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1.  Protein intrinsic disorder in the acetylome of intracellular and extracellular Toxoplasma gondii 
Molecular bioSystems  2013;9(4):645-657.
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite of the phylum Apicomplexa, which includes a number of species of medical and veterinary importance. Inhibitors of lysine deacetylases (KDACs) exhibit potent antiparasitic activity, suggesting that interference with lysine acetylation pathways hold promise for future drug targeting. Using high resolution LC-MS/MS to identify parasite peptides enriched by immunopurification with acetyl-lysine antibody, we recently produced an acetylome of the proliferative intracellular stage of Toxoplasma. In this study, we used similar approaches to greatly expand the Toxoplasma acetylome by identifying acetylated proteins in non-replicating extracellular tachyzoites. The functional breakdown of acetylated proteins in extracellular parasites is similar to intracellular parasites, with an enrichment of proteins involved in metabolism, translation, and chromatin biology. Altogether, we have now detected over 700 acetylation sites on a wide variety of parasite proteins of diverse function in multiple subcellular compartments. We found 96 proteins uniquely acetylated in intracellular parasites, 216 uniquely acetylated in extracellular parasites, and 177 proteins acetylated in both states. Our findings suggest that dramatic changes occur at the proteomic level as tachyzoites transition from the intracellular to extracellular environment, similar to reports documenting significant changes in gene expression during this transition. The expanded dataset also allowed a thorough analysis of the degree of protein intrinsic disorder surrounding lysine residues targeted for this post-translational modification. These analyses indicate that acetylated lysines in proteins from extracellular and intracellular tachyzoites are largely located within similar local environments, and that lysine acetylation preferentially occurs in intrinsically disordered or flexible regions.
PMCID: PMC3594623  PMID: 23403842
parasite; proteomics; acetylation; lysine; Apicomplexa; tachyzoite
2.  Intrinsically disordered regions of p53 family are highly diversified in evolution 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1834(4):725-738.
Proteins of the p53 family are expressed in vertebrates and in some invertebrate species. The main function of these proteins is to control and regulate cell cycle in response to various cellular signals, and therefore to control the organism’s development. The regulatory functions of the p53 family members originate mostly from their highly-conserved and well-structured DNA-binding domains. Many human diseases (including various types of cancer) are related to the missense mutations within this domain. The ordered DNA-binding domains of the p53 family members are surrounded by functionally important intrinsically disordered regions. In this study, substitution rates and propensities in different regions of p53 were analyzed. The analyses revealed that the ordered DNA-binding domain is conserved, whereas disordered regions are characterized by high sequence diversity. This diversity was reflected both in the number of substitutions and in the types of substitutions to which each amino acid was prone. These results support the existence of a positive correlation between protein intrinsic disorder and sequence divergence during the evolutionary process. This higher sequence divergence provides strong support for the existence of disordered regions in p53 in vivo for if they were structured, they would evolve at similar rates as the rest of the protein.
PMCID: PMC3905691  PMID: 23352836
intrinsically disordered proteins; protein evolution; protein-protein interactions; protein-DNA interaction; p53 family
3.  Uncovering the Basis of ATP Hydrolysis Activity in Purified Human p53 Protein: A Reinvestigation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93652.
p53 is one of the most well studied tumor suppressor proteins and regarded as the guardian of the genome. The protein mediates cell-cycle arrest, apoptosis in response to myriads of cellular stresses including DNA damage via its trascriptional as well as non-transcriptional roles. ATP binding/hydrolysis by p53 had been implicated in its DNA binding functions. However, till date, no ATP binding/hydrolysis domains have been mapped in p53. In the current study, we have reinvestigated the ATP hydrolysis activity associated with recombinant human p53 protein expressed and purified from E.coli. We confirmed the source of ATPase activity using various deletion constructs of p53 and an In-gel ATPase assay followed by LC-ESI-MS/MS analysis of the activity band. The activity was associated with Hsp70 homologue in E.coli, DnaK, a known interactor of p53. We clarify that wildtype human p53, expressed in E. coli BL21 (DE3) strain, carries no ATPase activity.
PMCID: PMC3972114  PMID: 24691158
4.  Utilization of protein intrinsic disorder knowledge in structural proteomics 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1834(2):487-498.
Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and proteins with long disordered regions are highly abundant in various proteomes. Despite their lack of well-defined ordered structure, these proteins and regions are frequently involved in crucial biological processes. Although in recent years these proteins have attracted the attention of many researchers, IDPs represent a significant challenge for structural characterization since these proteins can impact many of the processes in the structure determination pipeline. Here we investigate the effects of IDPs on the structure determination process and the utility of disorder prediction in selecting and improving proteins for structural characterization. Examination of the extent of intrinsic disorder in existing crystal structures found that relatively few protein crystal structures contain extensive regions of intrinsic disorder. Although intrinsic disorder is not the only cause of crystallization failures and many structured proteins cannot be crystallized, filtering out highly disordered proteins from structure-determination target lists is still likely to be cost effective. Therefore it is desirable to avoid highly disordered proteins from structure-determination target lists and we show that disorder prediction can be applied effectively to enrich structure determination pipelines with proteins more likely to yield crystal structures. For structural investigation of specific proteins, disorder prediction can be used to improve targets for structure determination. Finally, a framework for considering intrinsic disorder in the structure determination pipeline is proposed.
PMCID: PMC3951342  PMID: 23232152
Proteomics; Structural genomics; Structural proteomics; Intrinsically disordered protein
5.  Inferring Domain-Domain Interactions from Protein-Protein Interactions with Formal Concept Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88943.
Identifying reliable domain-domain interactions will increase our ability to predict novel protein-protein interactions, to unravel interactions in protein complexes, and thus gain more information about the function and behavior of genes. One of the challenges of identifying reliable domain-domain interactions is domain promiscuity. Promiscuous domains are domains that can occur in many domain architectures and are therefore found in many proteins. This becomes a problem for a method where the score of a domain-pair is the ratio between observed and expected frequencies because the protein-protein interaction network is sparse. As such, many protein-pairs will be non-interacting and domain-pairs with promiscuous domains will be penalized. This domain promiscuity challenge to the problem of inferring reliable domain-domain interactions from protein-protein interactions has been recognized, and a number of work-arounds have been proposed. This paper reports on an application of Formal Concept Analysis to this problem. It is found that the relationship between formal concepts provides a natural way for rare domains to elevate the rank of promiscuous domain-pairs and enrich highly ranked domain-pairs with reliable domain-domain interactions. This piggybacking of promiscuous domain-pairs onto less promiscuous domain-pairs is possible only with concept lattices whose attribute-labels are not reduced and is enhanced by the presence of proteins that comprise both promiscuous and rare domains.
PMCID: PMC3929762  PMID: 24586450
6.  Gateway-Assisted Vector Construction to Facilitate Expression of Foreign Proteins in the Chloroplast of Single Celled Algae 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86841.
With a rising world population, demand will increase for food, energy and high value products. Renewable production systems, including photosynthetic microalgal biotechnologies, can produce biomass for foods, fuels and chemical feedstocks and in parallel allow the production of high value protein products, including recombinant proteins. Such high value recombinant proteins offer important economic benefits during startup of industrial scale algal biomass and biofuel production systems, but the limited markets for individual recombinant proteins will require a high throughput pipeline for cloning and expression in microalgae, which is currently lacking, since genetic engineering of microalgae is currently complex and laborious. We have introduced the recombination based Gateway® system into the construction process of chloroplast transformation vectors for microalgae. This simplifies the vector construction and allows easy, fast and flexible vector design for the high efficiency protein production in microalgae, a key step in developing such expression pipelines.
PMCID: PMC3921121  PMID: 24523866
7.  Structural Interface Parameters Are Discriminatory in Recognising Near-Native Poses of Protein-Protein Interactions 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e80255.
Interactions at the molecular level in the cellular environment play a very crucial role in maintaining the physiological functioning of the cell. These molecular interactions exist at varied levels viz. protein-protein interactions, protein-nucleic acid interactions or protein-small molecules interactions. Presently in the field, these interactions and their mechanisms mark intensively studied areas. Molecular interactions can also be studied computationally using the approach named as Molecular Docking. Molecular docking employs search algorithms to predict the possible conformations for interacting partners and then calculates interaction energies. However, docking proposes number of solutions as different docked poses and hence offers a serious challenge to identify the native (or near native) structures from the pool of these docked poses. Here, we propose a rigorous scoring scheme called DockScore which can be used to rank the docked poses and identify the best docked pose out of many as proposed by docking algorithm employed. The scoring identifies the optimal interactions between the two protein partners utilising various features of the putative interface like area, short contacts, conservation, spatial clustering and the presence of positively charged and hydrophobic residues. DockScore was first trained on a set of 30 protein-protein complexes to determine the weights for different parameters. Subsequently, we tested the scoring scheme on 30 different protein-protein complexes and native or near-native structure were assigned the top rank from a pool of docked poses in 26 of the tested cases. We tested the ability of DockScore to discriminate likely dimer interactions that differ substantially within a homologous family and also demonstrate that DOCKSCORE can distinguish correct pose for all 10 recent CAPRI targets.
PMCID: PMC3912216  PMID: 24498255
8.  Molecular Cloning and Characterization of Different Expression of MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 in Tianfu Goat 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82550.
The myozenin family of proteins binds calcineurin, which is involved in myocyte differentiation of skeletal muscle. Moreover, gene expression of myozenin is closely related to meat quality. To further understand the functions and effects of myozenin2 (MYOZ2) and myozenin3 (MYOZ3) genes in goat, we cloned them from Tianfu goat longissimus dorsi muscle. Sequence analyses revealed that full-length coding sequence of MYOZ2 consisted of 795 bp and encoded 264 amino acids, and full-length coding sequence of MYOZ3 consisted of 735 bp and encoded 244 amino acids. RT-qPCR analyses revealed that mRNA expressions of MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 were detected in heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney, leg muscle, abdominal muscle, and longissimus dorsi muscle. Particularly high expression levels of MYOZ2 were seen in abdominal muscle and heart (P<0.01), low expression levels were seen in leg muscle (P<0.01), longissimus dorsi muscle (P>0.05) and very little expression were detected in liver, spleen, lung and kidney (P>0.05). In addition, high expression levels of MYOZ3 were seen in abdominal muscle, leg muscle, lungs and kidney (P<0.01), low expression levels were found in longissimus dorsi muscle and spleen (P<0.01) and very little expression were detected in heart and liver (P>0.05). Temporal mRNA expression results showed that MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 gene expression varied across four muscle tissues with different ages of the goats. Western blotting further revealed that MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 proteins were only expressed in goat muscle, with notable temporal expression differences in specialized muscle tissues from five development age stages. This work provides the first evidence that MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 genes are expressed abundantly in Tianfu goat muscle tissues from different development age stages, and lay a foundation for understanding the functions of MYOZ2 and MYOZ3 genes in muscle fiber differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3867352  PMID: 24367523
9.  Expression and Biological Activity of the Cystine Knot Bioinsecticide PA1b (Pea Albumin 1 Subunit b) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81619.
The PA1b (Pea Albumin 1, subunit b) peptide is an entomotoxin extract from Legume seeds with lethal activity on several insect pests, such as mosquitoes, some aphids and cereal weevils. This 37 amino-acid cysteine-rich peptide has been, until now, obtained by biochemical purification or chemical synthesis. In this paper, we present our results for the transient production of the peptide in Nicotiana benthamiana by agro-infiltration, with a yield of about 35 µg/g of fresh leaves and maximum production 8 days after infiltration. PA1b is part of the PA1 gene which, after post-translational modifications, encodes two peptides (PA1b and PA1a). We show that transforming tobacco with the PA1b cDNA alone does not result in production of the toxin and, in fact, the entire cDNA is necessary, raising the question of the role of PA1a. We constructed a PA1-cassette, allowing for the quick “cut/paste” of different PA1b mutants within a conserved PA1 cDNA. This cassette enabled us to produce the six isoforms of PA1b which exist in pea seeds. Biological tests revealed that all the isoforms display similar activity, with the exception of one which is inactive. The lack of activity in this isoform led us to conclude that the amphiphilic nature of the peptide is necessary for activity. The possible applications of this expression system for other cysteine-rich biomolecules are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3859497  PMID: 24349099
10.  Subunit Organisation of In Vitro Reconstituted HOPS and CORVET Multisubunit Membrane Tethering Complexes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81534.
Biochemical and structural analysis of macromolecular protein assemblies remains challenging due to technical difficulties in recombinant expression, engineering and reconstitution of multisubunit complexes. Here we use a recently developed cell-free protein expression system based on the protozoan Leishmania tarentolae to produce in vitro all six subunits of the 600 kDa HOPS and CORVET membrane tethering complexes. We demonstrate that both subcomplexes and the entire HOPS complex can be reconstituted in vitro resulting in a comprehensive subunit interaction map. To our knowledge this is the largest eukaryotic protein complex in vitro reconstituted to date. Using the truncation and interaction analysis, we demonstrate that the complex is assembled through short hydrophobic sequences located in the C-terminus of the individual Vps subunits. Based on this data we propose a model of the HOPS and CORVET complex assembly that reconciles the available biochemical and structural data.
PMCID: PMC3846719  PMID: 24312556
11.  Reverse Engineering the Cooperative Machinery of Human Hemoglobin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77363.
Hemoglobin transports molecular oxygen from the lungs to all human tissues for cellular respiration. Its α2β2 tetrameric assembly undergoes cooperative binding and releasing of oxygen for superior efficiency and responsiveness. Over past decades, hundreds of hemoglobin structures were determined under a wide range of conditions for investigation of molecular mechanism of cooperativity. Based on a joint analysis of hemoglobin structures in the Protein Data Bank (Ren, companion article), here I present a reverse engineering approach to elucidate how two subunits within each dimer reciprocate identical motions that achieves intradimer cooperativity, how ligand-induced structural signals from two subunits are integrated to drive quaternary rotation, and how the structural environment at the oxygen binding sites alter their binding affinity. This mechanical model reveals the intricate design that achieves the cooperative mechanism and has previously been masked by inconsistent structural fluctuations. A number of competing theories on hemoglobin cooperativity and broader protein allostery are reconciled and unified.
PMCID: PMC3842276  PMID: 24312167
12.  A Microfluidic, High Throughput Protein Crystal Growth Method for Microgravity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e82298.
The attenuation of sedimentation and convection in microgravity can sometimes decrease irregularities formed during macromolecular crystal growth. Current terrestrial protein crystal growth (PCG) capabilities are very different than those used during the Shuttle era and that are currently on the International Space Station (ISS). The focus of this experiment was to demonstrate the use of a commercial off-the-shelf, high throughput, PCG method in microgravity. Using Protein BioSolutions’ microfluidic Plug Maker™/CrystalCard™ system, we tested the ability to grow crystals of the regulator of glucose metabolism and adipogenesis: peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (apo-hPPAR-γ LBD), as well as several PCG standards. Overall, we sent 25 CrystalCards™ to the ISS, containing ~10,000 individual microgravity PCG experiments in a 3U NanoRacks NanoLab (1U = 103 cm.). After 70 days on the ISS, our samples were returned with 16 of 25 (64%) microgravity cards having crystals, compared to 12 of 25 (48%) of the ground controls. Encouragingly, there were more apo-hPPAR-γ LBD crystals in the microgravity PCG cards than the 1g controls. These positive results hope to introduce the use of the PCG standard of low sample volume and large experimental density to the microgravity environment and provide new opportunities for macromolecular samples that may crystallize poorly in standard laboratories.
PMCID: PMC3836816  PMID: 24278480
13.  Comparative Proteomic and Bioinformatic Analysis of the Effects of a High-Grain Diet on the Hepatic Metabolism in Lactating Dairy Goats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80698.
To gain insight on the impart of high-grain diets on liver metabolism in ruminants, we employed a comparative proteomic approach to investigate the proteome-wide effects of diet in lactating dairy goats by conducting a proteomic analysis of the liver extracts of 10 lactating goats fed either a control diet or a high-grain diet. More than 500 protein spots were detected per condition by two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE). In total, 52 differentially expressed spots (≥2.0-fold changed) were excised and analyzed using MALDI TOF/TOF. Fifty-one protein spots were successfully identified. Of these, 29 proteins were upregulated, while 22 were downregulated in the high-grain fed vs. control animals. Differential expressions of proteins including alpha enolase, elongation factor 2, calreticulin, cytochrome b5, apolipoprotein A-I, catalase, was verified by mRNA analysis and/or Western blotting. Database searches combined with Gene Ontology (GO) analysis and KEGG pathway analysis revealed that the high-grain diet resulted in altered expression of proteins related to amino acids metabolism. These results suggest new candidate proteins that may contribute to a better understanding of the signaling pathways and mechanisms that mediate liver adaptation to high-grain diet.
PMCID: PMC3834288  PMID: 24260456
14.  Differential occurrence of protein intrinsic disorder in the cytoplasmic signaling domains of cell receptors 
Self Nonself  2011;2(1):55-72.
In human membrane proteins, intrinsically disordered regions, the regions that lack a well-defined three-dimensional structure under physiological conditions, preferentially occur in the cytoplasmic tails. Many of these proteins represent cell receptors that function by recognizing their cognate ligand outside the cell and translating this binding information into an intracellular activation signal. Based on location of recognition and signaling (effector) domains, functionally diverse and unrelated cell receptors can be classified into two main families: those in which binding and signaling domains are located on the same protein chain, the so-called single-chain receptors (SRs), and those in which these domains are intriguingly located on separate subunits, the so-called multichain receptors (MRs). Recognition domains of both SRs and MRs are known to be well ordered. In contrast, while cytoplasmic signaling domains of SRs are well-structured as well, those of MRs are intrinsically disordered. Despite important role of receptor signaling in health and disease, extensive comparative structural analysis of receptor signaling domains has not been carried out as of yet. In this study, using a variety of prediction algorithms, we show that protein disorder is a characteristic and distinctive feature of receptors with recognition and signaling functions distributed between separate protein chains. We also reveal that disorder distribution patterns are rather similar within SR subclasses suggesting potential functional explanations. Why did nature select protein disorder to provide intracellular signaling for MRs? Is there any correlation between disorder profiles of signaling domains and receptor function? These and other questions are addressed in this article.
PMCID: PMC3136905  PMID: 21776336
intrinsically disordered proteins; immune signaling; protein disorder; single-chain receptors; multichain immune recognition receptors; MIRR; T cell receptor; B cell receptor; RTK; receptor tyrosine kinases
15.  Reaction Trajectory Revealed by a Joint Analysis of Protein Data Bank 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77141.
Structural motions along a reaction pathway hold the secret about how a biological macromolecule functions. If each static structure were considered as a snapshot of the protein molecule in action, a large collection of structures would constitute a multidimensional conformational space of an enormous size. Here I present a joint analysis of hundreds of known structures of human hemoglobin in the Protein Data Bank. By applying singular value decomposition to distance matrices of these structures, I demonstrate that this large collection of structural snapshots, derived under a wide range of experimental conditions, arrange orderly along a reaction pathway. The structural motions along this extensive trajectory, including several helical transformations, arrive at a reverse engineered mechanism of the cooperative machinery (Ren, companion article), and shed light on pathological properties of the abnormal homotetrameric hemoglobins from α-thalassemia. This method of meta-analysis provides a general approach to structural dynamics based on static protein structures in this post genomics era.
PMCID: PMC3823880  PMID: 24244274
16.  pE-DB: a database of structural ensembles of intrinsically disordered and of unfolded proteins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(D1):D326-D335.
The goal of pE-DB ( is to serve as an openly accessible database for the deposition of structural ensembles of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and of denatured proteins based on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, small-angle X-ray scattering and other data measured in solution. Owing to the inherent flexibility of IDPs, solution techniques are particularly appropriate for characterizing their biophysical properties, and structural ensembles in agreement with these data provide a convenient tool for describing the underlying conformational sampling. Database entries consist of (i) primary experimental data with descriptions of the acquisition methods and algorithms used for the ensemble calculations, and (ii) the structural ensembles consistent with these data, provided as a set of models in a Protein Data Bank format. PE-DB is open for submissions from the community, and is intended as a forum for disseminating the structural ensembles and the methodologies used to generate them. While the need to represent the IDP structures is clear, methods for determining and evaluating the structural ensembles are still evolving. The availability of the pE-DB database is expected to promote the development of new modeling methods and leads to a better understanding of how function arises from disordered states.
PMCID: PMC3964940  PMID: 24174539
17.  Analysis of the Effects of Polymorphism on Pollen Profilin Structural Functionality and the Generation of Conformational, T- and B-Cell Epitopes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76066.
An extensive polymorphism analysis of pollen profilin, a fundamental regulator of the actin cytoskeleton dynamics, has been performed with a major focus in 3D-folding maintenance, changes in the 2-D structural elements, surface residues involved in ligands-profilin interactions and functionality, and the generation of conformational and lineal B- and T-cell epitopes variability.
Our results revealed that while the general fold is conserved among profilins, substantial structural differences were found, particularly affecting the special distribution and length of different 2-D structural elements (i.e. cysteine residues), characteristic loops and coils, and numerous micro-heterogeneities present in fundamental residues directly involved in the interacting motifs, and to some extension these residues nearby to the ligand-interacting areas. Differential changes as result of polymorphism might contribute to generate functional variability among the plethora of profilin isoforms present in the olive pollen from different genetic background (olive cultivars), and between plant species, since biochemical interacting properties and binding affinities to natural ligands may be affected, particularly the interactions with different actin isoforms and phosphoinositides lipids species.
Furthermore, conspicuous variability in lineal and conformational epitopes was found between profilins belonging to the same olive cultivar, and among different cultivars as direct implication of sequences polymorphism. The variability of the residues taking part of IgE-binding epitopes might be the final responsible of the differences in cross-reactivity among olive pollen cultivars, among pollen and plant-derived food allergens, as well as between distantly related pollen species, leading to a variable range of allergy reactions among atopic patients. Identification and analysis of commonly shared and specific epitopes in profilin isoforms is essential to gain knowledge about the interacting surface of these epitopes, and for a better understanding of immune responses, helping design and development of rational and effective immunotherapy strategies for the treatment of allergy diseases.
PMCID: PMC3798325  PMID: 24146818
18.  Effects of Various Flavonoids on the α-Synuclein Fibrillation Process 
Parkinson's Disease  2010;2010:650794.
α-Synuclein aggregation and fibrillation are closely associated with the formation of Lewy bodies in neurons and are implicated in the causative pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other synucleinopathies. Currently, there is no approved therapeutic agent directed toward preventing the protein aggregation, which has been recently shown to have a key role in the cytotoxic nature of amyloidogenic proteins. Flavonoids, known as plant pigments, belong to a broad family of polyphenolic compounds. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been identified from various plants and foodstuffs derived from plants and have been demonstrated as potential neuroprotective agents. In this study 48 flavonoids belonging to several classes with structures differing in the position of double bonds and ring substituents were tested for their ability to inhibit the fibrillation of α-synuclein in vitro. A variety of flavonoids inhibited α-synuclein fibrillation, and most of the strong inhibitory flavonoids were also found to disaggregate preformed fibrils.
PMCID: PMC2957276  PMID: 20976092
19.  The Mysterious Unfoldome: Structureless, Underappreciated, Yet Vital Part of Any Given Proteome 
Contrarily to the general believe, many biologically active proteins lack stable tertiary and/or secondary structure under physiological conditions in vitro. These intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are highly abundant in nature and many of them are associated with various human diseases. The functional repertoire of IDPs complements the functions of ordered proteins. Since IDPs constitute a significant portion of any given proteome, they can be combined in an unfoldome; which is a portion of the proteome including all IDPs (also known as natively unfolded proteins, therefore, unfoldome), and describing their functions, structures, interactions, evolution, and so forth. Amino acid sequence and compositions of IDPs are very different from those of ordered proteins, making possible reliable identification of IDPs at the proteome level by various computational means. Furthermore, IDPs possess a number of unique structural properties and are characterized by a peculiar conformational behavior, including their high stability against low pH and high temperature and their structural indifference toward the unfolding by strong denaturants. These peculiarities were shown to be useful for elaboration of the experimental techniques for the large-scale identification of IDPs in various organisms. Some of the computational and experimental tools for the unfoldome discovery are discussed in this review.
PMCID: PMC2789583  PMID: 20011072
20.  AcalPred: A Sequence-Based Tool for Discriminating between Acidic and Alkaline Enzymes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75726.
The structure and activity of enzymes are influenced by pH value of their surroundings. Although many enzymes work well in the pH range from 6 to 8, some specific enzymes have good efficiencies only in acidic (pH<5) or alkaline (pH>9) solution. Studies have demonstrated that the activities of enzymes correlate with their primary sequences. It is crucial to judge enzyme adaptation to acidic or alkaline environment from its amino acid sequence in molecular mechanism clarification and the design of high efficient enzymes. In this study, we developed a sequence-based method to discriminate acidic enzymes from alkaline enzymes. The analysis of variance was used to choose the optimized discriminating features derived from g-gap dipeptide compositions. And support vector machine was utilized to establish the prediction model. In the rigorous jackknife cross-validation, the overall accuracy of 96.7% was achieved. The method can correctly predict 96.3% acidic and 97.1% alkaline enzymes. Through the comparison between the proposed method and previous methods, it is demonstrated that the proposed method is more accurate. On the basis of this proposed method, we have built an online web-server called AcalPred which can be freely accessed from the website ( We believe that the AcalPred will become a powerful tool to study enzyme adaptation to acidic or alkaline environment.
PMCID: PMC3794003  PMID: 24130738
21.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae–Based Platform for Rapid Production and Evaluation of Eukaryotic Nutrient Transporters and Transceptors for Biochemical Studies and Crystallography 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76851.
To produce large quantities of high quality eukaryotic membrane proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we modified a high-copy vector to express membrane proteins C-terminally-fused to a Tobacco Etch Virus (TEV) protease detachable Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)-8His tag, which facilitates localization, quantification, quality control, and purification. Using this expression system we examined the production of a human glucose transceptor and 11 nutrient transporters and transceptors from S. cerevisiae that have not previously been overexpressed in S. cerevisiae and purified. Whole-cell GFP-fluorescence showed that induction of GFP-fusion synthesis from a galactose-inducible promoter at 15°C resulted in stable accumulation of the fusions in the plasma membrane and in intracellular membranes. Expression levels of the 12 fusions estimated by GFP-fluorescence were in the range of 0.4 mg to 1.7 mg transporter pr. liter cell culture. A detergent screen showed that n-dodecyl-ß-D-maltopyranoside (DDM) is acceptable for solubilization of the membrane-integrated fusions. Extracts of solubilized membranes were prepared with this detergent and used for purifications by Ni-NTA affinity chromatography, which yielded partially purified full-length fusions. Most of the fusions were readily cleaved at a TEV protease site between the membrane protein and the GFP-8His tag. Using the yeast oligopeptide transporter Ptr2 as an example, we further demonstrate that almost pure transporters, free of the GFP-8His tag, can be achieved by TEV protease cleavage followed by reverse immobilized metal-affinity chromatography. The quality of the GFP-fusions was analysed by fluorescence size-exclusion chromatography. Membranes solubilized in DDM resulted in preparations containing aggregated fusions. However, 9 of the fusions solubilized in DDM in presence of cholesteryl hemisuccinate and specific substrates, yielded monodisperse preparations with only minor amounts of aggregated membrane proteins. In conclusion, we developed a new effective S. cerevisiae expression system that may be used for production of high-quality eukaryotic membrane proteins for functional and structural analysis.
PMCID: PMC3790737  PMID: 24124599
22.  Comparative Molecular Docking Analysis of Cytoplasmic Dynein Light Chain DYNLL1 with Pilin to Explore the Molecular Mechanism of Pathogenesis Caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76730.
Cytoplasmic dynein light chain 1 (DYNLL1) is a component of large protein complex, which is implicated in cargo transport processes, and is known to interact with many cellular and viral proteins through its short consensus motif (K/R)XTQT. Still, it remains to be explored that bacterial proteins also exhibit similar recognition sequences to make them vulnerable to host defense mechanism. We employed multiple docking protocols including AUTODOCK, PatchDock, ZDOCK, DOCK/PIERR and CLUSPRO to explore the DYNLL1 and Pilin interaction followed by molecular dynamics simulation assays. Subsequent structural comparison of the predicted binding site for DYNLL1-Pilin complex against the experimentally verified DYNLL1 binding partners was performed to cross check the residual contributions and to determine the binding mode. On the basis of in silico analysis, here we describe a novel interaction of DYNLL1 and receptor binding domain of Pilin (the main protein constituent of bacterial type IV Pili) of gram negative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PAO), which is the third most common nosocomial pathogen associated with the life-threatening infections. Evidently, our results underscore that Pilin specific motif (KSTQD) exhibits a close structural similarity to that of Vaccinia virus polymerase, P protein Rabies and P protein Mokola viruses. We speculate that binding of DYNLL1 to Pilin may trigger an uncontrolled inflammatory response of the host immune system during P. aeruginosa chronic infections thereby opening a new pioneering area to investigate the role of DYNLL1 in gram negative bacterial infections other than viral infections. Moreover, by manifesting a strict correspondence between sequence and function, our study anticipates a novel drug target site to control the complications caused by P. aeruginosa infections.
PMCID: PMC3789673  PMID: 24098557
23.  High-Throughput Characterization of Intrinsic Disorder in Proteins from the Protein Structure Initiative 
Journal of structural biology  2012;180(1):201-215.
The identification of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) among the targets that fail to form satisfactory crystal structures in the Protein Structure Initiative represent a key to reducing the costs and time for determining three-dimensional structures of proteins. To help in this endeavor, several Protein Structure Initiative Centers were asked to send samples of both crystallizable proteins and proteins that failed to crystallize. The abundance of intrinsic disorder in these proteins was evaluated via computational analysis using Predictors of Natural Disordered Regions (PONDR®) and the potential cleavage sites and corresponding fragments were determined. Then, the target proteins were analyzed for intrinsic disorder by their resistance to limited proteolysis. The rates of tryptic digestion of sample target proteins were compared to those of lysozyme/myoglobin, apo-myoglobin and α-casein as standards of ordered, partially disordered and completely disordered proteins, respectively. At the next stage, the protein samples were subjected to both far-UV and near-UV circular dichroism (CD) analysis. For most of the samples, a good agreement between CD data, predictions of disorder and the rates of limited tryptic digestion was established. Further experimentation is being performed on a smaller subset of these samples in order to obtain more detailed information on the ordered/disordered nature of the proteins.
PMCID: PMC3578346  PMID: 22651963
Intrinsically disordered proteins; protein disorder prediction; Protein Structure Initiative; limited proteolysis
24.  Biophysics of Parkinson’s Disease: Structure and Aggregation of α-Synuclein 
Current protein & peptide science  2009;10(5):483-499.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a slowly progressive movement disorder that results from the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a small area of cells in the mid-brain. PD is a multifactorial disorder with unknown etiology, in which both genetic and environmental factors play important roles. Substantial evidence links α-synuclein, a small highly conserved presynaptic protein with unknown function, to both familial and sporadic PD. Rare familial cases of PD are associated with missense point mutations in α-synuclein, or with the hyper-expression of the wild type protein due to its gene duplication/triplication. Furthermore, α-synuclein was identified as the major component of amyloid fibrils found in Lewy body and Lewy neurites, the characteristic proteinaceous deposits that are the diagnostic hallmarks of PD. α-Synuclein is abundant in various regions of the brain and has two closely related homologs, β-synuclein and γ-synuclein. When isolated in solution, the protein is intrinsically disordered, but in the presence of lipid surfaces α-synuclein adopts a highly helical structure that is believed to mediate its normal function(s). A number of different conformational states of α-synuclein have been observed. Besides the membrane-bound form, other critical conformations include a partially-folded state that is a key intermediate in aggregation and fibrillation, various oligomeric species, and fibrillar and amorphous aggregates. A number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that either accelerate or inhibit the rate of α-synuclein aggregation and fibrillation in vitro are known. There is a strong correlation between the conformation of α-synuclein (induced by various factors) and its rate of fibrillation. The aggregation process appears to be branched, with one pathway leading to fibrils and another to oligomeric intermediates that may ultimately form amorphous deposits. The molecular basis of Parkinson’s disease appears to be tightly coupled to the aggregation of α-synuclein and the factors that affect its conformation. This review focuses on the contributions of Prof. Anthony L. Fink to the field and presents some recent developments in this exciting area.
PMCID: PMC3786709  PMID: 19538146
α-Synuclein; synucleinopathies; aggregation; amyloid; fibril; neurodegeneration; intrinsically disordered protein; NMR; partially folded intermediate
25.  Acroframosome-Dependent KIFC1 Facilitates Acrosome Formation during Spermatogenesis in the Caridean Shrimp Exopalaemon modestus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e76065.
Acrosome formation and nuclear shaping are the main events in spermatogenesis. During spermiogenesis in Exopalaemon modestus, a unique microtubular structure called the acroframosome (AFS) forms in spermatids. The AFS links to a temporary organelle called the lamellar complex (LCx) leading to the formation of an everted umbrella-shaped acrosome and a dish-shaped nucleus in the mature sperm. These morphological changes require complex cell motility in which the C-terminal kinesin motor protein called KIFC1 is involved. In this study, we demonstrate that KIFC1 moves along the AFS and plays an important role in acrosome formation and nuclear shaping during spermatogenesis in E. modestus.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We cloned a 3125 bp complete cDNA of kifc1 from the testis of E. modestus by PCR. The predicted secondary and tertiary structures of E. modestus KIFC1 contain three domains: a) the C-terminus, b) the stalk region, and the c) N-terminusl. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR detected the expression of kifc1 mRNA in different tissues of E. modestus. In situ hybridization demonstrated the temporal and spatial expression profile of kifc1 during spermiogenesis. Western blot identified the expression of KIFC1 in different tissues of E. modestus, including the testis. Immunofluorescence localized KIFC1, tubulin, GM130, and mitochondria in order to elucidate their role during spermiogenesis in E. modestus.
Our results indicate that KIFC1 transports the Golgi complex, mitochondria, and other cellular components that results in acrosome formation and nuclear shaping in E. modestus. The KIFC1 transport function depends upon the microtubular structure called the acroframosome (AFS). This study describes some of the molecular mechanisms involved in the acrosome formation and nuclear shaping in E. modestus. In addition, this study may provide a model for studying the molecular mechanisms involved in spermatogenesis in other crustacean species and lead to a better understanding of the fertilization process in crustaceans.
PMCID: PMC3786892  PMID: 24098763

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