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1.  Crystal Structure and Self-Interaction of the Type VI Secretion Tail-Tube Protein from Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86918.
The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a widespread machine used by bacteria to control their environment and kill or disable bacterial species or eukaryotes through toxin injection. The T6SS comprises a central tube formed of stacked hexamers of hemolysin co-regulated proteins (Hcp) and terminated by a trimeric valine-glycine repeat protein G (VgrG) component, the cell puncturing device. A contractile tail sheath, formed by the TssB and TssC proteins, surrounds this tube. This syringe-like machine has been compared to an inverted phage, as both Hcp and VgrG share structural homology with tail components of Caudovirales. Here we solved the crystal structure of a tryptophan-substituted double mutant of Hcp1 from enteroaggregative Escherichia coli and compared it to the structures of other Hcps. Interestingly, we observed that the purified Hcp native protein is unable to form tubes in vitro. To better understand the rationale for observation, we measured the affinity of Hcp1 hexamers with themselves by surface plasmon resonance. The intra-hexamer interaction is weak, with a KD value of 7.2 µM. However, by engineering double cysteine mutants at defined positions, tubes of Hcp1 gathering up to 15 stacked hexamers formed in oxidative conditions. These results, together with those available in the literature regarding TssB and TssC, suggest that assembly of the T6SS tube differs significantly from that of Sipho- or Myoviridae.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086918
PMCID: PMC3925092  PMID: 24551044
2.  Molecular Engineering of Fungal GH5 and GH26 Beta-(1,4)-Mannanases toward Improvement of Enzyme Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79800.
Microbial mannanases are biotechnologically important enzymes since they target the hydrolysis of hemicellulosic polysaccharides of softwood biomass into simple molecules like manno-oligosaccharides and mannose. In this study, we have implemented a strategy of molecular engineering in the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to improve the specific activity of two fungal endo-mannanases, PaMan5A and PaMan26A, which belong to the glycoside hydrolase (GH) families GH5 and GH26, respectively. Following random mutagenesis and two steps of high-throughput enzymatic screening, we identified several PaMan5A and PaMan26A mutants that displayed improved kinetic constants for the hydrolysis of galactomannan. Examination of the three-dimensional structures of PaMan5A and PaMan26A revealed which of the mutated residues are potentially important for enzyme function. Among them, the PaMan5A-G311S single mutant, which displayed an impressive 8.2-fold increase in kcat/KM due to a significant decrease of KM, is located within the core of the enzyme. The PaMan5A-K139R/Y223H double mutant revealed modification of hydrolysis products probably in relation to an amino-acid substitution located nearby one of the positive subsites. The PaMan26A-P140L/D416G double mutant yielded a 30% increase in kcat/KM compared to the parental enzyme. It displayed a mutation in the linker region (P140L) that may confer more flexibility to the linker and another mutation (D416G) located at the entrance of the catalytic cleft that may promote the entrance of the substrate into the active site. Taken together, these results show that the directed evolution strategy implemented in this study was very pertinent since a straightforward round of random mutagenesis yielded significantly improved variants, in terms of catalytic efiiciency (kcat/KM).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079800
PMCID: PMC3838371  PMID: 24278180
3.  Functional Analysis of PGRP-LA in Drosophila Immunity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69742.
PeptidoGlycan Recognition Proteins (PGRPs) are key regulators of the insect innate antibacterial response. Even if they have been intensively studied, some of them have yet unknown functions. Here, we present a functional analysis of PGRP-LA, an as yet uncharacterized Drosophila PGRP. The PGRP-LA gene is located in cluster with PGRP-LC and PGRP-LF, which encode a receptor and a negative regulator of the Imd pathway, respectively. Structure predictions indicate that PGRP-LA would not bind to peptidoglycan, pointing to a regulatory role of this PGRP. PGRP-LA expression was enriched in barrier epithelia, but low in the fat body. Use of a newly generated PGRP-LA deficient mutant indicates that PGRP-LA is not required for the production of antimicrobial peptides by the fat body in response to a systemic infection. Focusing on the respiratory tract, where PGRP-LA is strongly expressed, we conducted a genome-wide microarray analysis of the tracheal immune response of wild-type, Relish, and PGRP-LA mutant larvae. Comparing our data to previous microarray studies, we report that a majority of genes regulated in the trachea upon infection differ from those induced in the gut or the fat body. Importantly, antimicrobial peptide gene expression was reduced in the tracheae of larvae and in the adult gut of PGRP-LA-deficient Drosophila upon oral bacterial infection. Together, our results suggest that PGRP-LA positively regulates the Imd pathway in barrier epithelia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069742
PMCID: PMC3724876  PMID: 23922788
4.  Binding of the RamR Repressor to Wild-Type and Mutated Promoters of the ramA Gene Involved in Efflux-Mediated Multidrug Resistance in Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium 
The transcriptional activator RamA is involved in multidrug resistance (MDR) by increasing expression of the AcrAB-TolC RND-type efflux system in several pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae. In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium), ramA expression is negatively regulated at the local level by RamR, a transcriptional repressor of the TetR family. We here studied the DNA-binding activity of the RamR repressor with the ramA promoter (PramA). As determined by high-resolution footprinting, the 28-bp-long RamR binding site covers essential features of PramA, including the −10 conserved region, the transcriptional start site of ramA, and two 7-bp inverted repeats. Based on the RamR footprint and on electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs), we propose that RamR interacts with PramA as a dimer of dimers, in a fashion that is structurally similar to the QacR-DNA binding model. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) measurements indicated that RamR has a 3-fold-lower affinity (KD [equilibrium dissociation constant] = 191 nM) for the 2-bp-deleted PramA of an MDR S. Typhimurium clinical isolate than for the wild-type PramA (KD = 66 nM). These results confirm the direct regulatory role of RamR in the repression of ramA transcription and precisely define how an alteration of its binding site can give rise to an MDR phenotype.
doi:10.1128/AAC.05444-11
PMCID: PMC3264254  PMID: 22123696
5.  Crystal Structure of Diedel, a Marker of the Immune Response of Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33416.
Background
The Drosophila melanogaster gene CG11501 is up regulated after a septic injury and was proposed to act as a negative regulator of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway. Diedel, the CG11501 gene product, is a small protein of 115 residues with 10 cysteines.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have produced Diedel in Drosophila S2 cells as an extra cellular protein thanks to its own signal peptide and solved its crystal structure at 1.15 Å resolution by SIRAS using an iodo derivative. Diedel is composed of two sub domains SD1 and SD2. SD1 is made of an antiparallel β-sheet covered by an α-helix and displays a ferredoxin-like fold. SD2 reveals a new protein fold made of loops connected by four disulfide bridges. Further structural analysis identified conserved hydrophobic residues on the surface of Diedel that may constitute a potential binding site. The existence of two conformations, cis and trans, for the proline 52 may be of interest as prolyl peptidyl isomerisation has been shown to play a role in several physiological mechanisms. The genome of D. melanogaster contains two other genes coding for proteins homologous to Diedel, namely CG43228 and CG34329. Strikingly, apart from Drosophila and the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, Diedel-related sequences were exclusively identified in a few insect DNA viruses of the Baculoviridae and Ascoviridae families.
Conclusion/Significance
Diedel, a marker of the Drosophila antimicrobial/antiviral response, is a member of a small family of proteins present in drosophilids, aphids and DNA viruses infecting lepidopterans. Diedel is an extracellular protein composed of two sub-domains. Two special structural features (hydrophobic surface patch and cis/trans conformation for proline 52) may indicate a putative interaction site, and support an extra cellular signaling function for Diedel, which is in accordance with its proposed role as negative regulator of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033416
PMCID: PMC3307722  PMID: 22442689
6.  Monalysin, a Novel ß-Pore-Forming Toxin from the Drosophila Pathogen Pseudomonas entomophila, Contributes to Host Intestinal Damage and Lethality 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002259.
Pseudomonas entomophila is an entomopathogenic bacterium that infects and kills Drosophila. P. entomophila pathogenicity is linked to its ability to cause irreversible damages to the Drosophila gut, preventing epithelium renewal and repair. Here we report the identification of a novel pore-forming toxin (PFT), Monalysin, which contributes to the virulence of P. entomophila against Drosophila. Our data show that Monalysin requires N-terminal cleavage to become fully active, forms oligomers in vitro, and induces pore-formation in artificial lipid membranes. The prediction of the secondary structure of the membrane-spanning domain indicates that Monalysin is a PFT of the ß-type. The expression of Monalysin is regulated by both the GacS/GacA two-component system and the Pvf regulator, two signaling systems that control P. entomophila pathogenicity. In addition, AprA, a metallo-protease secreted by P. entomophila, can induce the rapid cleavage of pro-Monalysin into its active form. Reduced cell death is observed upon infection with a mutant deficient in Monalysin production showing that Monalysin plays a role in P. entomophila ability to induce intestinal cell damages, which is consistent with its activity as a PFT. Our study together with the well-established action of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins suggests that production of PFTs is a common strategy of entomopathogens to disrupt insect gut homeostasis.
Author Summary
Insects are potential reservoirs for microbes and ideal vectors for their transmission due to their motility and capacity to live in bacteria-rich environments. This is exemplified by fruit flies that live in rotting fruits and are capable of transmitting phytopathogenic bacteria. Insects are notably resistant to microbial infection allowing them to colonize these microbe-rich environments. To study how pathogenic bacteria disrupt gut homeostasis, we investigated the interactions between Drosophila and a newly identified entomopathogen, Pseudomonas entomophila. Ingestion of P. entomophila inflicts severe damage to the Drosophila intestine. How damages are inflicted, however, remains unknown. In this study, we identified a secreted protein that plays an important role in the damage inflicted by P. entomophila to the Drosophila gut. We showed that this protein is a pore-forming toxin (PFT) that we named Monalysin. Our study reveals that Monalysin oligomerizes into ring-like structures that form pores into the plasma membrane of target cells leading to the disruption of membrane permeability and cell death. Our work together with studies on the insecticidal Cry toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis suggests that production of PFTs is a common strategy of entomopathogenic bacteria to interfere with insect gut homeostasis.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002259
PMCID: PMC3182943  PMID: 21980286
7.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the N-terminal domain of GNBP3 from Drosophila melanogaster  
Crystals of the N-terminal domain of Gram-negative bacteria-binding protein 3 of D. melanogaster grown from PEG solutions are monoclinic (space group C2) and diffract to 1.7 Å resolution.
Gram-negative bacteria-binding protein 3 (GNBP3) is a pattern-recognition receptor which contributes to the defensive response against fungal infection in Drosophila. The protein consists of an N-terminal domain, which is considered to recognize β-glucans from the fungal cell wall, and a C-terminal domain, which is homologous to bacterial glucanases but devoid of activity. The N-terminal domain of GNBP3 (GNBP3-Nter) was successfully purified after expression in Drosophila S2 cells. Diffraction-quality crystals were produced by the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method using PEG 2000 and PEG 8000 as precipitants. Preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis revealed that the GNBP3-Nter crystals belonged to the monoclinic space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 134.79, b = 30.55, c = 51.73 Å, β = 107.4°, and diffracted to 1.7 Å using synchrotron radiation. The asymmetric unit is expected to contain two copies of GNBP3-Nter. Heavy-atom derivative data were collected and a samarium derivative showed one high-occupancy site per molecule.
doi:10.1107/S1744309109014997
PMCID: PMC2795588  PMID: 19724120
GNBP3; N-terminal domain; Drosophila melanogaster; pattern-recognition receptors
8.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of a deblocking aminopeptidase from Pyrococcus horikoshii  
Three paralogues of a deblocking aminopeptidase from the hyperthermophilic archeon P. horikoshii have been overexpressed in E. coli, purified and crystallized and exist in different oligomeric states.
The deblocking aminopeptidase (DAP) of Pyrococcus horikoshii is a hyperthermophilic exoprotease that cleaves the N-terminal amino acid of peptide substrates with a putative deblocking activity for acylated peptides. DAP has been found to be homologous to a tetrahedral aminopeptidase from the halophilic Haloarcula marismortui. The latter enzyme is a dodecameric complex and has been revealed to be a self-compartmentalized protease whose central cavity harbouring the catalytic site is accessible through several channels of different size, unlike all other known proteolytic complexes. Three paralogues of DAP have been identified in P. horikoshii, with about 40% identity between them. Each of them has been overexpressed in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized in the native and selenomethionine-substituted states. The results indicate that they form two kinds of assemblies, of 12 and of 24 subunits, with a molecular weight of ∼400 and ∼800 kDa, respectively. Crystals of the different variants of DAP and in their different oligomeric states diffract up to a resolution of 3 Å.
doi:10.1107/S1744309105001910
PMCID: PMC1952244  PMID: 16511005
deblocking aminopeptidases

Results 1-8 (8)