction of the molecular chaperones GroEL and DnaK, toxicity was reduced and good overexpression occurred. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis analysis showed that approximately 15-fold more GroES-loop-Bax was produced under these conditions than under standard conditions and that GroEL and DnaK were elevated approximately 3-fold.
PMCID: PMC4113414  PMID: 11483004
Escherichia coli; chaperonin; protein expression; expression vector; GroES; GroEL; Bax; Bcl-2
12.  Protein Production for Structural Genomics Using E. coli Expression 
The goal of structural biology is to reveal details of the molecular structure of proteins in order to understand their function and mechanism. X-ray crystallography and NMR are the two best methods for atomic level structure determination. However, these methods require milligram quantities of proteins. In this chapter a reproducible methodology for large-scale protein production applicable to a diverse set of proteins is described. The approach is based on protein expression in E. coli as a fusion with a cleavable affinity tag that was tested on over 20,000 proteins. Specifically, a protocol for fermentation of large quantities of native proteins in disposable culture vessels is presented. A modified protocol that allows for the production of selenium-labeled proteins in defined media is also offered. Finally, a method for the purification of His6-tagged proteins on immobilized metal affinity chromatography columns that generates high-purity material is described in detail.
PMCID: PMC4108990  PMID: 24590711
Protein expression; Protein purification; Disposable vessel fermentation; Selenomethionine-labeling; IMAC; His-tag; High-throughput
13.  The crystal structure of BlmI as a model for nonribosomal peptide synthetase peptidyl carrier proteins 
Proteins  2014;82(7):1210-1218.
Carrier proteins (CPs) play a critical role in the biosynthesis of various natural products, especially in nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) and polyketide synthase (PKS) enzymology, where the CPs are referred to as peptidyl-carrier proteins (PCPs) or acyl-carrier proteins (ACPs), respectively. CPs can either be a domain in large multifunctional polypeptides or standalone proteins, termed Type I and Type II, respectively. There have been many biochemical studies of the Type I PKS and NRPS CPs, and of Type II ACPs. However, recently a number of Type II PCPs have been found and biochemically characterized. In order to understand the possible interaction surfaces for combinatorial biosynthetic efforts we crystallized the first characterized and representative Type II PCP member, BlmI, from the bleomycin biosynthetic pathway from Streptomyces verticillus ATCC 15003. The structure is similar to CPs in general but most closely resembles PCPs. Comparisons with previously determined PCP structures in complex with catalytic domains reveals a common interaction surface. This surface is highly variable in charge and shape, which likely confers specificity for interactions. Previous nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis of a prototypical Type I PCP excised from the multimodular context revealed three conformational states. Comparison of the states with the structure of BlmI and other PCPs reveals that only one of the NMR states is found in other studies, suggesting the other two states may not be relevant. The state represented by the BlmI crystal structure can therefore serve as a model for both Type I and Type II PCPs.
PMCID: PMC4109001  PMID: 25050442
protein–protein interaction; natural product; biosynthesis; phylogenetics; structural genomics; reductive methylation
14.  Karyotype structure and chromosome fragility in the grass Phleum echinatum Host 
Protoplasma  2014;252:301-306.
Phleum echinatum Host (2n = 2x = 10) is an annual Mediterranean species which differs from other representatives of the genus Phleum by reduced chromosome number, asymmetric karyotype and unusually high amount of DNA in the genome. Chromosomes of this plant were studied using conventional acetic-orcein staining and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). FISH showed the major 35S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) site at the secondary constriction of satellite chromosome (3) and the minor 35S rDNA site near 5S rDNA cluster in the monobrachial chromosome 5. Telomeric repeats were detected at all chromosome ends within secondary constriction in satellited chromosome 3 and at the centromeric regions of chromosomes 1 and 2. Intrachromosomally located telomeric repeats are probably traces of chromosomal rearrangements that have shaped P.echinatum genome; they were prone to breakage which was manifested in chromosome fragmentation. The most distinct telomeric signals, suggesting massive amplification of interstitial telomeric sequences (ITRs), were observed at the nucleolar organizer region (NOR) of the third chromosome pair. Double FISH confirmed co-localization of telomeric and 35S rDNA repeats in this locus characterized by the biggest fragility in the karyotype. Fragile sites of P.echinatum, composed of amplified telomeric repeats, may bear a resemblance to metazoan rare fragile sites enriched in microsatellite repeats.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00709-014-0681-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4287660  PMID: 25056831
Phleum echinatum; Fragile sites; FISH; rDNA; Interstitial telomeric sequences; Chromosome fusions
15.  Structural and Functional Characterization of DUF1471 Domains of Salmonella Proteins SrfN, YdgH/SssB, and YahO 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101787.
Bacterial species in the Enterobacteriaceae typically contain multiple paralogues of a small domain of unknown function (DUF1471) from a family of conserved proteins also known as YhcN or BhsA/McbA. Proteins containing DUF1471 may have a single or three copies of this domain. Representatives of this family have been demonstrated to play roles in several cellular processes including stress response, biofilm formation, and pathogenesis. We have conducted NMR and X-ray crystallographic studies of four DUF1471 domains from Salmonella representing three different paralogous DUF1471 subfamilies: SrfN, YahO, and SssB/YdgH (two of its three DUF1471 domains: the N-terminal domain I (residues 21–91), and the C-terminal domain III (residues 244–314)). Notably, SrfN has been shown to have a role in intracellular infection by Salmonella Typhimurium. These domains share less than 35% pairwise sequence identity. Structures of all four domains show a mixed α+β fold that is most similar to that of bacterial lipoprotein RcsF. However, all four DUF1471 sequences lack the redox sensitive cysteine residues essential for RcsF activity in a phospho-relay pathway, suggesting that DUF1471 domains perform a different function(s). SrfN forms a dimer in contrast to YahO and SssB domains I and III, which are monomers in solution. A putative binding site for oxyanions such as phosphate and sulfate was identified in SrfN, and an interaction between the SrfN dimer and sulfated polysaccharides was demonstrated, suggesting a direct role for this DUF1471 domain at the host-pathogen interface.
PMCID: PMC4092069  PMID: 25010333
16.  Salvage of Failed Protein Targets by Reductive Alkylation 
The growth of diffraction-quality single crystals is of primary importance in protein X-ray crystallography. Chemical modification of proteins can alter their surface properties and crystallization behavior. The Midwest Center for Structural Genomics (MCSG) has previously reported how reductive methylation of lysine residues in proteins can improve crystallization of unique proteins that initially failed to produce diffraction-quality crystals. Recently, this approach has been expanded to include ethylation and isopropylation in the MCSG protein crystallization pipeline. Applying standard methods, 180 unique proteins were alkylated and screened using standard crystallization procedures. Crystal structures of 12 new proteins were determined, including the first ethylated and the first isopropylated protein structures. In a few cases, the structures of native and methylated or ethylated states were obtained and the impact of reductive alkylation of lysine residues was assessed. Reductive methylation tends to be more efficient and produces the most alkylated protein structures. Structures of methylated proteins typically have higher resolution limits. A number of well-ordered alkylated lysine residues have been identified, which make both intermolecular and intramolecular contacts. The previous report is updated and complemented with the following new data; a description of a detailed alkylation protocol with results, structural features, and roles of alkylated lysine residues in protein crystals. These contribute to improved crystallization properties of some proteins.
PMCID: PMC4078742  PMID: 24590719
Chemical modification; Lysine reductive alkylation; Methylation; Ethylation; Isopropylation; Protein crystallization
17.  Virtual High-Throughput Ligand Screening 
In Structural Genomics projects, virtual high-throughput ligand screening can be utilized to provide important functional details for newly determined protein structures. Using a variety of publicly available software tools, it is possible to computationally model, predict, and evaluate how different ligands interact with a given protein. At the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases (CSGID) a series of protein analysis, docking and molecular dynamics software is scripted into a single hierarchical pipeline allowing for an exhaustive investigation of protein-ligand interactions. The ability to conduct accurate computational predictions of protein-ligand binding is a vital component in improving both the efficiency and economics of drug discovery. Computational simulations can minimize experimental efforts, the slowest and most cost prohibitive aspect of identifying new therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4073479  PMID: 24590723
Protein; Ligand; High-throughput screening; Docking; Molecular modeling
18.  Deposition of callose in young ovules of two Taraxacum species varying in the mode of reproduction 
Protoplasma  2014;252:135-144.
Although callose occurs during megasporogenesis in most flowering plants, the knowledge about its general function and the mechanisms by which the callose layer is formed in particular places is still not sufficient. The results of previous studies suggest a total lack of callose in the ovules of diplosporous plants in which meiosis is omitted or disturbed. This report is the first documentation of callose events in dandelions ovules. We demonstrated the pattern of callose deposition during the formation of megaspores through diplospory of Taraxacum type and during normal meiotic megasporogenesis in apomictic triploid Taraxacum atricapillum and amphimictic diploid Taraxacum linearisquameum. We found the presence of callose in the megasporocyte wall of both diplosporous and sexual dandelions. However, in a diplosporous dandelion, callose predominated at the micropylar pole of megaspore mother cell (MMC) which may be correlated with abnormal asynaptic meiosis and may indicate diplospory of the Taraxacum type. After meiotic division, callose is mainly deposited in the walls between megaspores in tetrads and in diplodyads. In subsequent stages, callose gradually disappears around the chalazal functional megaspore. However, some variations in the pattern of callose deposition within tetrad may reflect variable positioning of the functional megaspore (FM) observed in the ovules of T. linearisquameum.
PMCID: PMC4287685  PMID: 24938673
Apomixis; Callose; Chromosome number; Diplospory megasporogenesis; Taraxacum
19.  Optimization of benzoxazole-based inhibitors of Cryptosporidium parvum inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2013;56(10):4028-4043.
Cryptosporidium parvum is an enteric protozoan parasite that has emerged as a major cause of diarrhea, malnutrition and gastroenteritis as well as posing a potential bioterrorism threat. C. parvum synthesizes guanine nucleotides from host adenosine in a streamlined pathway that relies on inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). We have previously identified several parasite-selective C. parvum IMPDH (CpIMPDH) inhibitors by high-throughput screening. In this paper, we report the structure-activity relationship (SAR) for a series of benzoxazole derivatives with many compounds demonstrating CpIMPDH IC50 values in the nanomolar range and > 500-fold selectivity over human IMPDH (hIMPDH). Unlike previously reported CpIMPDH inhibitors, these compounds are competitive inhibitors versus NAD+. The SAR study reveals that pyridine and other small heteroaromatic substituents are required at the 2-position of the benzoxazole for potent inhibitory activity. In addition, several other SAR conclusions are highlighted with regard to the benzoxazole and the amide portion of the inhibitor, including preferred stereochemistry. An x-ray crystal structure of a representative E•IMP•inhibitor complex is also presented. Overall, the secondary amine derivative 15a (Q67) demonstrated excellent CpIMPDH inhibitory activity (IC50 = 0.5 ± 0.1 nM) and moderate stability (t1/2 = 44 min) in mouse liver microsomes. Compound 73, the racemic version of 15a, also displayed superb antiparasitic activity in a Toxoplasma gondii strain that relies on CpIMPDH (EC50 = 20 ± 20 nM), and selectivity versus a wild-type T. gondii strain (200-fold). No toxicity was observed (LD50 > 50 μM) against a panel of four mammalian cells lines.
PMCID: PMC3756936  PMID: 23668331
20.  The Dimerization Domain in DapE Enzymes Is required for Catalysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e93593.
The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains underscores the importance of identifying new drug targets and developing new antimicrobial compounds. Lysine and meso-diaminopimelic acid are essential for protein production and bacterial peptidoglycan cell wall remodeling and are synthesized in bacteria by enzymes encoded within dap operon. Therefore dap enzymes may serve as excellent targets for developing a new class of antimicrobial agents. The dapE-encoded N-succinyl-L,L-diaminopimelic acid desuccinylase (DapE) converts N-succinyl-L,L-diaminopimelic acid to L,L-diaminopimelic acid and succinate. The enzyme is composed of catalytic and dimerization domains, and belongs to the M20 peptidase family. To understand the specific role of each domain of the enzyme we engineered dimerization domain deletion mutants of DapEs from Haemophilus influenzae and Vibrio cholerae, and characterized these proteins structurally and biochemically. No activity was observed for all deletion mutants. Structural comparisons of wild-type, inactive monomeric DapE enzymes with other M20 peptidases suggest that the dimerization domain is essential for DapE enzymatic activity. Structural analysis and molecular dynamics simulations indicate that removal of the dimerization domain increased the flexibility of a conserved active site loop that may provide critical interactions with the substrate.
PMCID: PMC4012986  PMID: 24806882
21.  New sub-family of lysozyme-like proteins shows no catalytic activity – crystallographic and biochemical study of STM3605 protein from Salmonella Typhimurium 
Phage viruses that infect prokaryotes integrate their genome into the host chromosome; thus, microbial genomes typically contain genetic remnants of both recent and ancient phage infections. Often phage genes occur in clusters of atypical G+C content that reflect integration of the foreign DNA. However, some phage genes occur in isolation without other phage gene neighbors, probably resulting from horizontal gene transfer. In these cases, the phage gene product is unlikely to function as a component of a mature phage particle, and instead may have been co-opted by the host for its own benefit. The product of one such gene from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, STM3605, encodes a protein with modest sequence similarity to phage-like lysozyme (N-acetylmuramidase) but appears to lack essential catalytic residues that are strictly conserved in all lysozymes. Close homologs in other bacteria share this characteristic. The structure of the STM3605 protein was characterized by X-ray crystallography, and functional assays showed that it is a stable, folded protein whose structure closely resembles lysozyme. However, this protein is unlikely to hydrolyze peptidoglycan. Instead, STM3605 is presumed to have evolved an alternative function because it shows some lytic activity and partitions to micelles.
PMCID: PMC3699403  PMID: 23572252
Crystal structure; mutagenesis; oligomeric state; phage-like lysozyme; Salmonella
22.  Structure of cyclin G-associated kinase (GAK) trapped in different conformations using nanobodies 
Biochemical Journal  2014;459(Pt 1):59-69.
GAK (cyclin G-associated kinase) is a key regulator of clathrin-coated vesicle trafficking and plays a central role during development. Additionally, due to the unusually high plasticity of its catalytic domain, it is a frequent ‘off-target’ of clinical kinase inhibitors associated with respiratory side effects of these drugs. In the present paper, we determined the crystal structure of the GAK catalytic domain alone and in complex with specific single-chain antibodies (nanobodies). GAK is constitutively active and weakly associates in solution. The GAK apo structure revealed a dimeric inactive state of the catalytic domain mediated by an unusual activation segment interaction. Co-crystallization with the nanobody NbGAK_4 trapped GAK in a dimeric arrangement similar to the one observed in the apo structure, whereas NbGAK_1 captured the activation segment of monomeric GAK in a well-ordered conformation, representing features of the active kinase. The presented structural and biochemical data provide insight into the domain plasticity of GAK and demonstrate the utility of nanobodies to gain insight into conformational changes of dynamic molecules. In addition, we present structural data on the binding mode of ATP mimetic inhibitors and enzyme kinetic data, which will support rational inhibitor design of inhibitors to reduce the off-target effect on GAK.
Cyclin G-associated kinase (GAK) is a regulator of clathrin-coated vesicle trafficking. The determined crystal structures of GAK in complex with specific single chain antibodies (nanobodies) revealed the domain plasticity of this kinase and unusual activation segment architecture.
PMCID: PMC3957475  PMID: 24438162
activation loop; cyclin G-associated kinase; drug side effect; kinase inhibitor; nanobody; protein structure; ASCH, activation segment C-terminal helix; AUC, analytical ultracentrifugation; CDR, complementarity-determining region; DARPin, designed ankyrin-repeat protein; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; GAK, cyclin G-associated kinase; HA, haemagglutinin; MPSK1, myristoylated and palmitoylated serine/threonine kinase 1; NAK, numb-associated kinase; Nb, nanobody; RU, resonance unit; SeMet, selenomethionine; SPR, surface plasmon resonance; TCEP, tris-(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine; TEV, Tobacco etch virus
23.  An integrated approach to the ligand binding specificity of Neisseria meningitidis M1 alanine aminopeptidase by fluorogenic substrate profiling, inhibitory studies and molecular modeling 
Biochimie  2012;95(2):419-428.
Neisseria meningitides is a gram-negative diplococcus bacterium and is the main causative agent of meningitis and other meningococcal diseases. Alanine aminopeptidase from N. meningitides (NmAPN) belongs to the family of metallo-exopeptidase enzymes, which catalyze the removal of amino acids from the N-terminus of peptides and proteins, and are found among all the kingdoms of life. NmAPN is suggested to be mostly responsible for proteolysis and nutrition delivery, similar to the orthologs from other bacteria.
To explore the possibility of NmAPN being a potential drug target for inhibition and development of novel therapeutic agents, the specificity of the S1 and S1′ binding sites were explored using an integrated approach. Initially, an extensive library consisting of almost 100 fluorogenic substrates derived from both natural and unnatural amino acids, were used to obtain a detailed substrate fingerprint of the S1 pocket of NmAPN. A broad substrate tolerance of NmAPN was revealed, with bulky basic and hydrophobic ligands being the most favored substrates. Additionally, the potency of a set of organophosphorus inhibitors of neutral aminopeptidases, amino acid and dipeptide analogues was determined. Inhibition constants in the nanomolar range, determined for phosphinic dipeptides, proves the positive increase in inhibition impact of the P1′ ligand elongation. The results were further verified via molecular modeling and docking of canonical aminopeptidase phosphinic dipeptide inhibitors in the NmAPN active site. These studies present comprehensive characterization of interactions responsible for specific ligand binding. This knowledge provides invaluable insight into understanding of the enzyme and development of novel NmAPN inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3557594  PMID: 23131591
M1 aminopeptidase; Neisseria meningitidis; fluorogenic substrates; organophosphorus inhibitors; S1 and S1′ binding sites specificity
24.  The crystal structures of the α-subunit of the α2β2 tetrameric Glycyl-tRNA synthetase 
Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (AARSs) are ligases (EC.6.1.1.-) that catalyze the acylation of amino acids to their cognate tRNAs in the process of translating genetic information from mRNA to protein. Their amino acid and tRNA specificity are crucial for correctly translating the genetic code. Glycine is the smallest amino acid and the glycyl-tRNA synthetase (GlyRS) belongs to Class II AARSs. The enzyme is unusual because it can assume different quaternary structures. In eukaryotes, archaebac-teria and some bacteria, it forms an α2 homodimer. In some bacteria, GlyRS is an α2β2 heterotetramer and shows a distant similarity to α2 GlyRSs. The human pathogen eubacterium Campylobacter jejuni GlyRS (CjGlyRS) is an α2β2 heterotetramer and is similar to Escherichia coli GlyRS; both are members of Class IIc AARSs. The two-step aminoacylation reaction of tetrameric GlyRSs requires the involvement of both α- and β-subunits. At present, the structure of the GlyRS α2β2 class and the details of the enzymatic mechanism of this enzyme remain unknown. Here we report the crystal structures of the catalytic α-subunit of CjGlyRS and its complexes with ATP, and ATP and glycine. These structures provide detailed information on substrate binding and show evidence for a proposed mechanism for amino acid activation and the formation of the glycyl-adenylate intermediate for Class II AARSs.
PMCID: PMC3691008  PMID: 23054484
Gly-tRNA synthetase; Catalytic subunit; ATP binding; Glycine binding
25.  Bacillus anthracis Inosine 5′-Monophosphate Dehydrogenase in Action: The First Bacterial Series of Structures of Phosphate Ion-, Substrate-, and Product-Bound Complexes 
Biochemistry  2012;51(31):10.1021/bi300511w.
Inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) catalyzes the first unique step of the GMP branch of the purine nucleotide biosynthetic pathway. This enzyme is found in organisms of all three kingdoms. IMPDH inhibitors have broad clinical applications in cancer treatment, as antiviral drugs and as immunosuppressants, and have also displayed antibiotic activity. We have determined three crystal structures of Bacillus anthracis IMPDH, in a phosphate ion-bound (termed “apo”) form and in complex with its substrate, inosine 5′-monophosphate (IMP), and product, xanthosine 5′-monophosphate (XMP). This is the first example of a bacterial IMPDH in more than one state from the same organism. Furthermore, for the first time for a prokaryotic enzyme, the entire active site flap, containing the conserved Arg-Tyr dyad, is clearly visible in the structure of the apoenzyme. Kinetic parameters for the enzymatic reaction were also determined, and the inhibitory effect of XMP and mycophenolic acid (MPA) has been studied. In addition, the inhibitory potential of two known Cryptosporidium parvum IMPDH inhibitors was examined for the B. anthracis enzyme and compared with those of three bacterial IMPDHs from Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, and Vibrio cholerae. The structures contribute to the characterization of the active site and design of inhibitors that specifically target B. anthracis and other microbial IMPDH enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3836674  PMID: 22788966

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