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1.  VirB8-like protein TraH is crucial for DNA transfer in Enterococcus faecalis 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:24643.
Untreatable bacterial infections caused by a perpetual increase of antibiotic resistant strains represent a serious threat to human healthcare in the 21st century. Conjugative DNA transfer is the most important mechanism for antibiotic resistance and virulence gene dissemination among bacteria and is mediated by a protein complex, known as type IV secretion system (T4SS). The core of the T4SS is a multiprotein complex that spans the bacterial envelope as a channel for macromolecular secretion. We report the NMR structure and functional characterization of the transfer protein TraH encoded by the conjugative Gram-positive broad-host range plasmid pIP501. The structure exhibits a striking similarity to VirB8 proteins of Gram-negative secretion systems where they play an essential role in the scaffold of the secretion machinery. Considering TraM as the first VirB8-like protein discovered in pIP501, TraH represents the second protein affiliated with this family in the respective transfer operon. A markerless traH deletion in pIP501 resulted in a total loss of transfer in Enterococcus faecalis as compared with the pIP501 wild type (wt) plasmid, demonstrating that TraH is essential for pIP501 mediated conjugation. Moreover, oligomerization state and topology of TraH in the native membrane were determined providing insights in molecular organization of a Gram-positive T4SS.
PMCID: PMC4840375  PMID: 27103580
2.  Collapse of the native structure caused by a single amino acid exchange in human NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 
The FEBS journal  2014;281(20):4691-4704.
Human NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) is essential for the antioxidant defense system, stabilization of tumor suppressors (e.g. p53, p33, and p73), and activation of quinone-based chemotherapeutics. Overexpression of NQO1 in many solid tumors, coupled with its ability to convert quinone-based chemotherapeutics into potent cytotoxic compounds, have made it a very attractive target for anticancer drugs. A naturally occurring single-nucleotide polymorphism (C609T) leading to an amino acid exchange (P187S) has been implicated in the development of various cancers and poor survival rates following anthracyclin-based adjuvant chemotherapy. Despite its importance for cancer prediction and therapy, the exact molecular basis for the loss of function in NQO1 P187S is currently unknown. Therefore, we solved the crystal structure of NQO1 P187S. Surprisingly, this structure is almost identical to NQO1. Employing a combination of NMR spectroscopy and limited proteolysis experiments, we demonstrated that the single amino acid exchange destabilized interactions between the core and C-terminus, leading to depopulation of the native structure in solution. This collapse of the native structure diminished cofactor affinity and led to a less competent FAD-binding pocket, thus severely compromising the catalytic capacity of the variant protein. Hence, our findings provide a rationale for the loss of function in NQO1 P187S with a frequently occurring single-nucleotide polymorphism.
PMCID: PMC4612375  PMID: 25143260
antioxidant defense; cancer; flavin; quinones; single-nucleotide polymorphism
3.  Structure of a CGI-58 Motif Provides the Molecular Basis of Lipid Droplet Anchoring* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2015;290(44):26361-26372.
Background: CGI-58 activates the key intracellular lipase ATGL.
Results: Solution structure of the N-terminal lipid droplet (LD)-binding motif of CGI-58 bound to dodecylphosphocholine micelles.
Conclusion: The LD-binding motif acts independently to anchor proteins to LDs and consists of two LD-binding arms.
Significance: The structure of the peptide LD anchor sheds light on the interaction of CGI-58 with LDs.
Triacylglycerols (TGs) stored in lipid droplets (LDs) are hydrolyzed in a highly regulated metabolic process called lipolysis to free fatty acids that serve as energy substrates for β-oxidation, precursors for membrane lipids and signaling molecules. Comparative gene identification-58 (CGI-58) stimulates the enzymatic activity of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL), which catalyzes the hydrolysis of TGs to diacylglycerols and free fatty acids. In adipose tissue, protein-protein interactions between CGI-58 and the LD coating protein perilipin 1 restrain the ability of CGI-58 to activate ATGL under basal conditions. Phosphorylation of perilipin 1 disrupts these interactions and mobilizes CGI-58 for the activation of ATGL. We have previously demonstrated that the removal of a peptide at the N terminus (residues 10–31) of CGI-58 abrogates CGI-58 localization to LDs and CGI-58-mediated activation of ATGL. Here, we show that this tryptophan-rich N-terminal peptide serves as an independent LD anchor, with its three tryptophans serving as focal points of the left (harboring Trp21 and Trp25) and right (harboring Trp29) anchor arms. The solution state NMR structure of a peptide comprising the LD anchor bound to dodecylphosphocholine micelles as LD mimic reveals that the left arm forms a concise hydrophobic core comprising tryptophans Trp21 and Trp25 and two adjacent leucines. Trp29 serves as the core of a functionally independent anchor arm. Consequently, simultaneous tryptophan alanine permutations in both arms abolish localization and activity of CGI-58 as opposed to tryptophan substitutions that occur in only one arm.
PMCID: PMC4646293  PMID: 26350461
adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL); lipid droplet; micelle; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); peptides; ABHD5; CGI-58; DPC; paramagnetic relaxation enhancement; peptide
4.  Directly Decoupled Diffusion-Ordered NMR Spectroscopy for the Analysis of Compound Mixtures 
For the analysis of compound mixtures by NMR spectroscopy, it is important to assign the different peaks to the individual constituents. Diffusion-ordered spectroscopy (DOSY) is often used for the separation of signals based on their self-diffusion coefficient. However, this method often fails in the case of signal overlap, which is a particular problem for 1H-detected DOSY spectra. Herein, an approach that allows the acquisition of homonuclear broadband-decoupled DOSY spectra without the introduction of an additional decoupling dimension, by instant decoupling during acquisition, is presented. It was demonstrated on a mixture of six alcohols, and the investigation of the binding of a dodecapeptide to membrane mimetics.
PMCID: PMC4497316  PMID: 25059845
DOSY spectroscopy; homonuclear broadband decoupling; mixture analysis; NMR spectroscopy; pure shift
5.  Structural and Functional Implications of the Interaction between Macrolide Antibiotics and Bile Acids 
Macrolide antibiotics, such as azithromycin and erythromycin, are in widespread use for the treatment of bacterial infections. Macrolides are taken up and excreted mainly by bile. Additionally, they have been implicated in biliary system diseases and to modify the excretion of other drugs through bile. Despite mounting evidence for the interplay between macrolide antibiotics and bile acids, the molecular details of this interaction remain unknown. Herein, we show by NMR measurements that macrolides directly bind to bile acid micelles. The topology of this interaction has been determined by solvent paramagnetic relaxation enhancements (solvent PREs). The macrolides were found to be bound close to the surface of the micelle. Increasing hydrophobicity of both the macrolide and the bile acid strengthen this interaction. Both bile acid and macrolide molecules show similar solvent PREs across their whole structures, indicating that there are no preferred orientations of them in the bile micelle aggregates. The binding to bile aggregates does not impede macrolide antibiotics from targeting bacteria. In fact, the toxicity of azithromycin towards enterotoxic E. coli (ETEC) is even slightly increased in the presence of bile, as was shown by effective concentration (EC50) values.
PMCID: PMC4471570  PMID: 25655041
azithromycin; bile acids; diffusion ordered spectroscopy (DOSY); macrolide antibiotics; micelles; NMR spectroscopy
6.  Visualizing Unresolved Scalar Couplings by Real-Time J-Upscaled NMR 
Scalar coupling patterns contain a wealth of structural information. The determination, especially of small scalar coupling constants, is often prevented by merging the splittings with the signal line width. Here we show that real-time J-upscaling enables the visualization of unresolved coupling constants in the acquisition dimension of one-dimensional (1D) or multidimensional NMR spectra. This technique, which works by introducing additional scalar coupling evolution delays within the recording of the FID (free induction decay), not only stretches the recorded coupling patterns but also actually enhances the resolution of multiplets, by reducing signal broadening by magnetic field inhomogeneities during the interrupted data acquisition. Enlarging scalar couplings also enables their determination in situations where the spectral resolution is limited, such as in the acquisition dimension of heteronuclear broadband decoupled HSQC (heteronuclear single quantum correlation) spectra.
PMCID: PMC4415032  PMID: 25837306
7.  Covalent adduct formation between the plasmalogen-derived modification product 2-chlorohexadecanal and phloretin 
Biochemical Pharmacology  2015;93(4):470-481.
Graphical abstract
Hypochlorous acid added as reagent or generated by the myeloperoxidase (MPO)-H2O2-Cl− system oxidatively modifies brain ether-phospholipids (plasmalogens). This reaction generates a sn2-acyl-lysophospholipid and chlorinated fatty aldehydes. 2-Chlorohexadecanal (2-ClHDA), a prototypic member of chlorinated long-chain fatty aldehydes, has potent neurotoxic potential by inflicting blood–brain barrier (BBB) damage. During earlier studies we could show that the dihydrochalcone-type polyphenol phloretin attenuated 2-ClHDA-induced BBB dysfunction. To clarify the underlying mechanism(s) we now investigated the possibility of covalent adduct formation between 2-ClHDA and phloretin. Coincubation of 2-ClHDA and phloretin in phosphatidylcholine liposomes revealed a half-life of 2-ClHDA of approx. 120 min, decaying at a rate of 5.9 × 10−3 min−1. NMR studies and enthalpy calculations suggested that 2-ClHDA-phloretin adduct formation occurs via electrophilic aromatic substitution followed by hemiacetal formation on the A-ring of phloretin. Adduct characterization by high-resolution mass spectroscopy confirmed these results. In contrast to 2-ClHDA, the covalent 2-ClHDA-phloretin adduct was without adverse effects on MTT reduction (an indicator for metabolic activity), cellular adenine nucleotide content, and barrier function of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMVEC). Of note, 2-ClHDA-phloretin adduct formation was also observed in BMVEC cultures. Intraperitoneal application and subsequent GC–MS analysis of brain lipid extracts revealed that phloretin is able to penetrate the BBB of C57BL/6J mice. Data of the present study indicate that phloretin scavenges 2-ClHDA, thereby attenuating 2-ClHDA-mediated brain endothelial cell dysfunction. We here identify a detoxification pathway for a prototypic chlorinated fatty aldehyde (generated via the MPO axis) that compromises BBB function in vitro and in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4321883  PMID: 25576489
Chlorinated fatty aldehyde; Blood–brain barrier; Neuroinflammation; Myeloperoxidase; Plasmalogens
8.  Escherichia coli antitoxin MazE as transcription factor: insights into MazE-DNA binding 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(2):1241-1256.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules are pairs of genes essential for bacterial regulation upon environmental stresses. The mazEF module encodes the MazF toxin and its cognate MazE antitoxin. The highly dynamic MazE possesses an N-terminal DNA binding domain through which it can negatively regulate its own promoter. Despite being one of the first TA systems studied, transcriptional regulation of Escherichia coli mazEF remains poorly understood. This paper presents the solution structure of C-terminal truncated E. coli MazE and a MazE-DNA model with a DNA palindrome sequence ∼10 bp upstream of the mazEF promoter. The work has led to a transcription regulator-DNA model, which has remained elusive thus far in the E. coli toxin–antitoxin family. Multiple complementary techniques including NMR, SAXS and ITC show that the long intrinsically disordered C-termini in MazE, required for MazF neutralization, does not affect the interactions between the antitoxin and its operator. Rather, the MazE C-terminus plays an important role in the MazF binding, which was found to increase the MazE affinity for the palindromic single site operator.
PMCID: PMC4333400  PMID: 25564525
9.  Structure of allergens and structure based epitope predictions☆ 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2014;66(1):3-21.
The structure determination of major allergens is a prerequisite for analyzing surface exposed areas of the allergen and for mapping conformational epitopes. These may be determined by experimental methods including crystallographic and NMR-based approaches or predicted by computational methods. In this review we summarize the existing structural information on allergens and their classification in protein fold families. The currently available allergen-antibody complexes are described and the experimentally obtained epitopes compared. Furthermore we discuss established methods for linear and conformational epitope mapping, putting special emphasis on a recently developed approach, which uses the structural similarity of proteins in combination with the experimental cross-reactivity data for epitope prediction.
PMCID: PMC3969231  PMID: 23891546
Allergen structure; Protein family; X-ray; NMR; IgE epitope; Structure based epitope prediction
10.  Myeloperoxidase-derived chlorinating species induce protein carbamylation through decomposition of thiocyanate and urea: Novel pathways generating dysfunctional high-density lipoprotein 
Antioxidants & redox signaling  2012;17(8):10.1089/ars.2011.4403.
Protein carbamylation through cyanate is thought to have a causal role in promoting cardiovascular disease. We recently observed that the phagocyte protein myeloperoxidase (MPO) specifically induces high-density lipoprotein carbamylation, rather than chlorination, in human atherosclerotic lesions, raising the possibility that MPO-derived chlorinating species are involved in cyanate formation.
Here we show that MPO-derived chlorinating species rapidly decompose the plasma components thiocyanate and urea thereby promoting (lipo)protein carbamylation. Strikingly, the presence of physiologic concentrations of thiocyanate completely prevented MPO-induced 3-chlorotyrosine formation in HDL. Moreover, thiocyanate scavenged a 2.5-fold molar excess of hypochlorous acid, promoting HDL carbamylation, but not chlorination. Carbamylation of HDL resulted in a loss of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Cyanate significantly impaired (i) HDL’s ability to activate lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase, (ii) the activity of paraoxonase, a major HDL-associated anti-inflammatory enzyme and (iii) the anti-oxidative activity of HDL.
Here we report that MPO-derived chlorinating species preferentially induce protein carbamylation - rather than chlorination - in the presence of physiologically relevant thiocyanate concentrations. Carbamylation of HDL results in the loss of its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activities.
MPO-mediated decomposition of thiocyanate and/or urea might be a relevant mechanism for generating dysfunctional HDL in human disease.
PMCID: PMC3810648  PMID: 22462773
11.  A general method for diagonal peak suppression in homonuclear correlated NMR spectra by spatially and frequency selective pulses☆ 
Graphical abstract
•General method for the suppression of peaks along the diagonal for any homonuclear correlated spectra.•More reliable NOESY intensities due to the removal of artifacts from the huge diagonal peaks.•The overall appearance of the spectra is not changed.•Far less susceptible to magnetic field inhomogeneity in the z-direction by slice selective excitation.
Homonuclear two- and multidimensional NMR spectra are standard experiments for the structure determination of small to medium-sized molecules. In the large majority of homonuclear correlated spectra the diagonal contains the most intense peaks. Cross-peaks near the diagonal could overlap with huge tails of diagonal peaks and can therefore be easily overlooked. Here we present a general method for the suppression of peaks along the diagonal in homonuclear correlated spectra. It is based on a spatially selective excitation followed by the suppression of magnetization which has not changed the frequency during the mixing process. In addition to the auto correlation removal, these experiments are also less affected by magnetic field inhomogeneities due to the slice selective excitation, which on the other side leads to a reduced intensity compared to regular homonuclear correlated spectra.
PMCID: PMC4020460  PMID: 23665403
Solution NMR; Diagonal peak suppression; Selective excitation; Spatially selective
12.  2,2,2-Trifluoroethyl 6-thio-β-d-glucopyranoside as a selective tag for cysteines in proteins 
Carbohydrate Research  2012;361:100-104.
Graphical abstract
A synthetic route to a trifluoromethyl and thiol containing glucose derivative (2,2,2-trifluoroethyl 6-thio-β-d-glucopyranoside) is presented, which is based on microwave-assisted Fischer glycosylation under increased pressure. This water-soluble, neutral thiol-compound can be used to selectively introduce a fluorine probe for 19F NMR spectroscopy on cysteines in proteins. It can be attached under mild conditions in an aqueous environment without the risk of denaturing the protein. This tag has been applied to determine the redox-state of two cysteine residues in a bacterial transcription activator. Qualitative information about the solvent accessibility can be obtained from F-19 solvent PREs.
PMCID: PMC4067056  PMID: 23000216
Fluorinated glucose; NMR spectroscopy; Fischer glycosylation; Microwave irradiation; Cysteine redox state
13.  SERF Protein Is a Direct Modifier of Amyloid Fiber Assembly 
Cell Reports  2012;2(2):358-371.
The inherent cytotoxicity of aberrantly folded protein aggregates contributes substantially to the pathogenesis of amyloid diseases. It was recently shown that a class of evolutionary conserved proteins, called MOAG-4/SERF, profoundly alter amyloid toxicity via an autonomous but yet unexplained mode. We show that the biological function of human SERF1a originates from its atypical ability to specifically distinguish between amyloid and nonamyloid aggregation. This inherently unstructured protein directly affected the aggregation kinetics of a broad range of amyloidogenic proteins in vitro, while being inactive against nonamyloid aggregation. A representative biophysical analysis of the SERF1a:α-synuclein (aSyn) complex revealed that the amyloid-promoting activity resulted from an early and transient interaction, which was sufficient to provoke a massive increase of soluble aSyn amyloid nucleation templates. Therefore, the autonomous amyloid-modifying activity of SERF1a observed in living organisms relies on a direct and dedicated manipulation of the early stages in the amyloid aggregation pathway.
Graphical Abstract
► SERF1a drives the assembly of amyloidogenic proteins ► SERF1a discriminates between amyloid and nonamyloid aggregation ► SERF1a acts through an early interaction with α-synuclein amyloid precursors ► SERF1a catalyzes the formation of transient α-synuclein “on-pathway” aggregates
The protein class called MOAG-4/SERF profoundly alters amyloid protein toxicity via an autonomous and previously unidentified pathway. Falsone and colleagues demonstrate that the amyloid-modifying ability of human SERF1a is driven by a transient interaction with early precursors in the amyloid pathway. As a consequence, SERF1a promotes amyloid aggregation of several amyloidogenic proteins, while being insensitive to unspecific protein aggregation. This identifies SERF1as a specialized amyloid factor, in support to its autonomous mode of action observed in cells.
PMCID: PMC3807654  PMID: 22854022
14.  Determining the Orientation and Localization of Membrane-Bound Peptides 
Current Protein & Peptide Science  2012;13(3):267-279.
Many naturally occurring bioactive peptides bind to biological membranes. Studying and elucidating the mode of interaction is often an essential step to understand their molecular and biological functions. To obtain the complete orientation and immersion depth of such compounds in the membrane or a membrane-mimetic system, a number of methods are available, which are separated in this review into four main classes: solution NMR, solid-state NMR, EPR and other methods. Solution NMR methods include the Nuclear Overhauser Effect (NOE) between peptide and membrane signals, residual dipolar couplings and the use of paramagnetic probes, either within the membrane-mimetic or in the solvent. The vast array of solid state NMR methods to study membrane-bound peptide orientation and localization includes the anisotropic chemical shift, PISA wheels, dipolar waves, the GALA, MAOS and REDOR methods and again the use of paramagnetic additives on relaxation rates. Paramagnetic additives, with their effect on spectral linewidths, have also been used in EPR spectroscopy. Additionally, the orientation of a peptide within a membrane can be obtained by the anisotropic hyperfine tensor of a rigidly attached nitroxide label. Besides these magnetic resonance techniques a series of other methods to probe the orientation of peptides in membranes has been developed, consisting of fluorescence-, infrared- and oriented circular dichroism spectroscopy, colorimetry, interface-sensitive X-ray and neutron scattering and Quartz crystal microbalance.
PMCID: PMC3394173  PMID: 22044140
Antimicrobial peptides; immersion depth; membrane-bound peptides; NMR spectroscopy; orientation; paramagnetic relaxation enhancement; peptide hormones; toxins.
15.  The neurotransmitter serotonin interrupts α-synuclein amyloid maturation 
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta  2011;1814(5):553-561.
Indolic derivatives can affect fibril growth of amyloid forming proteins. The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) is of particular interest, as it is an endogenous molecule with a possible link to neuropsychiatric symptoms of Parkinson disease. A key pathomolecular mechanism of Parkinson disease is the misfolding and aggregation of the intrinsically unstructured protein α-synuclein. We performed a biophysical study to investigate an influence between these two molecules. In an isolated in vitro system, 5-HT interfered with α-synuclein amyloid fiber maturation, resulting in the formation of partially structured, SDS-resistant intermediate aggregates. The C-terminal region of α-synuclein was essential for this interaction, which was driven mainly by electrostatic forces. 5-HT did not bind directly to monomeric α-synuclein molecules and we propose a model where 5-HT interacts with early intermediates of α-synuclein amyloidogenesis, which disfavors their further conversion into amyloid fibrils.
Research highlights
► The neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) suppresses amyloid fibril growth of alpha-synuclein (AS). ► 5-HT binds to intermediate aggregates of alpha-synuclein, not to monomeric AS. Consequently, 5-HT does not influence initial steps of amyloidogenesis. ► 5-HT promotes the accumulation of partially structured, SDS-resistant “on pathway” aggregates of AS. ► The C-terminal region of AS is essential for a charge dependent interaction. ► “On pathway” and “off-pathway” aggregations of AS might mechanistically overlap.
PMCID: PMC3092864  PMID: 21376144
AS, α-synuclein; 5-HT, serotonin; 5,7-HT, 5,7 dihydroxytryptamine; 5-HIAA, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid; ThioT, thioflavin T; TEM, transmission electron spectroscopy; DLS, dynamic light scattering; NAC-region, non-Aβ component region; Protein misfolding; Amyloid; Aggregation; Parkinson disease; Neurodegeneration; Indoleamine
16.  The peptide hormone ghrelin binds to membrane-mimetics via its octanoyl chain and an adjacent phenylalanine 
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry  2010;18(15):5483-5488.
Graphical abstract
The peptide hormone ghrelin, which is the natural ligand of the membrane-bound growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), regulates overall body and cell growth, energy homeostasis, carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism and water electrolyte balance. It contains an O-acyl linked octanoyl group on Ser3 and is the only peptide known to contain such a modification. Using solution state NMR spectroscopy and ultrafiltration we found that human ghrelin binds to membrane-mimetic environments via its octanoyl group as well as the aromatic moiety of Phe4. Relaxation enhancements in a paramagnetic environment reveal that both the octanoyl group on Ser3 and the aromatic group on Phe4 are inserted deep into the hydrophobic core of phosphocholine assemblies while the remaining peptide is freely mobile in solution. In contrast, no binding was observed for des-octanoyl ghrelin. Thus, the octanoyl chain, together with the Phe4 aromatic group of ghrelin, functions as a membrane anchor. Our results are in parallel with the previous finding that a bulky hydrophobic group on Ser3 and Phe4 of ghrelin are necessary for its function and thus indicate that membrane-binding is essential for ghrelin function.
PMCID: PMC3038380  PMID: 20621491
NMR spectroscopy; Membrane-mimetic; Paramagnetic relaxation enhancement; hGHSR-1a; Ghrelin; Octanoylation
17.  Identification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in Halococcus and other haloarchaeal species 
Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are accumulated in many prokaryotes. Several members of the Halobacteriaceae produce poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), but it is not known if this is a general property of the family. We evaluated identification methods for PHAs with 20 haloarchaeal species, three of them isolates from Permian salt. Staining with Sudan Black B, Nile Blue A, or Nile Red was applied to screen for the presence of PHAs. Transmission electron microscopy and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy were used for visualization of PHB granules and chemical confirmation of PHAs in cell extracts, respectively. We report for the first time the production of PHAs by Halococcus sp. (Halococcus morrhuae DSM 1307T, Halococcus saccharolyticus DSM 5350T, Halococcus salifodinae DSM 8989T, Halococcus dombrowskii DSM 14522T, Halococcus hamelinensis JCM 12892T, Halococcus qingdaonensis JCM 13587T), Halorubrum sp. (Hrr. coriense DSM 10284T, Halorubrum chaoviator DSM 19316T, Hrr. chaoviator strains NaxosII and AUS-1), haloalkaliphiles (Natronobacterium gregoryi NCMB 2189T, Natronococcus occultus DSM 3396T) and Halobacterium noricense DSM 9758T. No PHB was detected in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 ATCC 700922, Hbt. salinarum R1 and Haloferax volcanii DSM 3757T. Most species synthesized PHAs when growing in synthetic as well as in complex medium. The polyesters were generally composed of PHB and poly-ß-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV). Available genomic data suggest the absence of PHA synthesis in some haloarchaea and in all other Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. Homologies between haloarchaeal and bacterial PHA synthesizing enzymes had indicated to some authors probable horizontal gene transfer, which, considering the data obtained in this study, may have occurred already before Permian times.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-010-2611-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2895300  PMID: 20437233
Polyhydroxybutyrate; Haloarchaea; Halococcus; Halobacterium; Haloalkaliphile
18.  Silver and Gold NMR 
Metal-Based Drugs  1999;6(4-5):239-245.
Silver and gold, together with copper, form the transition metal group IB elements in the periodic table and possess very different nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopic properties. While there is only one gold isotope (197Au), which has a spin of 3/2 and therefore a quadrupole moment, silver occurs in two isotopic forms (109Ag and 109Au), both of which have a spin 1/2 and similar NMR spectroscopic properties. The unfavorable properties of gold have prevented its NMR spectroscopic investigation thus far. On the other hand, there are several reports of silver NMR. However, the low sensitivity of silver, combined with its long relaxation times have rendered the direct detection of silver possible only with concentrations greater than a few tenth molar. Reviewed here are the general limitations of silver NMR and some techniques to partially overcome these limitations, as well as a summary of currently available chemical shift and scalar coupling data on 109Ag.
PMCID: PMC2365170  PMID: 18475898
19.  Coordination Chemistry of Cyclic Disilylated Germylenes and Stannylenes with Group 11 Metals 
Organometallics  2014;33(24):7069-7077.
Reactions of Et3P adducts of bissilylated germylenes and stannylenes with gold, silver, and copper cyanides led to cyanogermyl or -stannyl complexes of the respective metals. In the course of the reaction the phosphine moved to the metal, while the cyanide migrated to the low-coordinate group 14 element. The respective gold complexes were found to be monomeric, whereas the silver and copper complexes exhibited a tendency to dimerize in the solid state. Attempts to abstract the phosphine ligand with B(C6F5)3 led only to the formation of adducts with the borane coordinating to the cyanide nitrogen atom.
PMCID: PMC4276716  PMID: 25550678
20.  Solution Structure and Membrane Binding of the Toxin Fst of the par Addiction Module† 
Biochemistry  2010;49(31):6567-6575.
The par toxin−antitoxin system is required for the stable inheritance of the plasmid pAD1 in its native host Enterococcus faecalis. It codes for the toxin Fst and a small antisense RNA which inhibits translation of toxin mRNA, and it is the only known antisense regulated toxin−antitoxin system in Gram-positive bacteria. This study presents the structure of the par toxin Fst, the first atomic resolution structure of a component of an antisense regulated toxin−antitoxin system. The mode of membrane binding was determined by relaxation enhancements in a paramagnetic environment and molecular dynamics simulation. Fst forms a membrane-binding α-helix in the N-terminal part and contains an intrinsically disordered region near the C-terminus. It binds in a transmembrane orientation with the C-terminus likely pointing toward the cytosol. Membrane-bound, α-helical peptides are frequently found in higher organisms as components of the innate immune system. Despite similarities to these antimicrobial peptides, Fst shows neither hemolytic nor antimicrobial activity when applied externally to a series of bacteria, fungal cells, and erythrocytes. Moreover, its charge distribution, orientation in the membrane, and structure distinguish it from antimicrobial peptides.
PMCID: PMC2914490  PMID: 20677831
21.  An activation domain of plasmid R1 TraI protein delineates stages of gene transfer initiation 
Molecular Microbiology  2011;82(5):1071-1085.
Bacterial conjugation is a form of type IV secretion that transports protein and DNA to recipient cells. Specific bacteriophage exploit the conjugative pili and cell envelope spanning protein machinery of these systems to invade bacterial cells. Infection by phage R17 requires F-like pili and coupling protein TraD, which gates the cytoplasmic entrance of the secretion channel. Here we investigate the role of TraD in R17 nucleoprotein uptake and find parallels to secretion mechanisms. The relaxosome of IncFII plasmid R1 is required. A ternary complex of plasmid oriT, TraD and a novel activation domain within the N-terminal 992 residues of TraI contributes a key mechanism involving relaxase-associated properties of TraI, protein interaction and the TraD ATPase. Helicase-associated activities of TraI are dispensable. These findings distinguish for the first time specific protein domains and complexes that process extracellular signals into distinct activation stages in the type IV initiation pathway. The study also provided insights into the evolutionary interplay of phage and the plasmids they exploit. Related plasmid F adapted to R17 independently of TraI. It follows that selection for phage resistance drives not only variation in TraA pilins but diversifies TraD and its binding partners in a plasmid-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC3245843  PMID: 22066957
22.  Unusual C=C Bond Isomerization of an α,β-Unsaturated γ-Butyrolactone Catalysed by Flavoproteins from the Old Yellow Enzyme Family 
Chembiochem  2012;13(16):2346-2351.
An unexpected, redox-neutral C=C bond isomerization of a γ-butyrolactone bearing an exo-methylene unit to the thermodynamically more favoured endo isomer (kcat = 0.076 s−1) catalysed by flavoproteins from the Old Yellow Enzyme family was discovered. Theoretical calculations and kinetic data support a mechanism through which the isomerization proceeds through FMN-mediated hydride addition onto exo-Cβ, followed by hydride abstraction from endo-Cβ′, which is in line with the well-established C=C bond bioreduction of OYEs. This new isomerase activity enriches the catalytic versatility of ene-reductases.
PMCID: PMC3533789  PMID: 23024004
biocatalysis; C=C isomerization; flavins; isomerases; oxidoreductases
23.  Simplifying Proton NMR Spectra by Instant Homonuclear Broadband Decoupling** 
PMCID: PMC3790959  PMID: 23733677
homonuclear decoupling; NMR spectroscopy; pure shift; structure elucidation; TOCSY
24.  Structure of a translocation signal domain mediating conjugative transfer by type IV secretion systems 
Molecular Microbiology  2013;89(2):324-333.
Relaxases are proteins responsible for the transfer of plasmid and chromosomal DNA from one bacterium to another during conjugation. They covalently react with a specific phosphodiester bond within DNA origin of transfer sequences, forming a nucleo-protein complex which is subsequently recruited for transport by a plasmid-encoded type IV secretion system. In previous work we identified the targeting translocation signals presented by the conjugative relaxase TraI of plasmid R1. Here we report the structure of TraI translocation signal TSA. In contrast to known translocation signals we show that TSA is an independent folding unit and thus forms a bona fide structural domain. This domain can be further divided into three subdomains with striking structural homology with helicase subdomains of the SF1B family. We also show that TSA is part of a larger vestigial helicase domain which has lost its helicase activity but not its single-stranded DNA binding capability. Finally, we further delineate the binding site responsible for translocation activity of TSA by targeting single residues for mutations. Overall, this study provides the first evidence that translocation signals can be part of larger structural scaffolds, overlapping with translocation-independent activities.
PMCID: PMC3912908  PMID: 23710762
25.  Studying the Structure and Dynamics of Biomolecules by Using Soluble Paramagnetic Probes 
Chemphyschem  2013;14(13):3082-3094.
Characterisation of the structure and dynamics of large biomolecules and biomolecular complexes by NMR spectroscopy is hampered by increasing overlap and severe broadening of NMR signals. As a consequence, the number of available NMR spectroscopy data is often sparse and new approaches to provide complementary NMR spectroscopy data are needed. Paramagnetic relaxation enhancements (PREs) obtained from inert and soluble paramagnetic probes (solvent PREs) provide detailed quantitative information about the solvent accessibility of NMR-active nuclei. Solvent PREs can be easily measured without modification of the biomolecule; are sensitive to molecular structure and dynamics; and are therefore becoming increasingly powerful for the study of biomolecules, such as proteins, nucleic acids, ligands and their complexes in solution. In this Minireview, we give an overview of the available solvent PRE probes and discuss their applications for structural and dynamic characterisation of biomolecules and biomolecular complexes.
PMCID: PMC4171756  PMID: 23836693
magnetic properties; NMR spectroscopy; proteins; solvent effects; structural biology

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