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1.  Characterization of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Catalytic Mechanism: A Pre-Steady-State and Steady-State Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102470.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), an enzyme of 30 kDa grouped in the kallikrein family is synthesized to high levels by normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells. Therefore, it is the main biomarker currently used for early diagnosis of prostate cancer. Here, presteady-state and steady-state kinetics of the PSA-catalyzed hydrolysis of the fluorogenic substrate Mu-His-Ser-Ser-Lys-Leu-Gln-AMC (spanning from pH 6.5 to pH 9.0, at 37.0°C) are reported. Steady-state kinetics display at every pH value a peculiar feature, represented by an initial “burst” phase of the fluorescence signal before steady-state conditions are taking place. This behavior, which has been already observed in other members of the kallikrein family, suggests the occurrence of a proteolytic mechanism wherefore the acylation step is faster than the deacylation process. This feature allows to detect the acyl intermediate, where the newly formed C-terminal carboxylic acid of the cleaved substrate forms an ester bond with the -OH group of the Ser195 catalytic residue, whereas the AMC product has been already released. Therefore, the pH-dependence of the two enzymatic steps (i.e., acylation and deacylation) has been separately characterized, allowing the determination of pKa values. On this basis, possible residues are tentatively identified in PSA, which might regulate these two steps by interacting with the two portions of the substrate.
PMCID: PMC4113483  PMID: 25068395
2.  Nitrosylation Mechanisms of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Campylobacter jejuni Truncated Hemoglobins N, O, and P 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102811.
Truncated hemoglobins (trHbs) are widely distributed in bacteria and plants and have been found in some unicellular eukaryotes. Phylogenetic analysis based on protein sequences shows that trHbs branch into three groups, designated N (or I), O (or II), and P (or III). Most trHbs are involved in the O2/NO chemistry and/or oxidation/reduction function, permitting the survival of the microorganism in the host. Here, a detailed comparative analysis of kinetics and/or thermodynamics of (i) ferrous Mycobacterium tubertulosis trHbs N and O (Mt-trHbN and Mt-trHbO, respectively), and Campylobacter jejuni trHb (Cj-trHbP) nitrosylation, (ii) nitrite-mediated nitrosylation of ferrous Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP, and (iii) NO-based reductive nitrosylation of ferric Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP is reported. Ferrous and ferric Mt-trHbN and Cj-trHbP display a very high reactivity towards NO; however, the conversion of nitrite to NO is facilitated primarily by ferrous Mt-trHbN. Values of kinetic and/or thermodynamic parameters reflect specific trHb structural features, such as the ligand diffusion pathways to/from the heme, the heme distal pocket structure and polarity, and the ligand stabilization mechanisms. In particular, the high reactivity of Mt-trHbN and Cj-trHbP reflects the great ligand accessibility to the heme center by two protein matrix tunnels and the E7-path, respectively, and the penta-coordination of the heme-Fe atom. In contrast, the heme-Fe atom of Mt-trHbO the ligand accessibility to the heme center of Mt-trHbO needs large conformational readjustments, thus limiting the heme-based reactivity. These results agree with different roles of Mt-trHbN, Mt-trHbO, and Cj-trHbP in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4106858  PMID: 25051055
3.  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
4.  Isoniazid Inhibits the Heme-Based Reactivity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Truncated Hemoglobin N 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69762.
Isoniazid represents a first-line anti-tuberculosis medication in prevention and treatment. This prodrug is activated by a mycobacterial catalase-peroxidase enzyme called KatG in Mycobacterium tuberculosis), thereby inhibiting the synthesis of mycolic acid, required for the mycobacterial cell wall. Moreover, isoniazid activation by KatG produces some radical species (e.g., nitrogen monoxide), that display anti-mycobacterial activity. Remarkably, the ability of mycobacteria to persist in vivo in the presence of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species implies the presence in these bacteria of (pseudo-)enzymatic detoxification systems, including truncated hemoglobins (trHbs). Here, we report that isoniazid binds reversibly to ferric and ferrous M. tuberculosis trHb type N (or group I; Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(II), respectively) with a simple bimolecular process, which perturbs the heme-based spectroscopic properties. Values of thermodynamic and kinetic parameters for isoniazid binding to Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(II) are K = (1.1±0.1)×10−4 M, kon = (5.3±0.6)×103 M−1 s−1 and koff = (4.6±0.5)×10−1 s−1; and D = (1.2±0.2)×10−3 M, don = (1.3±0.4)×103 M−1 s−1, and doff = 1.5±0.4 s−1, respectively, at pH 7.0 and 20.0°C. Accordingly, isoniazid inhibits competitively azide binding to Mt-trHbN(III) and Mt-trHbN(III)-catalyzed peroxynitrite isomerization. Moreover, isoniazid inhibits Mt-trHbN(II) oxygenation and carbonylation. Although the structure of the Mt-trHbN-isoniazid complex is not available, here we show by docking simulation that isoniazid binding to the heme-Fe atom indeed may take place. These data suggest a direct role of isoniazid to impair fundamental functions of mycobacteria, e.g. scavenging of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species, and metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3731299  PMID: 23936350
5.  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
6.  Reciprocal Allosteric Modulation of Carbon Monoxide and Warfarin Binding to Ferrous Human Serum Heme-Albumin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58842.
Human serum albumin (HSA), the most abundant protein in human plasma, could be considered as a prototypic monomeric allosteric protein, since the ligand-dependent conformational adaptability of HSA spreads beyond the immediate proximity of the binding site(s). As a matter of fact, HSA is a major transport protein in the bloodstream and the regulation of the functional allosteric interrelationships between the different binding sites represents a fundamental information for the knowledge of its transport function. Here, kinetics and thermodynamics of the allosteric modulation: (i) of carbon monoxide (CO) binding to ferrous human serum heme-albumin (HSA-heme-Fe(II)) by warfarin (WF), and (ii) of WF binding to HSA-heme-Fe(II) by CO are reported. All data were obtained at pH 7.0 and 25°C. Kinetics of CO and WF binding to the FA1 and FA7 sites of HSA-heme-Fe(II), respectively, follows a multi-exponential behavior (with the same relative percentage for the two ligands). This can be accounted for by the existence of multiple conformations and/or heme-protein axial coordination forms of HSA-heme-Fe(II). The HSA-heme-Fe(II) populations have been characterized by resonance Raman spectroscopy, indicating the coexistence of different species characterized by four-, five- and six-coordination of the heme-Fe atom. As a whole, these results suggest that: (i) upon CO binding a conformational change of HSA-heme-Fe(II) takes place (likely reflecting the displacement of an endogenous ligand by CO), and (ii) CO and/or WF binding brings about a ligand-dependent variation of the HSA-heme-Fe(II) population distribution of the various coordinating species. The detailed thermodynamic and kinetic analysis here reported allows a quantitative description of the mutual allosteric effect of CO and WF binding to HSA-heme-Fe(II).
PMCID: PMC3605432  PMID: 23555601
7.  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

Results 1-7 (7)