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1.  Structural basis of the methylation specificity of R.DpnI 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(13):8745-8754.
R.DpnI consists of N-terminal catalytic and C-terminal winged helix domains that are separately specific for the Gm6ATC sequences in Dam-methylated DNA. Here we present a crystal structure of R.DpnI with oligoduplexes bound to the catalytic and winged helix domains and identify the catalytic domain residues that are involved in interactions with the substrate methyl groups. We show that these methyl groups in the Gm6ATC target sequence are positioned very close to each other. We further show that the presence of the two methyl groups requires a deviation from B-DNA conformation to avoid steric conflict. The methylation compatible DNA conformation is complementary with binding sites of both R.DpnI domains. This indirect readout of methylation adds to the specificity mediated by direct favorable interactions with the methyl groups and solvation/desolvation effects. We also present hydrogen/deuterium exchange data that support ‘crosstalk’ between the two domains in the identification of methylated DNA, which should further enhance R.DpnI methylation specificity.
PMCID: PMC4117772  PMID: 24966351
2.  Architecture and functions of a multipartite genome of the methylotrophic bacterium Paracoccus aminophilus JCM 7686, containing primary and secondary chromids 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:124.
Paracoccus aminophilus JCM 7686 is a methylotrophic α-Proteobacterium capable of utilizing reduced one-carbon compounds as sole carbon and energy source for growth, including toxic N,N-dimethylformamide, formamide, methanol, and methylamines, which are widely used in the industry. P. aminophilus JCM 7686, as many other Paracoccus spp., possesses a genome representing a multipartite structure, in which the genomic information is split between various replicons, including chromids, essential plasmid-like replicons, with properties of both chromosomes and plasmids. In this study, whole-genome sequencing and functional genomics approaches were applied to investigate P. aminophilus genome information.
The P. aminophilus JCM 7686 genome has a multipartite structure, composed of a single circular chromosome and eight additional replicons ranging in size between 5.6 and 438.1 kb. Functional analyses revealed that two of the replicons, pAMI5 and pAMI6, are essential for host viability, therefore they should be considered as chromids. Both replicons carry housekeeping genes, e.g. responsible for de novo NAD biosynthesis and ammonium transport. Other mobile genetic elements have also been identified, including 20 insertion sequences, 4 transposons and 10 prophage regions, one of which represents a novel, functional serine recombinase-encoding bacteriophage, ϕPam-6. Moreover, in silico analyses allowed us to predict the transcription regulatory network of the JCM 7686 strain, as well as components of the stress response, recombination, repair and methylation machineries. Finally, comparative genomic analyses revealed that P. aminophilus JCM 7686 has a relatively distant relationship to other representatives of the genus Paracoccus.
P. aminophilus genome exploration provided insights into the overall structure and functions of the genome, with a special focus on the chromids. Based on the obtained results we propose the classification of bacterial chromids into two types: “primary” chromids, which are indispensable for host viability and “secondary” chromids, which are essential, but only under some environmental conditions and which were probably formed quite recently in the course of evolution. Detailed genome investigation and its functional analysis, makes P. aminophilus JCM 7686 a suitable reference strain for the genus Paracoccus. Moreover, this study has increased knowledge on overall genome structure and composition of members within the class Alphaproteobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3925955  PMID: 24517536
Paracoccus aminophilus JCM 7686; Genome; Chromid; Plasmid; Mobile genetic element; Bacteriophage
3.  Novel non-specific DNA adenine methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):2119-2130.
The mom gene of bacteriophage Mu encodes an enzyme that converts adenine to N6-(1-acetamido)-adenine in the phage DNA and thereby protects the viral genome from cleavage by a wide variety of restriction endonucleases. Mu-like prophage sequences present in Haemophilus influenzae Rd (FluMu), Neisseria meningitidis type A strain Z2491 (Pnme1) and H. influenzae biotype aegyptius ATCC 11116 do not possess a Mom-encoding gene. Instead, at the position occupied by mom in Mu they carry an unrelated gene that encodes a protein with homology to DNA adenine N6-methyltransferases (hin1523, nma1821, hia5, respectively). Products of the hin1523, hia5 and nma1821 genes modify adenine residues to N6-methyladenine, both in vitro and in vivo. All of these enzymes catalyzed extensive DNA methylation; most notably the Hia5 protein caused the methylation of 61% of the adenines in λ DNA. Kinetic analysis of oligonucleotide methylation suggests that all adenine residues in DNA, with the possible exception of poly(A)-tracts, constitute substrates for the Hia5 and Hin1523 enzymes. Their potential ‘sequence specificity’ could be summarized as AB or BA (where B = C, G or T). Plasmid DNA isolated from Escherichia coli cells overexpressing these novel DNA methyltransferases was resistant to cleavage by many restriction enzymes sensitive to adenine methylation.
PMCID: PMC3299994  PMID: 22102579
4.  Inference of relationships in the ‘twilight zone’ of homology using a combination of bioinformatics and site-directed mutagenesis: a case study of restriction endonucleases Bsp6I and PvuII 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(2):661-671.
Thus far, identification of functionally important residues in Type II restriction endonucleases (REases) has been difficult using conventional methods. Even though known REase structures share a fold and marginally recognizable active site, the overall sequence similarities are statistically insignificant, unless compared among proteins that recognize identical or very similar sequences. Bsp6I is a Type II REase, which recognizes the palindromic DNA sequence 5′GCNGC and cleaves between the cytosine and the unspecified nucleotide in both strands, generating a double-strand break with 5′-protruding single nucleotides. There are no solved structures of REases that recognize similar DNA targets or generate cleavage products with similar characteristics. In straightforward comparisons, the Bsp6I sequence shows no significant similarity to REases with known structures. However, using a fold-recognition approach, we have identified a remote relationship between Bsp6I and the structure of PvuII. Starting from the sequence–structure alignment between Bsp6I and PvuII, we constructed a homology model of Bsp6I and used it to predict functionally significant regions in Bsp6I. The homology model was supported by site-directed mutagenesis of residues predicted to be important for dimerization, DNA binding and catalysis. Completing the picture of sequence–structure–function relationships in protein superfamilies becomes an essential task in the age of structural genomics and our study may serve as a paradigm for future analyses of superfamilies comprising strongly diverged members with little or no sequence similarity.
PMCID: PMC548357  PMID: 15684412
5.  mRNA:guanine-N7 cap methyltransferases: identification of novel members of the family, evolutionary analysis, homology modeling, and analysis of sequence-structure-function relationships 
BMC Bioinformatics  2001;2:2.
The 5'-terminal cap structure plays an important role in many aspects of mRNA metabolism. Capping enzymes encoded by viruses and pathogenic fungi are attractive targets for specific inhibitors. There is a large body of experimental data on viral and cellular methyltransferases (MTases) that carry out guanine-N7 (cap 0) methylation, including results of extensive mutagenesis. However, a crystal structure is not available and cap 0 MTases are too diverged from other MTases of known structure to allow straightforward homology-based interpretation of these data.
We report a 3D model of cap 0 MTase, developed using sequence-to-structure threading and comparative modeling based on coordinates of the glycine N-methyltransferase. Analysis of the predicted structural features in the phylogenetic context of the cap 0 MTase family allows us to rationalize most of the experimental data available and to propose potential binding sites. We identified a case of correlated mutations in the cofactor-binding site of viral MTases that may be important for the rational drug design. Furthermore, database searches and phylogenetic analysis revealed a novel subfamily of hypothetical MTases from plants, distinct from "orthodox" cap 0 MTases.
Computational methods were used to infer the evolutionary relationships and predict the structure of Eukaryotic cap MTase. Identification of novel cap MTase homologs suggests candidates for cloning and biochemical characterization, while the structural model will be useful in designing new experiments to better understand the molecular function of cap MTases.
PMCID: PMC35267  PMID: 11472630

Results 1-5 (5)