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1.  Structural and functional studies of Igαβ and its assembly with the B cell antigen receptor 
The B cell antigen receptor (BCR) plays an essential role in all phases of B cell development. Here, we show the extracellular domains of murine and human Igβ form an I-set immunoglobulin-like structure with an inter-chain disulfide between cysteines on their G-strands. Structural and sequence analysis suggests that Igα displays similar fold as Igβ. An Igαβ heterodimer model was generated based on the unique disulfide bonded Igβ dimer. Solution binding studies showed that the extracellular domains of Igαβ preferentially recognized the constant region of BCR with the μ-chain specificity, suggesting a role for Igαβ to enhance the BCRμ-chain signaling. Cluster mutations on Igα, Igβ and mIgM based on the structural model identified distinct area of potential contacts involving charged residues on both subunits of the co-receptor and the Cμ4 domain of mIgM. These studies provide the first structural model for understanding BCR function.
PMCID: PMC2921123  PMID: 20696394
2.  Natural Killer Cell-Mediated Shedding of ULBP2 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91133.
UL16 binding proteins (ULBPs) are a family of cell surface proteins that are present in transformed and stressed cells and ligands for NKG2D. Soluble NKG2D ligands have been found in sera from cancer patients with their protein concentrations correlated with poor cancer prognosis. Here we show, for the first time, that human tumor cells lost their surface expression of ULBP2, but not ULBP1 and ULBP3, during NK cell-mediated cytolysis. In contrast to spontaneous shedding of NKG2D ligands, NK cytolysis-mediated shedding of ULBP2 was linked to target cell apoptosis, although both resulted from metalloproteinase cleavages. Inhibition of ULBP2 shedding by a metalloproteinase inhibitor BB-94 lead to reduced NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and cytokine production. These results illustrate a regulation of NK cell effector functions through cytolysis-induced NKG2D ligand shedding. Consequently, compounds inhibiting NKG2D ligand shedding may offer therapeutic means to reduce excessive pathogenic NK cell activities.
PMCID: PMC3948742  PMID: 24614922
3.  Pentraxins and Fc receptors 
Immunological reviews  2012;250(1):230-238.
Pentraxins are innate pattern recognition molecules whose major function is to bind microbial pathogens or cellular debris during infection and inflammation and, by doing so, contribute to the clearance of necrotic cells as well as pathogens through complement activations. Fc receptors are the cellular mediators of antibody functions. While conceptually separated, both pentraxins and antibodies are important factors in controlling acute and chronic inflammations and infections. In recent years, increasing experimental evidence suggests a direct link between the innate pentraxins and humoral Fc receptors. Specifically, both human and mouse pentraxins recognize major forms of Fc receptors in solution and on cell surfaces with affinities similar to antibodies binding to their low affinity Fc receptors. Like immune complex, pentraxin aggregation and opsonization of pathogen result in Fc receptor and macrophage activation. The recently published crystal structure of a human serum amyloid P (SAP) in complex with FcγRIIA further illustrated similarities to antibody recognition. These recent findings implicate a much broader role than complement activation for pentraxins in immunity. This review summarizes the structural and functional work that bridge the innate pentraxins and the adaptive Fc receptor functions. In many ways, pentraxins can be regarded as innate antibodies.
PMCID: PMC3471383  PMID: 23046133
4.  The Structure of the TLR5-Flagellin Complex: A New Mode of Pathogen Detection, Conserved Receptor Dimerization for Signaling 
Science signaling  2012;5(223):pe11.
Knowledge about how Toll-like receptors (TLRs) recognize pathogenic ligands is critical to understanding how these receptors are activated and to designing therapeutic compounds that target this family of receptors for inflammatory diseases. The crystal structure of TLR5 in complex with its bacterial ligand flagellin revealed that the ligand-binding mode for TLR5 is distinct from that of previously characterized TLRs. Nevertheless, like other TLRs, TLR5 forms a dimer in response to ligand binding. This work contributes to our current knowledge of TLR function and further demonstrates the ability of TLRs to couple versatile ligand recognition to a conserved receptor signaling mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3727914  PMID: 22720339
5.  αβ T cell receptors that do not undergo major histocompatibility complex-specific thymic selection possess antibody-like recognition specificities 
Immunity  2011;36(1):79-91.
Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restriction is the cardinal feature of T cell antigen recognition and is thought to be intrinsic to αβ T cell receptor (TCR) structure because of germline-encoded residues which impose MHC specificity. Here, we analyzed TCRs from T cells that had not undergone MHC-specific thymic selection. Instead of recognizing peptide-MHC complexes, the two αβTCRs studied here resembled antibodies in recognizing glycosylation-dependent conformational epitopes on a native self-protein, CD155, and they did so with high affinity independently of MHC molecules. Ligand recognition was via the αβTCR combining site and involved the identical germline-encoded residues that have been thought to uniquely impose MHC specificity, demonstrating that these residues do not only promote MHC binding. Thus, this study demonstrates that, without MHC-specific thymic selection, αβTCRs can resemble antibodies in recognizing conformational epitopes on MHC-independent ligands.
PMCID: PMC3268851  PMID: 22209676
6.  The Structural Basis of Ligand Recognition by Natural Killer Cell Receptors 
Natural killer cells are a group of lymphocytes which function as tightly controlled surveillance operatives which identify transformed cells through a discrete balance of activating and inhibitory receptors ultimately leading to the destruction of incongruent cells. The understanding of this finely tuned balancing act has been aided by the high-resolution structure determination of activating and inhibitory receptors both alone and in complex with their ligands. This paper collates these structural studies detailing the aspects which directly relate to the natural killer cell function and serves to inform both the specialized structural biologist reader and a more general immunology audience.
PMCID: PMC3100565  PMID: 21629745
7.  Structural recognition and functional activation of FcγR by innate pentraxins 
Nature  2008;456(7224):989-992.
Pentraxins are a family of ancient innate immune mediators conserved throughout evolution. The classical pentraxins include serum amyloid P component (SAP) and C-reactive protein (CRP), that are part of acute phase proteins synthesized in response to infection1, 2. Both recognize microbial pathogens and activate the classical complement pathway through C1q3,4. More recently, members of the pentraxin family were found to interact with cell surface Fcγ receptors (FcγR) and activate leukocyte-mediated phagocytosis5-8. We now describe the structural mechanism for pentraxin binding to FcγR and its functional activation of FcγR-mediated phagocytosis and cytokine secretion. The complex structure between human SAP and FcγRIIa reveals a diagonally bound receptor on each SAP pentamer with both D1 and D2 domains of the receptor contacting the ridge helices from two SAP subunits. The 1:1 stoichiometry between SAP and FcγRIIa infers the requirement for multivalent pathogen binding for receptor aggregation. Mutational and binding studies show that pentraxins are diverse in their binding specificity to FcγR isoforms but conserved in their recognition structure. The shared binding site for SAP and IgG results in competition for FcγR binding and the inhibition of immune complex-mediated phagocytosis by soluble pentraxins. These results establish the antibody-like functions for pentraxins in the FcγR pathway, suggest an evolutionary overlap between the innate and adaptive immune systems, and have novel therapeutic implications for autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC2688732  PMID: 19011614
Journal of molecular biology  2007;375(2):437-447.
Sialic acid Ig-like binding lectins are important mediators of recognition and signaling events among myeloid cells. To investigate the molecular mechanism underlying Siglec functions, we have determined the crystal structure of the two N-terminal extracellular domains of a human myeloid cell inhibitory receptor Siglec-5 (CD170) and its complexes with two sialylated carbohydrates. The native structure revealed an unusual conformation of the CC′ ligand specificity loop and a unique inter-domain disulfide bond. The α(2,3)-sialyllactose and α(2,6)-sialyllactose complexed structures showed a conserved sialic acid recognition motif that involves both Arg 124 and a portion of the G-strand in the V-set domain forming β-sheet-like hydrogen bonds with the glycerol side chain of the sialic acid. Only few direct protein contacts to the sub-terminal sugars are observed and mediated by the highly variable GG′ linker and CC′ loop. These structural observations in conjunction with surface plasmon resonance binding assays provide mechanistic insights into the linkage-dependent Siglec carbohydrate recognition and suggest that Siglec-5 and other CD33-related Siglec receptors are more promiscuous in sialo-glycan recognition than previously understood.
PMCID: PMC2245879  PMID: 18022638
Siglec 5 inhibitory receptor; two domain structure; α(2,3) sialyllactose; α(2,6) sialyllactose; carbohydrate specificity
9.  Influence of the Second Amino Acid on Recombinant Protein Expression 
Factors affecting protein expression have been intensely studied to the benefit of recombinant protein production. Through mutational analysis at the +2 amino acid position of recombinant Igα, we examined the effect of all 20 amino acids on protein expression. The results showed that amino acids at the +2 position were affected 10-fold in the recombinant protein expression. Specifically, Ala, Cys, Pro, Ser, Thr, and Lys at the +2 position resulted in significantly higher expression of recombinant Igα than other amino acids, while Met, His and Glu resulted in greatly reduced protein expression. This expression difference depended on the amino acid instead of their codon usages. Consistent with the mutational results, a statistically significant enrichment in Ala and Ser at the +2 position was observed among highly expressed E. coli genes. This work suggests a general approach to enhance protein expression by incorporating an Ala or Ser after the initiation codon.
PMCID: PMC2952673  PMID: 20600944
Recombinant expression; 2nd codon position; Igα
10.  Siglecs Facilitate HIV-1 Infection of Macrophages through Adhesion with Viral Sialic Acids 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24559.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infects macrophages effectively, despite relatively low levels of cell surface-expressed CD4. Although HIV-1 infections are defined by viral tropisms according to chemokine receptor usage (R5 and X4), variations in infection are common within both R5- and X4-tropic viruses, indicating additional factors may contribute to viral tropism.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Using both solution and cell surface binding experiments, we showed that R5- and X4-tropic HIV-1 gp120 proteins recognized a family of I-type lectin receptors, the Sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectins (Siglec). The recognition was through envelope-associated sialic acids that promoted viral adhesion to macrophages. The sialic acid-mediated viral-host interaction facilitated both R5-tropic pseudovirus and HIV-1BaL infection of macrophages. The high affinity Siglec-1 contributed the most to HIV-1 infection and the variation in Siglec-1 expression on primary macrophages from different donors was associated statistically with sialic acid-facilitated viral infection. Furthermore, envelope-associated sialoglycan variations on various strains of R5-tropic viruses also affected infection.
Conclusions and Significance of the Findings
Our study showed that sialic acids on the viral envelope facilitated HIV-1 infection of macrophages through interacting with Siglec receptors, and the expression of Siglec-1 correlated with viral sialic acid-mediated host attachment. This glycan-mediated viral adhesion underscores the importance of viral sialic acids in HIV infection and pathogenesis, and suggests a novel class of antiviral compounds targeting Siglec receptors.
PMCID: PMC3169630  PMID: 21931755
11.  A case of structure determination using pseudosymmetry 
When properly applied, pseudosymmetry can be used to improve crystallographic phases through averaging and to facilitate crystal structure determination.
Here, a case is presented of an unusual structure determination which was facilitated by the use of pseudosymmetry. Group A streptococcus uses cysteine protease Mac-1 (also known as IdeS) to evade the host immune system. Native Mac-1 was crystallized in the orthorhombic space group P21212. Surprisingly, crystals of the inactive C94A mutant of Mac-1 displayed monoclinic symmetry with space group P21, despite the use of native orthorhombic Mac-1 microcrystals for seeding. Attempts to solve the structure of the C94A mutant by MAD phasing in the monoclinic space group did not produce an interpretable map. The native Patterson map of the C94A mutant showed two strong peaks along the (1 0 1) diagonal, indicating possible translational pseudosymmetry in space group P21. Interestingly, one-third of the monoclinic reflections obeyed pseudo-orthorhombic P21212 symmetry similar to that of the wild-type crystals and could be indexed and processed in this space group. The pseudo-orthorhombic and monoclinic unit cells were related by the following vector operations: a m = b o − c o, b m = a o and c m = −2c o − b o. The pseudo-orthorhombic subset of data produced good SAD phases, leading to structure determination with one monomer in the asymmetric unit. Subsequently, the structure of the Mac-1 mutant in the monoclinic form was determined by molecular replacement, which showed six molecules forming three translationally related dimers aligned along the (1 0 1) diagonal. Knowing the geometric relationship between the pseudo-orthorhombic and the monoclinic unit cells, all six molecules can be generated in the monoclinic unit cell directly without the use of molecular replacement. The current case provides a successful example of the use of pseudosymmetry as a powerful phase-averaging method for structure determination by anomalous diffraction techniques. In particular, a structure can be solved in a higher pseudosymmetry subcell in which an NCS operator becomes a crystallographic operator. The geometrical relationships between the subcell and parental cell can be used to generate a complete molecular representation of the parental asymmetric unit for refinement.
PMCID: PMC2789005  PMID: 19966420
pseudosymmetry; structure determination; cysteine proteases; Mac-1
12.  A rational approach to heavy-atom derivative screening 
In order to overcome the difficulties associated with the ‘classical’ heavy-atom derivatization procedure, an attempt has been made to develop a rational crystal-free heavy-atom-derivative screening method and a quick-soak derivatization procedure which allows heavy-atom compound identification.
Despite the development in recent times of a range of techniques for phasing macromolecules, the conventional heavy-atom derivatization method still plays a significant role in protein structure determination. However, this method has become less popular in modern high-throughput oriented crystallography, mostly owing to its trial-and-error nature, which often results in lengthy empirical searches requiring large numbers of well diffracting crystals. In addition, the phasing power of heavy-atom derivatives is often compromised by lack of isomorphism or even loss of diffraction. In order to overcome the difficulties associated with the ‘classical’ heavy-atom derivatization procedure, an attempt has been made to develop a rational crystal-free heavy-atom derivative-screening method and a quick-soak derivatization procedure which allows heavy-atom compound identification. The method includes three basic steps: (i) the selection of likely reactive compounds for a given protein and specific crystallization conditions based on pre-defined heavy-atom com­pound reactivity profiles, (ii) screening of the chosen heavy-atom compounds for their ability to form protein adducts using mass spectrometry and (iii) derivatization of crystals with selected heavy-metal compounds using the quick-soak method to maximize diffraction quality and minimize non-isomorphism. Overall, this system streamlines the pro­cess of heavy-atom compound identification and minimizes the problem of non-isomorphism in phasing.
PMCID: PMC2852299  PMID: 20382988
heavy-atom derivativization; heavy-atom screening; phasing; structure determination
13.  Towards a rational approach for heavy-atom derivative screening in protein crystallography 
Heavy-atom derivatization is routinely used in protein structure determination and is thus of critical importance in structural biology. In order to replace the current trial-and-error heavy-atom derivative screening with a knowledge-based rational derivative-selection method, the reactivity of more than 40 heavy-atom compounds over a wide range of buffer and pH values was systematically examined using peptides which contained a single reactive amino-acid residue.
Heavy-atom derivatization is routinely used in protein structure determination and is thus of critical importance in structural biology. In order to replace the current trial-and-error heavy-atom derivative screening with a knowledge-based rational derivative-selection method, the reactivity of more than 40 heavy-atom compounds over a wide range of buffer and pH values was systematically examined using peptides which contained a single reactive amino-acid residue. Met-, Cys- and His-containing peptides were derivatized against Hg, Au and Pt compounds, while Tyr-, Glu-, Asp-, Asn- and Gln-containing peptides were assessed against Pb compounds. A total of 1668 reactive conditions were examined using mass spectrometry and were compiled into heavy-atom reactivity tables ( The results showed that heavy-atom derivatization reactions are highly linked to buffer and pH, with the most accommodating buffer being MES at pH 6. A group of 21 compounds were identified as most successful irrespective of ligand or buffer/pH conditions. To assess the applicability of the peptide heavy-atom reactivity to proteins, lysozyme crystals were derivatized with a list of peptide-reactive compounds that included both known and new compounds for lysozyme derivatization. The results showed highly consistent heavy-atom reactivities between the peptides and lysozyme.
PMCID: PMC2725783  PMID: 18391402
heavy-atom derivatization; heavy-atom screening
14.  Characterization of DC-SIGN/R Interaction with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 gp120 and ICAM Molecules Favors the Receptor's Role as an Antigen-Capturing Rather than an Adhesion Receptor 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(8):4589-4598.
The dendritic cell (DC)-specific intercellular adhesion molecule 3 (ICAM-3)-grabbing nonintegrin binding receptor (DC-SIGN) was shown to bind human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) viral envelope protein gp120 and proposed to function as a Trojan horse to enhance trans-virus infection to host T cells. To better understand the mechanism by which DC-SIGN and DC-SIGNR selectively bind HIV-1 gp120, we constructed a series of deletion mutations in the repeat regions of both receptors. Different truncated receptors exist in different oligomeric forms. The carbohydrate binding domain without any repeats was monomeric, whereas the full extracellular receptors existed as tetramers. All reconstituted receptors retained their ability to bind gp120. The dissociation constant, however, differed drastically from micromolar values for the monomeric receptors to nanomolar values for the tetrameric receptors, suggesting that the repeat region of these receptors contributes to the avidity of gp120 binding. Such oligomerization may provide a mechanism for the receptor to selectively recognize pathogens containing multiple high-mannose-concentration carbohydrates. In contrast, the receptors bound to ICAMs with submicromolar affinities that are similar to those of two nonspecific cell surface glycoproteins, FcγRIIb and FcγRIII, and the oligomerization of DC-SIGNR resulted in no increase in binding affinity to ICAM-3. These findings suggest that DC-SIGN may not discriminate other cell surface glycoproteins from ICAM-3 binding. The pH dependence in DC-SIGN binding to gp120 showed that the receptor retained high-affinity gp120 binding at neutral pH but lost gp120 binding at pH 5, suggesting a release mechanism of HIV in the acidic endosomal compartment by DC-SIGN. Our work contradicts the function of DC-SIGN as a Trojan horse to facilitate HIV-1 infection; rather, it supports the function of DC-SIGN/R (a designation referring to both DC-SIGN and DC-SIGNR) as an antigen-capturing receptor.
PMCID: PMC1069580  PMID: 15795245

Results 1-14 (14)