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1.  Nitrite-Reductase and Peroxynitrite Isomerization Activities of Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95391.
Within the globin superfamily, protoglobins (Pgb) belong phylogenetically to the same cluster of two-domain globin-coupled sensors and single-domain sensor globins. Multiple functional roles have been postulated for Methanosarcina acetivorans Pgb (Ma-Pgb), since the detoxification of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species might co-exist with enzymatic activity(ies) to facilitate the conversion of CO to methane. Here, the nitrite-reductase and peroxynitrite isomerization activities of the CysE20Ser mutant of Ma-Pgb (Ma-Pgb*) are reported and analyzed in parallel with those of related heme-proteins. Kinetics of nitrite-reductase activity of ferrous Ma-Pgb* (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II)) is biphasic and values of the second-order rate constant for the reduction of NO2– to NO and the concomitant formation of nitrosylated Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II) (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(II)-NO) are kapp1 = 9.6±0.2 M–1 s–1 and kapp2 = 1.2±0.1 M–1 s–1 (at pH 7.4 and 20°C). The kapp1 and kapp2 values increase by about one order of magnitude for each pH unit decrease, between pH 8.3 and 6.2, indicating that the reaction requires one proton. On the other hand, kinetics of peroxynitrite isomerization catalyzed by ferric Ma-Pgb* (Ma-Pgb*-Fe(III)) is monophasic and values of the second order rate constant for peroxynitrite isomerization by Ma-Pgb*-Fe(III) and of the first order rate constant for the spontaneous conversion of peroxynitrite to nitrate are happ = 3.8×104 M–1 s–1 and h0 = 2.8×10–1 s–1 (at pH 7.4 and 20°C). The pH-dependence of hon and h0 values reflects the acid-base equilibrium of peroxynitrite (pKa = 6.7 and 6.9, respectively; at 20°C), indicating that HOONO is the species that reacts preferentially with the heme-Fe(III) atom. These results highlight the potential role of Pgbs in the biosynthesis and scavenging of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species.
PMCID: PMC4020757  PMID: 24827820
2.  Redefining the PF06864 Pfam Family Based on Burkholderia pseudomallei PilO2Bp S-SAD Crystal Structure 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94981.
Type IV pili are surface-exposed filaments and bacterial virulence factors, represented by the Tfpa and Tfpb types, which assemble via specific machineries. The Tfpb group is further divided into seven variants, linked to heterogeneity in the assembly machineries. Here we focus on PilO2Bp, a protein component of the Tfpb R64 thin pilus variant assembly machinery from the pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. PilO2Bp belongs to the PF06864 Pfam family, for which an improved definition is presented based on newly derived Hidden Markov Model (HMM) profiles. The 3D structure of the N-terminal domain of PilO2Bp (N-PilO2Bp), here reported, is the first structural representative of the PF06864 family. N-PilO2Bp presents an actin-like ATPase fold that is shown to be present in BfpC, a different variant assembly protein; the new HMM profiles classify BfpC as a PF06864 member. Our results provide structural insight into the PF06864 family and on the Type IV pili assembly machinery.
PMCID: PMC3984277  PMID: 24728008
3.  Structural Bases of Norovirus RNA Dependent RNA Polymerase Inhibition by Novel Suramin-Related Compounds 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91765.
Noroviruses (NV) are +ssRNA viruses responsible for severe gastroenteritis; no effective vaccines/antivirals are currently available. We previously identified Suramin (9) as a potent inhibitor of NV-RNA dependent RNA polymerase (NV-RdRp). Despite significant in vitro activities versus several pharmacological targets, Suramin clinical use is hampered by pharmacokinetics/toxicity problems. To improve Suramin access to NV-RdRp in vivo, a Suramin-derivative, 8, devoid of two sulphonate groups, was synthesized, achieving significant anti-human-NV-RdRp activity (IC50 = 28 nM); the compound inhibits also murine NV (mNV) RdRp. The synthesis process led to the isolation/characterization of lower molecular weight intermediates (3–7) hosting only one sulphonate head. The crystal structures of both hNV/mNV-RdRps in complex with 6, were analyzed, providing new knowledge on the interactions that a small fragment can establish with NV-RdRps, and establishing a platform for structure-guided optimization of potency, selectivity and drugability.
PMCID: PMC3951423  PMID: 24622391
4.  Class I Major Histocompatibility Complex, the Trojan Horse for Secretion of Amyloidogenic β2-Microglobulin* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;289(6):3318-3327.
Background: Amyloidogenic D76N β2m variant escapes the intracellular quality control despite its instability.
Results: We show tridimensional structure and stability of D76N β2m assembled within MHCI compared with the wild type protein.
Conclusion: Assembly of D76N β2m within the MHCI totally masks its misfolding propensity.
Significance: The MHCI-mediated stabilization of amyloidogenic D76N β2m explains the failure of quality control in preventing its secretion.
To form extracellular aggregates, amyloidogenic proteins bypass the intracellular quality control, which normally targets unfolded/aggregated polypeptides. Human D76N β2-microglobulin (β2m) variant is the prototype of unstable and amyloidogenic protein that forms abundant extracellular fibrillar deposits. Here we focus on the role of the class I major histocompatibility complex (MHCI) in the intracellular stabilization of D76N β2m. Using biophysical and structural approaches, we show that the MHCI containing D76N β2m (MHCI76) displays stability, dissociation patterns, and crystal structure comparable with those of the MHCI with wild type β2m. Conversely, limited proteolysis experiments show a reduced protease susceptibility for D76N β2m within the MHCI76 as compared with the free variant, suggesting that the MHCI has a chaperone-like activity in preventing D76N β2m degradation within the cell. Accordingly, D76N β2m is normally assembled in the MHCI and circulates as free plasma species in a transgenic mouse model.
PMCID: PMC3916536  PMID: 24338476
Amyloid; Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC); Protein Aggregation; Protein Complexes; Protein Structure; Beta2 Microglobulin Amyloidosis; D76N Beta2-Microglobulin Variant
5.  The Escherichia coli Lpt Transenvelope Protein Complex for Lipopolysaccharide Export Is Assembled via Conserved Structurally Homologous Domains 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(5):1100-1108.
Lipopolysaccharide is a major glycolipid component in the outer leaflet of the outer membrane (OM), a peculiar permeability barrier of Gram-negative bacteria that prevents many toxic compounds from entering the cell. Lipopolysaccharide transport (Lpt) across the periplasmic space and its assembly at the Escherichia coli cell surface are carried out by a transenvelope complex of seven essential Lpt proteins spanning the inner membrane (LptBCFG), the periplasm (LptA), and the OM (LptDE), which appears to operate as a unique machinery. LptC is an essential inner membrane-anchored protein with a large periplasm-protruding domain. LptC binds the inner membrane LptBFG ABC transporter and interacts with the periplasmic protein LptA. However, its role in lipopolysaccharide transport is unclear. Here we show that LptC lacking the transmembrane region is viable and can bind the LptBFG inner membrane complex; thus, the essential LptC functions are located in the periplasmic domain. In addition, we characterize two previously described inactive single mutations at two conserved glycines (G56V and G153R, respectively) of the LptC periplasmic domain, showing that neither mutant is able to assemble the transenvelope machinery. However, while LptCG56V failed to copurify any Lpt component, LptCG153R was able to interact with the inner membrane protein complex LptBFG. Overall, our data further support the model whereby the bridge connecting the inner and outer membranes would be based on the conserved structurally homologous jellyroll domain shared by five out of the seven Lpt components.
PMCID: PMC3571315  PMID: 23292770
6.  Ivermectin is a potent inhibitor of flavivirus replication specifically targeting NS3 helicase activity: new prospects for an old drug 
Infection with yellow fever virus (YFV), the prototypic mosquito-borne flavivirus, causes severe febrile disease with haemorrhage, multi-organ failure and a high mortality. Moreover, in recent years the Flavivirus genus has gained further attention due to re-emergence and increasing incidence of West Nile, dengue and Japanese encephalitis viruses. Potent and safe antivirals are urgently needed.
Starting from the crystal structure of the NS3 helicase from Kunjin virus (an Australian variant of West Nile virus), we identified a novel, unexploited protein site that might be involved in the helicase catalytic cycle and could thus in principle be targeted for enzyme inhibition. In silico docking of a library of small molecules allowed us to identify a few selected compounds with high predicted affinity for the new site. Their activity against helicases from several flaviviruses was confirmed in in vitro helicase/enzymatic assays. The effect on the in vitro replication of flaviviruses was then evaluated.
Ivermectin, a broadly used anti-helminthic drug, proved to be a highly potent inhibitor of YFV replication (EC50 values in the sub-nanomolar range). Moreover, ivermectin inhibited, although less efficiently, the replication of several other flaviviruses, i.e. dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis viruses. Ivermectin exerts its effect at a timepoint that coincides with the onset of intracellular viral RNA synthesis, as expected for a molecule that specifically targets the viral helicase.
The well-tolerated drug ivermectin may hold great potential for treatment of YFV infections. Furthermore, structure-based optimization may result in analogues exerting potent activity against flaviviruses other than YFV.
PMCID: PMC3888155  PMID: 22535622
antiviral drug discovery; flavivirus helicase inhibition; new use of existing drug; in silico docking; structure-based drug design
7.  Structure and Haem-Distal Site Plasticity in Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66144.
Protoglobin from Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A (MaPgb), a strictly anaerobic methanogenic Archaea, is a dimeric haem-protein whose biological role is still unknown. As other globins, protoglobin can bind O2, CO and NO reversibly in vitro, but it displays specific functional and structural properties within members of the hemoglobin superfamily. CO binding to and dissociation from the haem occurs through biphasic kinetics, which arise from binding to (and dissociation from) two distinct tertiary states in a ligation-dependent equilibrium. From the structural viewpoint, protoglobin-specific loops and a N-terminal extension of 20 residues completely bury the haem within the protein matrix. Thus, access of small ligand molecules to the haem is granted by two apolar tunnels, not common to other globins, which reach the haem distal site from locations at the B/G and B/E helix interfaces. Here, the roles played by residues Trp(60)B9, Tyr(61)B10 and Phe(93)E11 in ligand recognition and stabilization are analyzed, through crystallographic investigations on the ferric protein and on selected mutants. Specifically, protein structures are reported for protoglobin complexes with cyanide, with azide (also in the presence of Xenon), and with more bulky ligands, such as imidazole and nicotinamide. Values of the rate constant for cyanide dissociation from ferric MaPgb-cyanide complexes have been correlated to hydrogen bonds provided by Trp(60)B9 and Tyr(61)B10 that stabilize the haem-Fe(III)-bound cyanide. We show that protoglobin can strikingly reshape, in a ligand-dependent way, the haem distal site, where Phe(93)E11 acts as ligand sensor and controls accessibility to the haem through the tunnel system by modifying the conformation of Trp(60)B9.
PMCID: PMC3680402  PMID: 23776624
8.  Kinetic and Structural Evidences on Human Prolidase Pathological Mutants Suggest Strategies for Enzyme Functional Rescue 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58792.
Prolidase is the only human enzyme responsible for the digestion of iminodipeptides containing proline or hydroxyproline at their C-terminal end, being a key player in extracellular matrix remodeling. Prolidase deficiency (PD) is an intractable loss of function disease, characterized by mutations in the prolidase gene. The exact causes of activity impairment in mutant prolidase are still unknown. We generated three recombinant prolidase forms, hRecProl-231delY, hRecProl-E412K and hRecProl-G448R, reproducing three mutations identified in homozygous PD patients. The enzymes showed very low catalytic efficiency, thermal instability and changes in protein conformation. No variation of Mn(II) cofactor affinity was detected for hRecProl-E412K; a compromised ability to bind the cofactor was found in hRecProl-231delY and Mn(II) was totally absent in hRecProl-G448R. Furthermore, local structure perturbations for all three mutants were predicted by in silico analysis. Our biochemical investigation of the three causative alleles identified in perturbed folding/instability, and in consequent partial prolidase degradation, the main reasons for enzyme inactivity. Based on the above considerations we were able to rescue part of the prolidase activity in patients’ fibroblasts through the induction of Heath Shock Proteins expression, hinting at new promising avenues for PD treatment.
PMCID: PMC3596340  PMID: 23516557
9.  CO Rebinding Kinetics and Molecular Dynamics Simulations Highlight Dynamic Regulation of Internal Cavities in Human Cytoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e49770.
Cytoglobin (Cygb) was recently discovered in the human genome and localized in different tissues. It was suggested to play tissue-specific protective roles, spanning from scavenging of reactive oxygen species in neurons to supplying oxygen to enzymes in fibroblasts. To shed light on the functioning of such versatile machinery, we have studied the processes supporting transport of gaseous heme ligands in Cygb. Carbon monoxide rebinding shows a complex kinetic pattern with several distinct reaction intermediates, reflecting rebinding from temporary docking sites, second order recombination, and formation (and dissociation) of a bis-histidyl heme hexacoordinated reaction intermediate. Ligand exit to the solvent occurs through distinct pathways, some of which exploit temporary docking sites. The remarkable change in energetic barriers, linked to heme bis-histidyl hexacoordination by HisE7, may be responsible for active regulation of the flux of reactants and products to and from the reaction site on the distal side of the heme. A substantial change in both protein dynamics and inner cavities is observed upon transition from the CO-liganded to the pentacoordinated and bis-histidyl hexacoordinated species, which could be exploited as a signalling state. These findings are consistent with the expected versatility of the molecular activity of this protein.
PMCID: PMC3537629  PMID: 23308092
10.  Identification of the Molecular Site of Ivabradine Binding to HCN4 Channels 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53132.
Ivabradine is a specific heart rate-reducing agent approved as a treatment of chronic stable angina. Its mode of action involves a selective and specific block of HCN channels, the molecular components of sinoatrial "funny" (f)-channels. Different studies suggest that the binding site of ivabradine is located in the inner vestibule of HCN channels, but the molecular details of ivabradine binding are unknown. We thus sought to investigate by mutagenesis and in silico analysis which residues of the HCN4 channel, the HCN isoform expressed in the sinoatrial node, are involved in the binding of ivabradine. Using homology modeling, we verified the presence of an inner cavity below the channel pore and identified residues lining the cavity; these residues were replaced with alanine (or valine) either alone or in combination, and WT and mutant channels were expressed in HEK293 cells. Comparison of the block efficiency of mutant vs WT channels, measured by patch-clamp, revealed that residues Y506, F509 and I510 are involved in ivabradine binding. For each mutant channel, docking simulations correctly explain the reduced block efficiency in terms of proportionally reduced affinity for ivabradine binding. In summary our study shows that ivabradine occupies a cavity below the channel pore, and identifies specific residues facing this cavity that interact and stabilize the ivabradine molecule. This study provides an interpretation of known properties of f/HCN4 channel block by ivabradine such as the “open channel block”, the current-dependence of block and the property of "trapping" of drug molecules in the closed configuration.
PMCID: PMC3537762  PMID: 23308150
11.  Structural Insight into Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins Recognition by a Potent Divalent Smac-Mimetic 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49527.
Genetic alterations enhancing cell survival and suppressing apoptosis are hallmarks of cancer that significantly reduce the efficacy of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein (IAP) family hosts conserved proteins in the apoptotic pathway whose over-expression, frequently found in tumours, potentiates survival and resistance to anticancer agents. In humans, IAPs comprise eight members hosting one or more structural Baculoviral IAP Repeat (BIR) domains. Cellular IAPs (cIAP1 and 2) indirectly inhibit caspase-8 activation, and regulate both the canonical and the non-canonical NF-κB signaling pathways. In contrast to cIAPs, XIAP (X chromosome-linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein) inhibits directly the effector caspases-3 and -7 through its BIR2 domain, and initiator caspase-9 through its BIR3 domain; molecular docking studies suggested that Smac/DIABLO antagonizes XIAP by simultaneously targeting both BIR2 and BIR3 domains. Here we report analytical gel filtration, crystallographic and SAXS experiments on cIAP1-BIR3, XIAP-BIR3 and XIAP-BIR2BIR3 domains, alone and in the presence of compound 9a, a divalent homodimeric Smac mimetic. 9a is shown to bind two BIR domains inter- (in the case of two BIR3) and intra-molecularly (in the case of XIAP-BIR2BIR3), with higher affinity for cIAP1-BIR3, relative to XIAP-BIR3. Despite the different crystal lattice packing, 9a maintains a right handed helical conformation in both cIAP1-BIR3 and XIAP-BIR3 crystals, that is likely conserved in solution as shown by SAXS data. Our structural results demonstrate that the 9a linker length, its conformational degrees of freedom and its hydrophobicity, warrant an overall compact structure with optimal solvent exposure of its two active moieties for IAPs binding. Our results show that 9a is a good candidate for pre-clinical and clinical studies, worth of further investigations in the field of cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3499469  PMID: 23166698
12.  Ligation Tunes Protein Reactivity in an Ancient Haemoglobin: Kinetic Evidence for an Allosteric Mechanism in Methanosarcina acetivorans Protoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33614.
Protoglobin from Methanosarcina acetivorans (MaPgb) is a dimeric globin with peculiar structural properties such as a completely buried haem and two orthogonal tunnels connecting the distal cavity to the solvent. CO binding to and dissociation from MaPgb occur through a biphasic kinetics. We show that the heterogenous kinetics arises from binding to (and dissociation from) two tertiary conformations in ligation-dependent equilibrium. Ligation favours the species with high binding rate (and low dissociation rate). The equilibrium is shifted towards the species with low binding (and high dissociation) rates for the unliganded molecules. A quantitative model is proposed to describe the observed carbonylation kinetics.
PMCID: PMC3313925  PMID: 22479420
13.  The Tempered Polymerization of Human Neuroserpin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32444.
Neuroserpin, a member of the serpin protein superfamily, is an inhibitor of proteolytic activity that is involved in pathologies such as ischemia, Alzheimer's disease, and Familial Encephalopathy with Neuroserpin Inclusion Bodies (FENIB). The latter belongs to a class of conformational diseases, known as serpinopathies, which are related to the aberrant polymerization of serpin mutants. Neuroserpin is known to polymerize, even in its wild type form, under thermal stress. Here, we study the mechanism of neuroserpin polymerization over a wide range of temperatures by different techniques. Our experiments show how the onset of polymerization is dependent on the formation of an intermediate monomeric conformer, which then associates with a native monomer to yield a dimeric species. After the formation of small polymers, the aggregation proceeds via monomer addition as well as polymer-polymer association. No further secondary mechanism takes place up to very high temperatures, thus resulting in the formation of neuroserpin linear polymeric chains. Most interesting, the overall aggregation is tuned by the co-occurrence of monomer inactivation (i.e. the formation of latent neuroserpin) and by a mechanism of fragmentation. The polymerization kinetics exhibit a unique modulation of the average mass and size of polymers, which might suggest synchronization among the different processes involved. Thus, fragmentation would control and temper the aggregation process, instead of enhancing it, as typically observed (e.g.) for amyloid fibrillation.
PMCID: PMC3295756  PMID: 22412873
14.  High Resolution Crystal Structures of the Cerebratulus lacteus Mini-Hb in the Unligated and Carbomonoxy States 
The nerve tissue mini-hemoglobin from Cerebratulus lacteus (CerHb) displays an essential globin fold hosting a protein matrix tunnel held to allow traffic of small ligands to and from the heme. CerHb heme pocket hosts the distal TyrB10/GlnE7 pair, normally linked to low rates of O2 dissociation and ultra-high O2 affinity. However, CerHb affinity for O2 is similar to that of mammalian myoglobins, due to a dynamic equilibrium between high and low affinity states driven by the ability of ThrE11 to orient the TyrB10 OH group relative to the heme ligand. We present here the high resolution crystal structures of CerHb in the unligated and carbomonoxy states. Although CO binds to the heme with an orientation different from the O2 ligand, the overall binding schemes for CO and O2 are essentially the same, both ligands being stabilized through a network of hydrogen bonds based on TyrB10, GlnE7, and ThrE11. No dramatic protein structural changes are needed to support binding of the ligands, which can freely reach the heme distal site through the apolar tunnel. A lack of main conformational changes between the heme-unligated and -ligated states grants stability to the folded mini-Hb and is a prerequisite for fast ligand diffusion to/from the heme.
PMCID: PMC3430218  PMID: 22942687
nerve globin; crystal structure; heme reactivity; carbon monoxide; protein matrix tunnel
15.  Structure and functionality in flavivirus NS-proteins: Perspectives for drug design 
Antiviral Research  2010;87(2):125-148.
Flaviviridae are small enveloped viruses hosting a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome. Besides yellow fever virus, a landmark case in the history of virology, members of the Flavivirus genus, such as West Nile virus and dengue virus, are increasingly gaining attention due to their re-emergence and incidence in different areas of the world. Additional environmental and demographic considerations suggest that novel or known flaviviruses will continue to emerge in the future. Nevertheless, up to few years ago flaviviruses were considered low interest candidates for drug design. At the start of the European Union VIZIER Project, in 2004, just two crystal structures of protein domains from the flaviviral replication machinery were known. Such pioneering studies, however, indicated the flaviviral replication complex as a promising target for the development of antiviral compounds. Here we review structural and functional aspects emerging from the characterization of two main components (NS3 and NS5 proteins) of the flavivirus replication complex. Most of the reviewed results were achieved within the European Union VIZIER Project, and cover topics that span from viral genomics to structural biology and inhibition mechanisms. The ultimate aim of the reported approaches is to shed light on the design and development of antiviral drug leads.
PMCID: PMC3918146  PMID: 19945487
BVDV, bovine viral diarrhea virus; C, capsid protein; CSFV, classical swine fever virus; CCHFV, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus; CPE, cyto-pathogenic effect; dsRNA, double-stranded RNA; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; E, envelope protein; GMP, guanosine monophosphate; GTP, guanosine triphosphate; GTase, guanylyltransferase; NS3Hel, helicase; HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus I; HCV, hepatitis C virus; HBS, high affinity binding site; IMP, Inosine 5′-monophosphate; LBS, low-affinity binding site; M, membrane protein; NS5MTase, methyltransferase; N7MTase, (guanine-N7)-methyltransferase; 2′OMTase, (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferase; NS, non-structural; NLS, nuclear localization sequences; NS3Pro, protease; RC, replication-competent complex; RSV, respiratory syncytial virus; NS5RdRp, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; NS3RTPase, RNA triphosphatase; AdoMet, S-adenosyl-L-methionine; ssRNA, single-stranded RNA; T-705 RMP, T-705-ribofuranosyl-5′-monophosphate; VIZIER, Viral Enzymes Involved in Replication; Flavivirus; Flaviviral NS3 protein; Flaviviral NS5 protein; Protease; Helicase; Polymerase; Methyltransferase; Flavivirus protein structure; Antivirals; VIZIER Consortium
16.  Globin-like proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans: in vivo localization, ligand binding and structural properties 
BMC Biochemistry  2010;11:17.
The genome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contains more than 30 putative globin genes that all are transcribed. Although their translated amino acid sequences fit the globin fold, a variety of amino-acid substitutions and extensions generate a wide structural diversity among the putative globins. No information is available on the physicochemical properties and the in vivo expression.
We expressed the globins in a bacterial system, characterized the purified proteins by optical and resonance Raman spectroscopy, measured the kinetics and equilibria of O2 binding and determined the crystal structure of GLB-1* (CysGH2 → Ser mutant). Furthermore, we studied the expression patterns of glb-1 (ZK637.13) and glb-26 (T22C1.2) in the worms using green fluorescent protein technology and measured alterations of their transcript abundances under hypoxic conditions.GLB-1* displays the classical three-over-three α-helical sandwich of vertebrate globins, assembled in a homodimer associated through facing E- and F-helices. Within the heme pocket the dioxygen molecule is stabilized by a hydrogen bonded network including TyrB10 and GlnE7.GLB-1 exhibits high ligand affinity, which is, however, lower than in other globins with the same distal TyrB10-GlnE7 amino-acid pair. In the absence of external ligands, the heme ferrous iron of GLB-26 is strongly hexacoordinated with HisE7, which could explain its extremely low affinity for CO. This globin oxidizes instantly to the ferric form in the presence of oxygen and is therefore incapable of reversible oxygen binding.
The presented data indicate that GLB-1 and GLB-26 belong to two functionally-different globin classes.
PMCID: PMC2867796  PMID: 20361867
17.  Group B Streptococcus Pullulanase Crystal Structures in the Context of a Novel Strategy for Vaccine Development▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(11):3544-3552.
The group B streptococcus type I pullulanase (SAP) is a class 13 glycoside hydrolase that is anchored to the bacterial cell surface via a conserved C-terminal anchoring motif and involved in α-glucan degradation. Recent in vitro functional studies have shown that SAP is immunogenic in humans and that anti-SAP sera derived from immunized animals impair both group A and group B streptococcus pullulanase activities, suggesting that in vivo immunization with this antigen could prevent streptococcal colonization. To further investigate the putative role of SAP in bacterial pathogenesis, we carried out functional studies and found that recombinant SAP binds to human cervical epithelial cells. Furthermore, with a view of using SAP as a vaccine candidate, we present high-resolution crystal structure analyses of an N-terminally truncated form of SAP lacking the carbohydrate binding module but containing the catalytic domain and displaying glycosidase hydrolase activity, both in its apo form and in complex with maltotetraose, at resolutions of 2.1 and 2.4 Å, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2681907  PMID: 19329633
18.  Preliminary crystallographic characterization of an RNA helicase from Kunjin virus 
The C-terminal 440 amino acids of the NS3 protein from Kunjin virus (Flaviviridae) code for a helicase. The protein has been overexpressed and crystallized. Characterization of the isolated monoclinic crystal form and diffraction data (at 3.0 Å resolution) are presented, together with a preliminary molecular-replacement solution.
Kunjin virus is a member of the Flavivirus genus and is an Australian variant of West Nile virus. The C-terminal domain of the Kunjin virus NS3 protein displays helicase activity. The protein is thought to separate daughter and template RNA strands, assisting the initiation of replication by unwinding RNA secondary structure in the 3′ nontranslated region. Expression, purification and preliminary crystallographic characterization of the NS3 helicase domain are reported. It is shown that Kunjin virus helicase may adopt a dimeric assembly in absence of nucleic acids, oligomerization being a means to provide the helicases with multiple nucleic acid-binding capability, facilitating translocation along the RNA strands. Kunjin virus NS3 helicase domain is an attractive model for studying the molecular mechanisms of flavivirus replication, while simultaneously providing a new basis for the rational development of anti-flaviviral compounds.
PMCID: PMC2242862  PMID: 16946468
Flaviviridae; Kunjin virus; West Nile virus; helicases; viral enzymes
19.  Preliminary characterization of (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferase crystals from Meaban and Yokose flaviviruses 
Two methyltransferases from flaviviruses (Meaban and Yokose viruses) have been overexpressed and crystallized. Diffraction data and characterization of the two crystal forms are presented, together with a preliminary molecular-replacement solution for both enzymes.
Viral methyltranferases (MTase) are involved in the third step of the mRNA-capping process, transferring a methyl group from S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM) to the capped mRNA. MTases are classified into two groups: (guanine-N7)-methyltransferases (N7MTases), which add a methyl group onto the N7 atom of guanine, and (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferases (2′OMTases), which add a methyl group to a ribose hydroxyl. The MTases of two flaviviruses, Meaban and Yokose viruses, have been overexpressed, purified and crystallized in complex with SAM. Characterization of the crystals together with details of preliminary X-ray diffraction data collection (at 2.8 and 2.7 Å resolution, respectively) are reported here. The sequence homology relative to Dengue virus 2′OMTase and the structural conservation of specific residues in the putative active sites suggest that both enzymes belong to the 2′OMTase subgroup.
PMCID: PMC2242907  PMID: 16880552
(nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferases; flaviviruses; Meaban virus; Yokose virus
20.  Preliminary characterization of (nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferase crystals from Meaban and Yokose flaviviruses. Corrigendum 
A corrigendum to the paper by Mastrangelo et al. (2006), Acta Cryst. F62, 768–770.
A correction is made to the names of two of the authors in Mastrangelo et al. (2006), Acta Cryst. F62, 768–770.
PMCID: PMC2330174
(nucleoside-2′-O-)-methyltransferases; flaviviruses; Meaban virus; Yokose virus; corrigendum
21.  Specific Recognition of ZNF217 and Other Zinc Finger Proteins at a Surface Groove of C-Terminal Binding Proteins▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(21):8159-8172.
Numerous transcription factors recruit C-terminal binding protein (CtBP) corepressors. We show that the large zinc finger protein ZNF217 contacts CtBP. ZNF217 is encoded by an oncogene frequently amplified in tumors. ZNF217 contains a typical Pro-X-Asp-Leu-Ser (PXDLS) motif that binds in CtBP's PXDLS-binding cleft. However, ZNF217 also contains a second motif, Arg-Arg-Thr (RRT), that binds a separate surface on CtBP. The crystal structure of CtBP bound to an RRTGAPPAL peptide shows that it contacts a surface crevice distinct from the PXDLS binding cleft. Interestingly, both PXDLS and RRT motifs are also found in other zinc finger proteins, such as RIZ. Finally, we show that ZNF217 represses several promoters, including one from a known CtBP target gene, and mutations preventing ZNF217's contact with CtBP reduce repression. These results identify a new CtBP interaction motif and establish ZNF217 as a transcriptional repressor protein that functions, at least in part, by associating with CtBP.
PMCID: PMC1636751  PMID: 16940172
22.  Role of the C-Terminal Binding Protein PXDLS Motif Binding Cleft in Protein Interactions and Transcriptional Repression▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(21):8202-8213.
C-terminal binding proteins (CtBPs) are multifunctional proteins that can mediate gene repression. CtBPs contain a cleft that binds Pro-X-Asp-Leu-Ser (PXDLS) motifs. PXDLS motifs occur in numerous transcription factors and in effectors of gene repression, such as certain histone deacetylases. CtBPs have been depicted as bridging proteins that self-associate and link PXDLS-containing transcription factors to PXDLS-containing chromatin-modifying enzymes. CtBPs also recruit effectors that do not contain recognizable PXDLS motifs. We have investigated the importance of the PXDLS binding cleft to CtBP's interactions with various partner proteins and to its ability to repress transcription. We used CtBP cleft mutant and cleft-filled fusion derivatives to distinguish between partner proteins that bind in the cleft and elsewhere on the CtBP surface. Functional assays demonstrate that CtBP mutants that carry defective clefts retain repression activity when fused to heterologous DNA-binding domains. This result suggests that the cleft is not essential for recruiting effectors. In contrast, when tested in the absence of a fused DNA-binding domain, disruption of the cleft abrogates repression activity. These results demonstrate that the PXDLS binding cleft is functionally important but suggest that it is primarily required for localization of the CtBP complex to promoter-bound transcription factors.
PMCID: PMC1636740  PMID: 16940173
23.  Preliminary characterization of two different crystal forms of acylphosphatase from the hyperthermophile archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus  
S. solfataricus acylphosphatase has been expressed, purified and crystallized in two different crystal forms. Preliminary characterization of a triclinic and a monoclinic crystal form is reported and data were collected to 1.27 and 1.90 Å, respectively.
Acylphosphatase is a ubiquitous small enzyme that was first characterized in mammals. It is involved in the hydrolysis of carboxyl-phosphate bonds in several acylphosphate substrates, such as carbamoylphosphate and 1,3-biphosphoglycerate; however, a consensus on acylphosphatase action in vivo has not yet been reached. Recent investigations have focused on acylphosphatases from lower phyla, such as Drosophila melanogaster and Escherichia coli, in view of the application of these small proteins as models in the study of folding, misfolding and aggregation processes. An acylphosphatase from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus has been cloned, expressed and purified. Here, the growth and characterization of a triclinic and a monoclinic crystal form of the hyperthermophilic enzyme are reported; X-ray diffraction data have been collected to 1.27 and 1.90 Å resolution, respectively.
PMCID: PMC1952370  PMID: 16508117
acylphosphatase; extremophilic protein; hyperthermophilic protein

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