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1.  A structural bioinformatics approach for identifying proteins predisposed to bind linear epitopes on pre-selected target proteins 
We have developed a protocol for identifying proteins that are predisposed to bind linear epitopes on target proteins of interest. The protocol searches through the protein database for proteins (scaffolds) that are bound to peptides with sequences similar to accessible, linear epitopes on the target protein. The sequence match is considered more significant if residues calculated to be important in the scaffold–peptide interaction are present in the target epitope. The crystal structure of the scaffold–peptide complex is then used as a template for creating a model of the scaffold bound to the target epitope. This model can then be used in conjunction with sequence optimization algorithms or directed evolution methods to search for scaffold mutations that further increase affinity for the target protein. To test the applicability of this approach we targeted three disease-causing proteins: a tuberculosis virulence factor (TVF), the apical membrane antigen (AMA) from malaria, and hemagglutinin from influenza. In each case the best scoring scaffold was tested, and binders with Kds equal to 37 μM and 50 nM for TVF and AMA, respectively, were identified. A web server (http://rosettadesign.med.unc.edu/scaffold/) has been created for performing the scaffold search process with user-defined target sequences.
doi:10.1093/protein/gzs108
PMCID: PMC3601849  PMID: 23341643
epitope; protein engineering; protein–protein interaction; protein scaffold; structural bioinformatics
2.  Engineering and Design 
doi:10.1016/j.sbi.2009.07.010
PMCID: PMC3767162  PMID: 19683427
3.  Mechanism of ubiquitin ligation and lysine prioritization by a HECT E3 
eLife  2013;2:e00828.
Ubiquitination by HECT E3 enzymes regulates myriad processes, including tumor suppression, transcription, protein trafficking, and degradation. HECT E3s use a two-step mechanism to ligate ubiquitin to target proteins. The first step is guided by interactions between the catalytic HECT domain and the E2∼ubiquitin intermediate, which promote formation of a transient, thioester-bonded HECT∼ubiquitin intermediate. Here we report that the second step of ligation is mediated by a distinct catalytic architecture established by both the HECT E3 and its covalently linked ubiquitin. The structure of a chemically trapped proxy for an E3∼ubiquitin-substrate intermediate reveals three-way interactions between ubiquitin and the bilobal HECT domain orienting the E3∼ubiquitin thioester bond for ligation, and restricting the location of the substrate-binding domain to prioritize target lysines for ubiquitination. The data allow visualization of an E2-to-E3-to-substrate ubiquitin transfer cascade, and show how HECT-specific ubiquitin interactions driving multiple reactions are repurposed by a major E3 conformational change to promote ligation.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00828.001
eLife digest
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be covalently linked to other, ‘target’, proteins in a cell to influence their behavior. Ubiquitin can be linked to its targets either as single copies or as polyubiquitin chains in which several ubiquitin molecules are bound end-on-end to each other, with one end of the chain attached to the target protein. A multi-step cascade involving enzymes known as E1, E2, and E3 adds ubiquitin to its targets. These enzymes function in a manner like runners in a relay, with ubiquitin a baton that is passed from E1 to E2 to E3 to the target.
The E3 enzyme is a ligase that catalyzes the formation of a new chemical bond between a ubiquitin and its target. There are approximately 600 different E3 enzymes in human cells that regulate a wide variety of target proteins. A major class of E3 enzymes, called HECT E3s, attaches ubiquitin to its targets in a unique two-step mechanism: the E2 enzymes covalently link a ubiquitin to a HECT E3 to form a complex that subsequently transfers the ubiquitin to its target protein. The ubiquitin is typically added to a particular amino acid, lysine, on the target protein, but the details of how HECT E3s execute this transfer are not well understood. To address this issue, Kamadurai et al. investigate how Rsp5, a HECT E3 ligase in yeast, attaches ubiquitin to a target protein called Sna3.
All HECT E3s have a domain—the HECT domain—that catalyzes the transfer of ubiquitin to its target protein. This domain consists of two sub-structures: the C-lobe, which can receive ubiquitin from E2 and then itself become linked to ubiquitin, and the N-lobe. These lobes were previously thought to adopt various orientations relative to each other to deliver ubiquitin to sites on different target proteins (including to multiple lysines on a single target protein). Unexpectedly, Kamadurai et al. find that in order to transfer the ubiquitin to Sna3, Rsp5 adopts a discrete HECT domain architecture that creates an active site in which parts of the C-lobe and the N-lobe, which are normally separated, are brought together with a ubiquitin molecule. This architecture also provides a mechanism that dictates which substrate lysines can be ubiquitinated based on how accessible they are to this active site.
The same regions of Rsp5 transfer ubiquitin to targets other than Sna3, suggesting that a uniform mechanism—which Kamadurai et al. show is conserved in two related human HECT E3 ligases—might transfer ubiquitin to all its targets. These studies therefore represent a significant step toward understanding how a major class of E3 enzymes modulates the functions of their targets.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00828.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.00828
PMCID: PMC3738095  PMID: 23936628
ubiquitin; HECT; E3 ligase; E2 conjugating enzyme; NEDD4; Rsp5; S. cerevisiae
4.  Scientific Benchmarks for Guiding Macromolecular Energy Function Improvement 
Methods in enzymology  2013;523:109-143.
Accurate energy functions are critical to macromolecular modeling and design. We describe new tools for identifying inaccuracies in energy functions and guiding their improvement, and illustrate the application of these tools to improvement of the Rosetta energy function. The feature analysis tool identifies discrepancies between structures deposited in the PDB and low energy structures generated by Rosetta; these likely arise from inaccuracies in the energy function. The optE tool optimizes the weights on the different components of the energy function by maximizing the recapitulation of a wide range of experimental observations. We use the tools to examine three proposed modifications to the Rosetta energy function: improving the unfolded state energy model (reference energies), using bicubic spline interpolation to generate knowledge based torisonal potentials, and incorporating the recently developed Dunbrack 2010 rotamer library (Shapovalov and Dunbrack, 2011).
doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-394292-0.00006-0
PMCID: PMC3724755  PMID: 23422428
Rosetta; energy function; scientific benchmarking; parameter estimation; decoy discrimination
5.  Adding Diverse Noncanonical Backbones to Rosetta: Enabling Peptidomimetic Design 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67051.
Peptidomimetics are classes of molecules that mimic structural and functional attributes of polypeptides. Peptidomimetic oligomers can frequently be synthesized using efficient solid phase synthesis procedures similar to peptide synthesis. Conformationally ordered peptidomimetic oligomers are finding broad applications for molecular recognition and for inhibiting protein-protein interactions. One critical limitation is the limited set of design tools for identifying oligomer sequences that can adopt desired conformations. Here, we present expansions to the ROSETTA platform that enable structure prediction and design of five non-peptidic oligomer scaffolds (noncanonical backbones), oligooxopiperazines, oligo-peptoids, -peptides, hydrogen bond surrogate helices and oligosaccharides. This work is complementary to prior additions to model noncanonical protein side chains in ROSETTA. The main purpose of our manuscript is to give a detailed description to current and future developers of how each of these noncanonical backbones was implemented. Furthermore, we provide a general outline for implementation of new backbone types not discussed here. To illustrate the utility of this approach, we describe the first tests of the ROSETTA molecular mechanics energy function in the context of oligooxopiperazines, using quantum mechanical calculations as comparison points, scanning through backbone and side chain torsion angles for a model peptidomimetic. Finally, as an example of a novel design application, we describe the automated design of an oligooxopiperazine that inhibits the p53-MDM2 protein-protein interaction. For the general biological and bioengineering community, several noncanonical backbones have been incorporated into web applications that allow users to freely and rapidly test the presented protocols (http://rosie.rosettacommons.org). This work helps address the peptidomimetic community's need for an automated and expandable modeling tool for noncanonical backbones.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067051
PMCID: PMC3712014  PMID: 23869206
6.  Site–Specific Monoubiquitination Activates Ras by Impeding GTPase Activating Protein Function 
SUMMARY
Cell growth and differentiation are controlled by growth factor receptors coupled to the GTPase Ras. Oncogenic mutations disrupt GTPase activity leading to persistent Ras signaling and cancer progression. Recent evidence indicates that monoubiquitination of Ras leads to Ras activation. Mutation of the primary site of monoubiquitination impairs the ability of activated K–Ras to promote tumor growth. To determine the mechanism of human Ras activation we chemically ubiquitinated the protein and analyzed its function by NMR, computational modeling, and biochemical activity measurements. We established that monoubiquitination has little effect on Ras GTP binding, GTP hydrolysis, or exchange factor activation, but severely abrogates the response to GTPase activating proteins in a site–specific manner. These findings reveal a new mechanism by which Ras can trigger persistent signaling in the absence of receptor activation or an oncogenic mutation.
doi:10.1038/nsmb.2430
PMCID: PMC3537887  PMID: 23178454
7.  Increasing Sequence Diversity with Flexible Backbone Protein Design: The Complete Redesign of a Protein Hydrophobic Core 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2012;20(6):1086-1096.
Summary
Protein design tests our understanding of protein stability and structure. Successful design methods should allow the exploration of sequence space not found in nature. However, when redesigning naturally occurring protein structures most fixed backbone design algorithms return amino acid sequences that share strong sequence identity with wild-type sequences, especially in the protein core. This behavior places a restriction on functional space that can be explored and is not consistent with observations from nature, where sequences of low identity have similar structures. Here, we allow backbone flexibility during design to mutate every position in the core (38 residues) of a four-helix bundle protein. Only small perturbations to the backbone, 1-2 Å, were needed to entirely mutate the core. The redesigned protein, DRNN, is exceptionally stable (melting point > 140 °C). An NMR and X-ray crystal structure show that the side chains and backbone were accurately modeled (all-atom RMSD = 1.3 Å).
doi:10.1016/j.str.2012.03.026
PMCID: PMC3372604  PMID: 22632833
Computational Protein Design; de novo Protein Design; Flexible Backbone Protein Design
8.  Alternative Computational Protocols for Supercharging Protein Surfaces for Reversible Unfolding and Retention of Stability 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64363.
Reengineering protein surfaces to exhibit high net charge, referred to as “supercharging”, can improve reversibility of unfolding by preventing aggregation of partially unfolded states. Incorporation of charged side chains should be optimized while considering structural and energetic consequences, as numerous mutations and accumulation of like-charges can also destabilize the native state. A previously demonstrated approach deterministically mutates flexible polar residues (amino acids DERKNQ) with the fewest average neighboring atoms per side chain atom (AvNAPSA). Our approach uses Rosetta-based energy calculations to choose the surface mutations. Both protocols are available for use through the ROSIE web server. The automated Rosetta and AvNAPSA approaches for supercharging choose dissimilar mutations, raising an interesting division in surface charging strategy. Rosetta-supercharged variants of GFP (RscG) ranging from −11 to −61 and +7 to +58 were experimentally tested, and for comparison, we re-tested the previously developed AvNAPSA-supercharged variants of GFP (AscG) with +36 and −30 net charge. Mid-charge variants demonstrated ∼3-fold improvement in refolding with retention of stability. However, as we pushed to higher net charges, expression and soluble yield decreased, indicating that net charge or mutational load may be limiting factors. Interestingly, the two different approaches resulted in GFP variants with similar refolding properties. Our results show that there are multiple sets of residues that can be mutated to successfully supercharge a protein, and combining alternative supercharge protocols with experimental testing can be an effective approach for charge-based improvement to refolding.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064363
PMCID: PMC3669367  PMID: 23741319
9.  Serverification of Molecular Modeling Applications: The Rosetta Online Server That Includes Everyone (ROSIE) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63906.
The Rosetta molecular modeling software package provides experimentally tested and rapidly evolving tools for the 3D structure prediction and high-resolution design of proteins, nucleic acids, and a growing number of non-natural polymers. Despite its free availability to academic users and improving documentation, use of Rosetta has largely remained confined to developers and their immediate collaborators due to the code’s difficulty of use, the requirement for large computational resources, and the unavailability of servers for most of the Rosetta applications. Here, we present a unified web framework for Rosetta applications called ROSIE (Rosetta Online Server that Includes Everyone). ROSIE provides (a) a common user interface for Rosetta protocols, (b) a stable application programming interface for developers to add additional protocols, (c) a flexible back-end to allow leveraging of computer cluster resources shared by RosettaCommons member institutions, and (d) centralized administration by the RosettaCommons to ensure continuous maintenance. This paper describes the ROSIE server infrastructure, a step-by-step ‘serverification’ protocol for use by Rosetta developers, and the deployment of the first nine ROSIE applications by six separate developer teams: Docking, RNA de novo, ERRASER, Antibody, Sequence Tolerance, Supercharge, Beta peptide design, NCBB design, and VIP redesign. As illustrated by the number and diversity of these applications, ROSIE offers a general and speedy paradigm for serverification of Rosetta applications that incurs negligible cost to developers and lowers barriers to Rosetta use for the broader biological community. ROSIE is available at http://rosie.rosettacommons.org.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063906
PMCID: PMC3661552  PMID: 23717507
10.  Redesigning the NEDD8 pathway with a bacterial genetic screen for ubiquitin-like molecule transfer 
Journal of Molecular Biology  2012;418(3-4):161-166.
Pathways of ubiquitin-like (UBL) molecule transfer regulate a myriad of cellular cascades. Here we report a high-throughput assay that correlates catalytic human-NEDD8 transfer to bacterial survival. The assay was utilized to screen mutant NEDD8 and NEDD8-activating enzyme (NAE) libraries to engineer a more stable NEDD8 and redesign the NEDD8-NAE interface. This approach will be useful in understanding the specificities underlying UBL pathways.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2012.02.036
PMCID: PMC3329750  PMID: 22391419
11.  Designing photoswitchable peptides using the AsLOV2 domain 
Chemistry & biology  2012;19(4):507-517.
Summary
Photocontrol of functional peptides is a powerful tool for spatial and temporal control of cell signaling events. We show that the genetically encoded light-sensitive LOV2 domain of Avena Sativa phototropin 1 (AsLOV2) can be used to reversibly photomodulate the affinity of peptides for their binding partners. Sequence analysis and molecular modeling were used to embed two peptides into the Ja helix of the AsLOV2 domain while maintaining AsLOV2 structure in the dark, but allowing for binding to effector proteins when the Jα helix unfolds in the light. Caged versions of the ipaA and SsrA peptides, LOV-ipaA and LOV-SsrA, bind their targets with 49-fold and 8-fold enhanced affinity in the light, respectively. These switches can be used as general tools for light dependent co-localization, which we demonstrate with photoactivable gene transcription in yeast.
doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2012.02.006
PMCID: PMC3334866  PMID: 22520757
12.  Computational Protein Design with Explicit Consideration of Surface Hydrophobic Patches 
Proteins  2011;80(3):825-838.
De novo protein design requires the identification of amino-acid sequences that favor the target folded conformation and are soluble in water. One strategy for promoting solubility is to disallow hydrophobic residues on the protein surface during design. However, naturally occurring proteins often have hydrophobic amino acids on their surface that contribute to protein stability via the partial burial of hydrophobic surface area or play a key role in the formation of protein-protein interactions. A less restrictive approach for surface design that is used by the modeling program Rosetta is to parameterize the energy function so that the number of hydrophobic amino acids designed on the protein surface is similar to what is observed in naturally occurring monomeric proteins. Previous studies with Rosetta have shown that this limits surface hydrophobics to the naturally occurring frequency (~28%) but that it does not prevent the formation of hydrophobic patches that are considerably larger than those observed in naturally occurring proteins. Here, we describe a new score term that explicitly detects and penalizes the formation of hydrophobic patches during computational protein design. With the new term we are able to design protein surfaces that include hydrophobic amino acids at naturally occurring frequencies, but do not have large hydrophobic patches. By adjusting the strength of the new score term the emphasis of surface redesigns can be switched between maintaining solubility and maximizing folding free energy.
doi:10.1002/prot.23241
PMCID: PMC3277657  PMID: 22223219
computational protein design; protein solubility; protein stability; Rosetta
13.  Metal-mediated affinity and orientation specificity in a computationally designed protein homodimer 
Computationally designing protein-protein interactions with high affinity and desired orientation is a challenging task. Incorporating metal-binding sites at the target interface may be one approach for increasing affinity and specifying the binding mode, thereby improving robustness of designed interactions for use as tools in basic research as well as in applications from biotechnology to medicine. Here we describe a Rosetta-based approach for the rational design of a protein monomer to form a zinc-mediated, symmetric homodimer. Our metal interface design, named MID1 (NESG target ID OR37), forms a tight dimer in the presence of zinc (MID1-zinc) with a dissociation constant <30 nM. Without zinc the dissociation constant is 4 μM. The crystal structure of MID1-zinc shows good overall agreement with the computational model, but only three out of four designed histidines coordinate zinc. However, a histidine-to-glutamate point mutation resulted in four-coordination of zinc, and the resulting metal binding site and dimer orientation closely matches the computational model (Cα RMSD = 1.4 Å).
doi:10.1021/ja208015j
PMCID: PMC3257401  PMID: 22092237
computational protein interface design; protein-protein interaction; metal; zinc; cobalt; homodimer; de novo
14.  Redesign of the PAK1 Auto-Inhibitory Domain for enhanced stability and affinity in biosensor applications 
Journal of molecular biology  2011;413(2):513-522.
The inhibitory switch (IS) domain of p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) stabilizes full-length PAK1 in an inactive conformation by binding to the PAK1 kinase domain. Competitive binding of small GTPases to the IS domain disrupts the autoinhibitory interactions and exposes the IS domain binding site on the surface of the kinase domain. To build an affinity reagent that selectively binds the activated state of PAK1, we used molecular modeling to re-engineer the isolated IS domain so that it was soluble and stable, did not bind to GTPases and bound more tightly to the PAK1 kinase domain. Three design strategies were tested: in the first and second case, extension and redesign of the N-terminus were used to expand the hydrophobic core of the domain and in the third case the termini were redesigned to be adjacent in space so that that the domain could be stabilized by insertion into a loop in a host cyan fluorescent protein (CFP). The best-performing design, called CFP-PAcKer, was based on the third strategy and bound the kinase domain of PAK1 with an affinity of 400 nM. CFP-PAcKer binds more tightly to a full-length variant of PAK1 that is stabilized in the ‘open’ state (Kd = 3.3 µM) than to full-length PAK1 in the ‘closed’ state (undetectable affinity), and binding can be monitored with fluorescence by placing an environmentally sensitive fluorescence dye on CFP-PAcKer adjacent to the binding site.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2011.08.022
PMCID: PMC3202338  PMID: 21888918
Computational protein design; Rosetta; merocyanine dye; p21-activated kinase
15.  Essential role for ubiquitin–ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme interaction in ubiquitin discharge from Cdc34 to substrate 
Molecular cell  2011;42(1):75-83.
Summary
During ubiquitin conjugation, the thioester bond that links ‘donor’ ubiquitin to ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) undergoes nucleophilic attack by the ε-amino group of an acceptor lysine, resulting in formation of an isopeptide bond. Models of ubiquitination have envisioned the donor ubiquitin to be a passive participant in this process. However, we show here that the I44A mutation in ubiquitin profoundly inhibits its ability to serve as a donor for ubiquitin chain initiation or elongation, but can be rescued by computationally-predicted compensatory mutations in the E2 Cdc34. The donor defect of ubiquitin-I44A can be partially suppressed either by using a low pKa amine (hydroxylamine) as the acceptor or by performing reactions at higher pH, suggesting that the discharge defect arises in part due to inefficient deprotonation of the acceptor lysine. We propose that interaction between Cdc34 and the donor ubiquitin organizes the active site to promote efficient ubiquitination of substrate.
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2011.03.016
PMCID: PMC3091889  PMID: 21474069
16.  Computational Design of the Sequence and Structure of a Protein-Binding Peptide 
The de novo design of protein-binding peptides is challenging, because it requires identifying both a sequence and a backbone conformation favorable for binding. We used a computational strategy that iterates between structure and sequence optimization to redesign the C-terminal portion of the RGS14 GoLoco motif peptide so that it adopts a new conformation when bound to Gαi1. An X-ray crystal structure of the redesigned complex closely matches the computational model, with a backbone RMSD of 1.1 Å.
doi:10.1021/ja110296z
PMCID: PMC3081598  PMID: 21388199
17.  Incorporation of Noncanonical Amino Acids into Rosetta and Use in Computational Protein-Peptide Interface Design 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32637.
Noncanonical amino acids (NCAAs) can be used in a variety of protein design contexts. For example, they can be used in place of the canonical amino acids (CAAs) to improve the biophysical properties of peptides that target protein interfaces. We describe the incorporation of 114 NCAAs into the protein-modeling suite Rosetta. We describe our methods for building backbone dependent rotamer libraries and the parameterization and construction of a scoring function that can be used to score NCAA containing peptides and proteins. We validate these additions to Rosetta and our NCAA-rotamer libraries by showing that we can improve the binding of a calpastatin derived peptides to calpain-1 by substituting NCAAs for native amino acids using Rosetta. Rosetta (executables and source), auxiliary scripts and code, and documentation can be found at (http://www.rosettacommons.org/).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032637
PMCID: PMC3303795  PMID: 22431978
18.  A biosensor generated via high throughput screening quantifies cell edge Src dynamics 
Nature chemical biology  2011;7(7):437-444.
Fluorescent biosensors for living cells currently require laborious optimization and a unique design for each target. They are limited by the availability of naturally occurring ligands with appropriate target specificity. Here we describe a biosensor based on an engineered fibronectin monobody scaffold that can be tailored to bind different targets via high throughput screening. This Src family kinase (SFK) biosensor was made by derivatizing a monobody specific for activated SFK with a bright dye whose fluorescence increases upon target binding. We identified sites for dye attachment and alterations to eliminate vesiculation in living cells, providing a generalizable scaffold for biosensor production. This approach minimizes cell perturbation because it senses endogenous, unmodified target, and because sensitivity is enhanced by direct dye excitation. Automated correlation of cell velocities and SFK activity revealed that SFK are activated specifically during protrusion. Activity correlates with velocity, and peaks 1–2 microns from the leading edge.
doi:10.1038/nchembio.585
PMCID: PMC3135387  PMID: 21666688
19.  Computational design of a PAK1 binding protein 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;400(2):257-270.
We describe a computational protocol, called DDMI, for redesigning scaffold proteins to bind to a specified region on a target protein. The DDMI protocol is implemented within the Rosetta molecular modeling program and uses rigid-body docking, sequence design, and gradient-based minimization of backbone and side chain torsion angles to design low energy interfaces between the scaffold and target protein. Iterative rounds of sequence design and conformational optimization were needed to produce models that have calculated binding energies that are similar to binding energies calculated for native complexes. We also show that additional conformation sampling with molecular dynamics can be iterated with sequence design to further lower the computed energy of the designed complexes. To experimentally test the DDMI protocol we redesigned the human hyperplastic discs protein to bind to the kinase domain of p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1). Six designs were experimentally characterized. Two of the designs aggregated and were not characterized further. Of the remaining four designs, three bound to the PAK1 with affinities tighter than 350 μM. The tightest binding design, named Spider Roll, bound with an affinity of 100 μM. NMR –based structure prediction of Spider Roll based on backbone and 13Cβ chemical shifts using the program CS-ROSETTA indicated that the architecture of human hyperplastic discs protein is preserved. Mutagenesis studies confirmed that Spider Roll binds the target patch on PAK1. Additionally, Spider Roll binds to full length PAK1 in its activated state, but does not bind PAK1 when it forms an auto-inhibited conformation that blocks the Spider Roll target site. Subsequent NMR characterization of the binding of Spider Roll to PAK1 revealed a comparably small binding `on-rate' constant (<< 105 M−1 s−1). The ability to rationally design the site of novel protein-protein interactions is an important step towards creating new proteins that are useful as therapeutics or molecular probes.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2010.05.006
PMCID: PMC2903434  PMID: 20460129
Computational protein design; protein-protein interactions; protein docking; Rosetta molecular modeling program; NMR; CS-ROSETTA
20.  A Generic Program for Multistate Protein Design 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e20937.
Some protein design tasks cannot be modeled by the traditional single state design strategy of finding a sequence that is optimal for a single fixed backbone. Such cases require multistate design, where a single sequence is threaded onto multiple backbones (states) and evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses on each backbone. For example, to design a protein that can switch between two specific conformations, it is necessary to to find a sequence that is compatible with both backbone conformations. We present in this paper a generic implementation of multistate design that is suited for a wide range of protein design tasks and demonstrate in silico its capabilities at two design tasks: one of redesigning an obligate homodimer into an obligate heterodimer such that the new monomers would not homodimerize, and one of redesigning a promiscuous interface to bind to only a single partner and to no longer bind the rest of its partners. Both tasks contained negative design in that multistate design was asked to find sequences that would produce high energies for several of the states being modeled. Success at negative design was assessed by computationally redocking the undesired protein-pair interactions; we found that multistate design's accuracy improved as the diversity of conformations for the undesired protein-pair interactions increased. The paper concludes with a discussion of the pitfalls of negative design, which has proven considerably more challenging than positive design.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020937
PMCID: PMC3130737  PMID: 21754981
21.  Anchored Design of Protein-Protein Interfaces 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20872.
Background
Few existing protein-protein interface design methods allow for extensive backbone rearrangements during the design process. There is also a dichotomy between redesign methods, which take advantage of the native interface, and de novo methods, which produce novel binders.
Methodology
Here, we propose a new method for designing novel protein reagents that combines advantages of redesign and de novo methods and allows for extensive backbone motion. This method requires a bound structure of a target and one of its natural binding partners. A key interaction in this interface, the anchor, is computationally grafted out of the partner and into a surface loop on the design scaffold. The design scaffold's surface is then redesigned with backbone flexibility to create a new binding partner for the target. Careful choice of a scaffold will bring experimentally desirable characteristics into the new complex. The use of an anchor both expedites the design process and ensures that binding proceeds against a known location on the target. The use of surface loops on the scaffold allows for flexible-backbone redesign to properly search conformational space.
Conclusions and Significance
This protocol was implemented within the Rosetta3 software suite. To demonstrate and evaluate this protocol, we have developed a benchmarking set of structures from the PDB with loop-mediated interfaces. This protocol can recover the correct loop-mediated interface in 15 out of 16 tested structures, using only a single residue as an anchor.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020872
PMCID: PMC3117852  PMID: 21698112
22.  Computational Design of Second-Site Suppressor Mutations at Protein-Protein Interfaces 
Proteins  2010;78(4):1055-1065.
The importance of a protein-protein interaction to a signaling pathway can be established by showing that amino acid mutations that weaken the interaction disrupt signaling, and that additional mutations that rescue the interaction recover signaling. Identifying rescue mutations, often referred to as second-site suppressor mutations, controls against scenarios in which the initial deleterious mutation inactivates the protein or disrupts alternative protein-protein interactions. Here, we test a structure-based protocol for identifying second-site suppressor mutations that is based on a strategy previously described by Kortemme and Baker. The molecular modeling software Rosetta is used to scan an interface for point mutations that are predicted to weaken binding but can be rescued by mutations on the partner protein. The protocol typically identifies three types of specificity switches: knob-in-to-hole redesigns, switching hydrophobic interactions to hydrogen bond interactions, and replacing polar interactions with non-polar interactions. Computational predictions were tested with two separate protein complexes; the G-protein Gαi1 bound to the RGS14 GoLoco motif, and UbcH7 bound to the ubiquitin ligase E6AP. Eight designs were experimentally tested. Swapping a buried hydrophobic residue with a polar residue dramatically weakened binding affinities. In none of these cases were we able to identify compensating mutations that returned binding to wild type affinity, highlighting the challenges inherent in designing buried hydrogen bond networks. The strongest specificity switches were a knob-in-to-hole design (20-fold) and the replacement of a charge-charge interaction with non-polar interactions (55-fold). In two cases, specificity was further tuned by including mutations distant from the initial design.
doi:10.1002/prot.22631
PMCID: PMC2903445  PMID: 19899154
Computational Protein Design; Protein-Protein Interactions; Protein Binding Specificity; Rosetta Molecular Modeling Software
23.  Computational Design of Affinity and Specificity at Protein-Protein Interfaces 
The computer-based design of protein-protein interactions is a rigorous test of our understanding of molecular recognition and an attractive approach for creating novel tools for cell and molecular research. Considerable attention has been placed on redesigning the affinity and specificity of naturally occurring interactions. Several studies have shown that reducing the desolvation costs for binding while preserving shape complimentarity and hydrogen bonding is an effective strategy for improving binding affinities. In favorable cases specificity has been designed by focusing only on interactions with the target protein, while in cases with closely related off-target proteins, it has been necessary to explicitly disfavor unwanted binding partners. The rational design of protein-protein interactions from scratch is still an unsolved problem, but recent developments in flexible backbone design and energy functions hold promise for the future.
doi:10.1016/j.sbi.2009.07.005
PMCID: PMC2882636  PMID: 19646858
Rational protein design; computational protein design; de novo protein design; protein-protein interactions
24.  Rapid E2-E3 assembly and disassembly enable processive ubiquitylation of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligase substrates 
Cell  2009;139(5):957-968.
Summary
Degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system requires assembly of a polyubiquitin chain upon substrate. However, the structural and mechanistic features that enable template-independent processive chain synthesis are unknown. We show that chain assembly by ubiquitin ligase SCF and ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme Cdc34 is facilitated by the unusual nature of Cdc34-SCF transactions: Cdc34 binds SCF with nanomolar affinity, nevertheless the complex is extremely dynamic. These properties are enabled by rapid association driven by electrostatic interactions between the acidic tail of Cdc34 and a basic ‘canyon’ in the Cul1 subunit of SCF. Ab initio docking between Cdc34 and Cul1 predicts intimate contact between the tail and the basic canyon, an arrangement confirmed by cross-linking and kinetic analysis of mutants. Basic canyon residues are conserved in both Cul1 paralogs and orthologs, suggesting that the same mechanism underlies processivity for all cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases. We discuss different strategies by which processive ubiquitin chain synthesis may be achieved.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.030
PMCID: PMC2804849  PMID: 19945379
25.  A genetically-encoded photoactivatable Rac controls the motility of living cells 
Nature  2009;461(7260):104-108.
The precise spatio-temporal dynamics of protein activity are often critical in determining cell behaviour, yet for most proteins they remain poorly understood; it remains difficult to manipulate protein activity at precise times and places within living cells. Protein activity has been controlled by light, through protein derivatization with photocleavable moieties1 or using photoreactive small molecule ligands2. However, this requires use of toxic UV wavelengths, activation is irreversible, and/or cell loading is accomplished via disruption of the cell membrane (i.e. through microinjection). We have developed a new approach to produce genetically-encoded photo-activatable derivatives of Rac1, a key GTPase regulating actin cytoskeletal dynamics3,4. Rac1 mutants were fused to the photoreactive LOV (light oxygen voltage) domain from phototropin5,6, sterically blocking Rac1 interactions until irradiation unwound a helix linking LOV to Rac1. Photoactivatable Rac1 (PA-Rac1) could be reversibly and repeatedly activated using 458 or 473 nm light to generate precisely localized cell protrusions and ruffling. Localized Rac activation or inactivation was sufficient to produce cell motility and control the direction of cell movement. Myosin was involved in Rac control of directionality but not in Rac-induced protrusion, while PAK was required for Rac-induced protrusion. PA-Rac1 was used to elucidate Rac regulation of RhoA in cell motility. Rac and Rho coordinate cytoskeletal behaviours with seconds and submicron precision7,8. Their mutual regulation remains controversial9, with data indicating that Rac inhibits and/or activates Rho10,11. Rac was shown to inhibit RhoA in living cells, with inhibition modulated at protrusions and ruffles. A PA-Rac crystal structure and modelling revealed LOV-Rac interactions that will facilitate extension of this photoactivation approach to other proteins.
doi:10.1038/nature08241
PMCID: PMC2766670  PMID: 19693014

Results 1-25 (33)