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1.  Characterization of Aquifex aeolicus 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase – ligand recognition in a template for antimicrobial drug discovery 
The Febs Journal  2008;275(11):2779-2794.
4-Diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol kinase (IspE) catalyses the ATP-dependent conversion of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol (CDPME) to 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2-phosphate with the release of ADP. This reaction occurs in the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis and because it is essential in important microbial pathogens and absent from mammals it represents a potential target for anti-infective drugs. We set out to characterize the biochemical properties, determinants of molecular recognition and reactivity of IspE and report the cloning and purification of recombinant Aquifex aeolicus IspE (AaIspE), kinetic data, metal ion, temperature and pH dependence, crystallization and structure determination of the enzyme in complex with CDP, CDPME and ADP. In addition, 4-fluoro-3,5-dihydroxy-4-methylpent-1-enylphosphonic acid (compound 1) was designed to mimic a fragment of the substrate, a synthetic route to 1 was elucidated and the complex structure determined. Surprisingly, this ligand occupies the binding site for the ATP α-phosphate not the binding site for the methyl-d-erythritol moiety of CDPME. Gel filtration and analytical ultracentrifugation indicate that AaIspE is a monomer in solution. The enzyme displays the characteristic α/β galacto-homoserine-mevalonate-phosphomevalonate kinase fold, with the catalytic centre positioned in a deep cleft between the ATP- and CDPME-binding domains. Comparisons indicate a high degree of sequence conservation on the IspE active site across bacterial species, similarities in structure, specificity of substrate recognition and mechanism. The biochemical characterization, attainment of well-ordered and reproducible crystals and the models resulting from the analyses provide reagents and templates to support the structure-based design of broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents.
PMCID: PMC2655357  PMID: 18422643
enzyme–ligand complex; GHMP kinase; isoprenoid biosynthesis; molecular recognition; non-mevalonate pathway
2.  A double mutation of Escherichia coli 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase disrupts six hydrogen bonds with, yet fails to prevent binding of, an isoprenoid diphosphate 
A double mutation designed to disrupt binding of isoprenoid diphosphate to an enzyme involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis was made and the structure determined. Despite the removal of six hydrogen-bonding interactions, the ligand, acquired during production in E. coli, remains bound. The reasons for this are discussed.
The essential enzyme 2C-methyl-d-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MECP) synthase, found in most eubacteria and the apicomplexan parasites, participates in isoprenoid-precursor biosynthesis and is a validated target for the development of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs. The structure and mechanism of the enzyme have been elucidated and the recent exciting finding that the enzyme actually binds diphosphate-containing isoprenoids at the interface formed by the three subunits that constitute the active protein suggests the possibility of feedback regulation of MECP synthase. To investigate such a possibility, a form of the enzyme was sought that did not bind these ligands but which would retain the quaternary structure necessary to create the active site. Two amino acids, Arg142 and Glu144, in Escherichia coli MECP synthase were identified as contributing to ligand binding. Glu144 interacts directly with Arg142 and positions the basic residue to form two hydrogen bonds with the terminal phosphate group of the isoprenoid diphosphate ligand. This association occurs at the trimer interface and three of these arginines interact with the ligand phosphate group. A dual mutation was designed (Arg142 to methionine and Glu144 to leucine) to disrupt the electrostatic attractions between the enzyme and the phosphate group to investigate whether an enzyme without isoprenoid diphosphate could be obtained. A low-resolution crystal structure of the mutated MECP synthase Met142/Leu144 revealed that geranyl diphosphate was retained despite the removal of six hydrogen bonds normally formed with the enzyme. This indicates that these two hydrophilic residues on the surface of the enzyme are not major determinants of isoprenoid binding at the trimer interface but rather that hydrophobic interactions between the hydrocarbon tail and the core of the enzyme trimer dominate ligand binding.
PMCID: PMC1952448  PMID: 16511114
MECP synthase; site-directed mutagenesis; isoprenoid biosynthesis
3.  Structure, substrate recognition and reactivity of Leishmania major mevalonate kinase 
Isoprenoid precursor synthesis via the mevalonate route in humans and pathogenic trypanosomatids is an important metabolic pathway. There is however, only limited information available on the structure and reactivity of the component enzymes in trypanosomatids. Since isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for trypanosomatid viability and may provide new targets for therapeutic intervention it is important to characterize the pathway components.
Putative mevalonate kinase encoding genes from Leishmania major (LmMK) and Trypanosoma brucei (TbMK) have been cloned, over-expressed in and proteins isolated from procyclic-form T. brucei. A highly sensitive radioactive assay was developed and shows ATP-dependent phosphorylation of mevalonate. Apo and (R)-mevalonate bound crystal structures of LmMK, from a bacterial expression system, have been determined to high resolution providing, for the first time, information concerning binding of mevalonate to an MK. The mevalonate binds in a deep cavity lined by highly conserved residues. His25 is key for binding and for discrimination of (R)- over (S)-mevalonate, with the main chain amide interacting with the C3 hydroxyl group of (R)-mevalonate, and the side chain contributing, together with Val202 and Thr283, to the construction of a hydrophobic binding site for the C3 methyl substituent. The C5 hydroxyl, where phosphorylation occurs, points towards catalytic residues, Lys18 and Asp155. The activity of LmMK was significantly reduced compared to MK from other species and we were unable to obtain ATP-binding data. Comparisons with the rat MK:ATP complex were used to investigate how this substrate might bind. In LmMK, helix α2 and the preceding polypeptide adopt a conformation, not seen in related kinase structures, impeding access to the nucleotide triphosphate binding site suggesting that a conformational rearrangement is required to allow ATP binding.
Our new structural information, consistent with data on homologous enzymes allows a detailed description of how mevalonate is recognized and positioned for catalysis in MK. The mevalonate-binding site is highly conserved yet the ATP-binding site is structurally distinct in LmMK. We are unable to provide a definitive explanation for the low activity of recombinant protein isolated from a bacterial expression system compared to material isolated from procyclic-form Trypanosoma brucei.
PMCID: PMC1851959  PMID: 17397541

Results 1-3 (3)