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1.  O-GlcNAcase: Promiscuous Hexosaminidase or Key Regulator of O-GlcNAc Signaling? 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(50):34433-34439.
O-GlcNAc signaling is regulated by an opposing pair of enzymes: O-GlcNAc transferase installs and O-GlcNAcase (OGA) removes the modification from proteins. The dynamics and regulation of this process are only beginning to be understood as the physiological functions of both enzymes are being probed using genetic and pharmacological approaches. This minireview charts the discovery and functional and structural analysis of OGA and summarizes the insights gained from recent studies using OGA inhibition, gene knock-out, and overexpression. We identify several areas of “known unknowns” that would benefit from future research, such as the enigmatic C-terminal domain of OGA.
PMCID: PMC4263850  PMID: 25336650
Cell Signaling; Enzyme Inhibitor; Epigenetics; Genetics; Glycobiology; Protein Structure
2.  Screening-based discovery of Aspergillus fumigatus plant-type chitinase inhibitors 
Febs Letters  2014;588(17):3282-3290.
•We performed a high-throughput screen of 60,000 compounds against A. fumigatus chitinase A1.•Novel low micromolar competitive inhibitors were identified.•These represent the most potent selective plant-type A. fumigatus chitinase inhibitors to date.•We provide new tools for probing chitinase inhibition in A. fumigatus and other fungi.
A limited therapeutic arsenal against increasing clinical disease due to Aspergillus spp. necessitates urgent characterisation of new antifungal targets. Here we describe the discovery of novel, low micromolar chemical inhibitors of Aspergillus fumigatus family 18 plant-type chitinase A1 (AfChiA1) by high-throughput screening (HTS). Analysis of the binding mode by X-ray crystallography confirmed competitive inhibition and kinetic studies revealed two compounds with selectivity towards fungal plant-type chitinases. These inhibitors provide new chemical tools to probe the effects of chitinase inhibition on A. fumigatus growth and virulence, presenting attractive starting points for the development of further potent drug-like molecules.
PMCID: PMC4158421  PMID: 25063338
HTS, high-throughput screen/screening; GlcNAc, N-acetylglucosamine; AfChiA1, Aspergillus fumigatus chitinase A1; ScCTS1, Saccharomyces cerevisiae chitinase 1; AfChiB, Aspergillus fumigatus chitinase B1; AMCase, acidic mammalian chitinase; HsCHT, Homo sapiens chitotriosidase (chitinase 1); PI, percentage inhibition; Chitinases; Inhibitors; High-throughput screen (HTS); Aspergillus fumigatus
3.  A Structural and Biochemical Model of Processive Chitin Synthesis* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(33):23020-23028.
Background: Chitin synthesis is an attractive drug target in a range of organisms but is not understood at the molecular level.
Results: The chitooligosaccharide synthase NodC can be assayed with a novel HTS assay, and the mechanism/fold can be probed by site-directed mutagenesis and topology mapping.
Conclusion: NodC is a model system to probe chitin synthesis.
Significance: This work enables the exploitation of chitin synthesis as a drug target.
Chitin synthases (CHS) produce chitin, an essential component of the fungal cell wall. The molecular mechanism of processive chitin synthesis is not understood, limiting the discovery of new inhibitors of this enzyme class. We identified the bacterial glycosyltransferase NodC as an appropriate model system to study the general structure and reaction mechanism of CHS. A high throughput screening-compatible novel assay demonstrates that a known inhibitor of fungal CHS also inhibit NodC. A structural model of NodC, on the basis of the recently published BcsA cellulose synthase structure, enabled probing of the catalytic mechanism by mutagenesis, demonstrating the essential roles of the DD and QXXRW catalytic motifs. The NodC membrane topology was mapped, validating the structural model. Together, these approaches give insight into the CHS structure and mechanism and provide a platform for the discovery of inhibitors for this antifungal target.
PMCID: PMC4132801  PMID: 24942743
Carbohydrate Biosynthesis; Enzyme Inhibitor; Enzyme Mechanism; Glycosyltransferase; Protein Structure
4.  Structure of a bacterial putative acetyltransferase defines the fold of the human O-GlcNAcase C-terminal domain 
Open Biology  2013;3(10):130021.
The dynamic modification of proteins by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is an essential posttranslational modification present in higher eukaryotes. Removal of O-GlcNAc is catalysed by O-GlcNAcase, a multi-domain enzyme that has been reported to be bifunctional, possessing both glycoside hydrolase and histone acetyltransferase (AT) activity. Insights into the mechanism, protein substrate recognition and inhibition of the hydrolase domain of human OGA (hOGA) have been obtained via the use of the structures of bacterial homologues. However, the molecular basis of AT activity of OGA, which has only been reported in vitro, is not presently understood. Here, we describe the crystal structure of a putative acetyltransferase (OgpAT) that we identified in the genome of the marine bacterium Oceanicola granulosus, showing homology to the hOGA C-terminal AT domain (hOGA-AT). The structure of OgpAT in complex with acetyl coenzyme A (AcCoA) reveals that, by homology modelling, hOGA-AT adopts a variant AT fold with a unique loop creating a deep tunnel. The structures, together with mutagenesis and surface plasmon resonance data, reveal that while the bacterial OgpAT binds AcCoA, the hOGA-AT does not, as explained by the lack of key residues normally required to bind AcCoA. Thus, the C-terminal domain of hOGA is a catalytically incompetent ‘pseudo’-AT.
PMCID: PMC3814719  PMID: 24088714
signalling; O-GlcNAc; glycobiology; protein structure
5.  A Novel Allosteric Inhibitor of the Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine Pyrophosphorylase from Trypanosoma brucei 
ACS Chemical Biology  2013;8(9):1981-1987.
Uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase (UAP) catalyzes the final reaction in the biosynthesis of UDP-GlcNAc, an essential metabolite in many organisms including Trypanosoma brucei, the etiological agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis. High-throughput screening of recombinant T. brucei UAP identified a UTP-competitive inhibitor with selectivity over the human counterpart despite the high level of conservation of active site residues. Biophysical characterization of the UAP enzyme kinetics revealed that the human and trypanosome enzymes both display a strictly ordered bi–bi mechanism, but with the order of substrate binding reversed. Structural characterization of the T. brucei UAP–inhibitor complex revealed that the inhibitor binds at an allosteric site absent in the human homologue that prevents the conformational rearrangement required to bind UTP. The identification of a selective inhibitory allosteric binding site in the parasite enzyme has therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC3780468  PMID: 23834437
6.  Genetic and structural validation of Aspergillus fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase as an antifungal target 
Bioscience Reports  2013;33(5):e00063.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the causative agent of IA (invasive aspergillosis) in immunocompromised patients. It possesses a cell wall composed of chitin, glucan and galactomannan, polymeric carbohydrates synthesized by processive glycosyltransferases from intracellular sugar nucleotide donors. Here we demonstrate that A. fumigatus possesses an active AfAGM1 (A. fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase), a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of UDP (uridine diphosphate)–GlcNAc (N-acetylglucosamine), the nucleotide sugar donor for chitin synthesis. A conditional agm1 mutant revealed the gene to be essential. Reduced expression of agm1 resulted in retarded cell growth and altered cell wall ultrastructure and composition. The crystal structure of AfAGM1 revealed an amino acid change in the active site compared with the human enzyme, which could be exploitable in the design of selective inhibitors. AfAGM1 inhibitors were discovered by high-throughput screening, inhibiting the enzyme with IC50s in the low μM range. Together, these data provide a platform for the future development of AfAGM1 inhibitors with antifungal activity.
PMCID: PMC3763426  PMID: 23844980
cell wall; drug target; enzyme; inhibitor; nucleotide sugar; protein structure; AfAGM1, A. fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase; AGM1, N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase; CaAGM1, Candida albicans AGM1; Fru-6P, fructose 6-phosphate; G6PDH, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase; GlcNAc, N-acetylglucosamine; GlcNAc-1P, N-acetylglucosamine-1-phosphate; GlcN-6P, glucosamine 6-phosphate; GFA1, glutamine: Fru-6P amidotransferase; GNA1, GlcN-6P acetyltransferase; IA, invasive aspergillosis; MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration; MM, minimal medium; RMSD, root mean square deviation; UAP1, UDP–GlcNAc pyrophosphorylase; UDP, uridine diphosphate
7.  Yeast Mnn9 is both a priming glycosyltransferase and an allosteric activator of mannan biosynthesis 
Open Biology  2013;3(9):130022.
The fungal cell possesses an essential carbohydrate cell wall. The outer layer, mannan, is formed by mannoproteins carrying highly mannosylated O- and N-linked glycans. Yeast mannan biosynthesis is initiated by a Golgi-located complex (M-Pol I) of two GT-62 mannosyltransferases, Mnn9p and Van1p, that are conserved in fungal pathogens. Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans mnn9 knockouts show an aberrant cell wall and increased antibiotic sensitivity, suggesting the enzyme is a potential drug target. Here, we present the structure of ScMnn9 in complex with GDP and Mn2+, defining the fold and catalytic machinery of the GT-62 family. Compared with distantly related GT-78/GT-15 enzymes, ScMnn9 carries an unusual extension. Using a novel enzyme assay and site-directed mutagenesis, we identify conserved amino acids essential for ScMnn9 ‘priming’ α-1,6-mannosyltransferase activity. Strikingly, both the presence of the ScMnn9 protein and its product, but not ScMnn9 catalytic activity, are required to activate subsequent ScVan1 processive α-1,6-mannosyltransferase activity in the M-Pol I complex. These results reveal the molecular basis of mannan synthesis and will aid development of inhibitors targeting this process.
PMCID: PMC3787745  PMID: 24026536
cell wall; glycobiology; glycosyltransferase; mannan; M-Pol I; protein crystallography
8.  O-GlcNAc transferase invokes nucleotide sugar pyrophosphate participation in catalysis 
Nature chemical biology  2012;8(12):969-974.
Protein O-GlcNAcylation is an essential post-translational modification on hundreds of intracellular proteins in metazoa, catalyzed by O-GlcNAc transferase using unknown mechanisms of transfer and substrate recognition. Through crystallographic snapshots and mechanism-inspired chemical probes, we define how human O-GlcNAc transferase recognizes the sugar donor and acceptor peptide and employs a novel catalytic mechanism of glycosyl transfer, involving the sugar donor α-phosphate as the catalytic base, as well as an essential lysine. This mechanism appears to be a unique evolutionary solution to the spatial constraints imposed by a bulky protein acceptor substrate, and explains the unexpected specificity of a recently reported metabolic O-GlcNAc transferase inhibitor.
PMCID: PMC3509171  PMID: 23103942
9.  Protein O-GlcNAcylation Is Required for Fibroblast Growth Factor Signaling in Drosophila 
Science signaling  2011;4(204):ra89.
Glycosylation is essential for growth factor signaling through N-glycosylation of ligands and receptors and the biosynthesis of proteoglycans as co-receptors. Here, we show that protein O-GlcNAcylation is crucial for fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling in Drosophila. We found that nesthocker (nst) encodes a phosphoacetylglucosamine mutase and that nst mutant embryos exhibited low amounts of intracellular uridine 5′-diphosphate–N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc), which disrupted protein O-GlcNAcylation. Nst was required for mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling downstream of FGF but not MAPK signaling activated by epidermal growth factor. nst was dispensable for the function of the FGF ligands and the FGF receptor’s extracellular domain but was essential in the signal-receiving cells downstream of the FGF receptor. We identified the adaptor protein Downstream of FGF receptor (Dof), which interacts with the FGF receptor, as the relevant target for O-GlcNAcylation in the FGF pathway, suggesting that protein O-GlcNAcylation of the activated receptor complex is essential for FGF signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC3660836  PMID: 22375049
10.  Natural product-guided discovery of a fungal chitinase inhibitor 
Chemistry & biology  2010;17(12):1275-1281.
Natural products are often large, synthetically intractable molecules, yet frequently offer surprising inroads into previously unexplored chemical space for enzyme inhibitors. Argifin is a cyclic pentapeptide that was originally isolated as a fungal natural product. It competitively inhibits family 18 chitinases by mimicking the chitooligosaccharide substrate of these enzymes. Interestingly, argifin is a nanomolar inhibitor of the bacterial-type subfamily of fungal chitinases that possess an extensive chitin-binding groove, but does not inhibit the much smaller, plant-type enzymes from the same family that are involved in fungal cell division and are thought to be potential drug targets. Here we show that a small, highly efficient, argifin-derived nine-atom fragment is a micromolar inhibitor of the plant-type chitinase ChiA1 from the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Evaluation of the binding mode with the first crystal structure of an A. fumigatus plant-type chitinase reveals that the compound binds the catalytic machinery in the same manner as observed for argifin with the bacterial-type chitinases. The structure of the complex was used to guide synthesis of derivatives to explore a pocket near the catalytic machinery. This work provides synthetically tractable plant-type family 18 chitinase inhibitors from the repurposing of a natural product.
PMCID: PMC3518266  PMID: 21168763
11.  Structure of the LKB1-STRAD-MO25 complex reveals an allosteric mechanism of kinase activation 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;326(5960):1707-1711.
The LKB1 tumor suppressor is a protein kinase that controls activity of adenine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). LKB1 activity is regulated by the pseudokinase STRADα and the scaffolding protein MO25α, through an unknown, phosphorylation-independent, mechanism. We describe the structure of the core heterotrimeric LKB1-STRADα-MO25α complex, revealing an unusual allosteric mechanism of LKB1 activation. STRADα adopts a closed conformation typical of active protein kinases and binds LKB1 as a pseudosubstrate. STRADα and MO25α promote the active conformation of LKB1, which is stabilised by MO25α interacting with the LKB1 activation loop. This previously undescribed mechanism of kinase activation may be relevant to understanding the evolution of other pseudokinases. The structure also reveals how mutations found in Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and other cancers impair LKB1 function.
PMCID: PMC3518268  PMID: 19892943
12.  Molecular mechanism of elongation factor 1A inhibition by a Legionella pneumophila glycosyltransferase 
The Biochemical journal  2010;426(3):281-292.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a lethal colonization of alveolar macrophages with the Gram-negative bacterium Legionella pneumophila. LpGT (L. pneumophila glucosyltransferase; also known as Lgt1) has recently been identified as a virulence factor, shutting down protein synthesis in the human cell by specific glucosylation of EF1A (elongation factor 1A), using an unknown mode of substrate recognition and a retaining mechanism for glycosyl transfer. We have determined the crystal structure of LpGT in complex with substrates, revealing a GT-A fold with two unusual protruding domains. Through structure-guided mutagenesis of LpGT, several residues essential for binding of the UDP-glucose-donor and EF1A-acceptor substrates were identified, which also affected L. pneumophila virulence as demonstrated by microinjection studies. Together, these results suggested that a positively charged EF1A loop binds to a negatively charged conserved groove on the LpGT structure, and that two asparagine residues are essential for catalysis. Furthermore, we showed that two further L. pneumophila glycosyltransferases possessed the conserved UDP-glucose-binding sites and EF1A-binding grooves, and are, like LpGT, translocated into the macrophage through the Icm/Dot (intracellular multiplication/defect in organelle trafficking) system.
PMCID: PMC3518269  PMID: 20030628
elongation factor 1A (EF1A); glucosyl transferase; Legionella pneumophila; microinjection; site-directed mutagenesis; protein structure
13.  Human YKL-39 is a pseudo-chitinase with retained chitooligosaccharide-binding properties 
The Biochemical journal  2012;446(1):149-157.
The chitinase-like proteins YKL-39 (chitinase 3-like-2) and YKL-40 (chitinase 3-like-1) are highly expressed in a number of human cells independent of their origin (mesenchymal, epithelial or haemapoietic). Elevated serum levels of YKL-40 have been associated with a negative outcome in a number of diseases ranging from cancer to inflammation and asthma. YKL-39 expression has been associated with osteoarthritis. However, despite the reported association with disease, the physiological or pathological role of these proteins is still very poorly understood. Although YKL-39 is homologous to the two family 18 chitinases in the human genome, it has been reported to lack any chitinase activity. In the present study, we show that human YKL-39 possesses a chitinase-like fold, but lacks key active-site residues required for catalysis. A glycan screen identified oligomers of N-acetylglucosamine as preferred binding partners. YKL-39 binds chitooligosaccharides and a newly synthesized derivative of the bisdionin chitinase-inhibitor class with micromolar affinity, through a number of conserved tryptophan residues. Strikingly, the chitinase activity of YKL-39 was recovered by reverting two non-conservative substitutions in the active site to those found in the active enzymes, suggesting that YKL-39 is a pseudo-chitinase with retention of chitinase-like ligand-binding properties.
PMCID: PMC3513709  PMID: 22742450
chitinase; chitinase-like proteins; glycan; glycan array; glycobiology; protein structure; lectin; X-ray crystallography
14.  O-GlcnAc transfer: size matters 
Nature chemical biology  2011;7(3):134-135.
O-GlcNAc transferase is an essential protein catalyzing the O-GlcNAc modification of hundreds of intracellular proteins in higher eukaryotes. The structure of human O-GlcNAc transferase represents a leap in our understanding of the catalytic mechanism and recognition of protein substrates.
PMCID: PMC3513710  PMID: 21321551
15.  Structural and biochemical characterization of a trapped coenzyme A adduct of Caenorhabditis elegans glucosamine-6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase 1 
Glucosamine-6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase is an essential enzyme of the eukaryotic UDP-GlcNAc biosynthetic pathway. A crystal structure at 1.55 Å resolution revealed a highly unusual covalent product complex and biochemical studies investigated the function of a fully conserved active-site cysteine.
Glucosamine-6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase 1 (GNA1) produces GlcNAc-6-phosphate from GlcN-6-phosphate and acetyl coenzyme A. Early mercury-labelling experiments implicated a conserved cysteine in the reaction mechanism, whereas recent structural data appear to support a mechanism in which this cysteine plays no role. Here, two crystal structures of Caenorhabditis elegans GNA1 are reported, revealing an unusual covalent complex between this cysteine and the coenzyme A product. Mass-spectrometric and reduction studies showed that this inactive covalent complex can be reactivated through reduction, yet mutagenesis of the cysteine supports a previously reported bi-bi mechanism. The data unify the apparently contradictory earlier reports on the role of a cysteine in the GNA1 active site.
PMCID: PMC3413214  PMID: 22868768
carbohydrates; glycobiology; Caenorhabditis elegans; glucosamine-6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase; coenzyme A adduct; mechanism
16.  Bisdionin C—A Rationally Designed, Submicromolar Inhibitor of Family 18 Chitinases 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2011;2(6):428-432.
Chitinases of the GH18 family play important roles in a variety of pathogenic organisms and have also been shown to be involved in human asthma progression, making these enzymes potential drug targets. While a number of potent GH18 chitinase inhibitors have been described, in general, these compounds suffer from limited synthetic accessibility or unfavorable medicinal-chemical properties, making them poor starting points for the development of chitinase-targeted drugs. Exploiting available structural data, we have rationally designed bisdionin C, a submicromolar inhibitor of GH18 enzymes, that possesses desirable druglike properties and tractable chemical synthesis. A crystallographic structure of a chitinase-bisdionin C complex shows the two aromatic systems of the ligand interacting with two conserved tryptophan residues exposed in the active site cleft of the enzyme, while at the same time forming extensive hydrogen-bonding interactions with the catalytic machinery. The observed mode of binding, together with inhibition data, suggests that bisdionin C presents an attractive starting point for the development of specific inhibitors of bacterial-type, but not plant-type, GH 18 chitinases.
PMCID: PMC4018065  PMID: 24900325
GH18 Chitinase; xanthine; ligand design
17.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction data of UDP-galactopyranose mutase from Aspergillus fumigatus  
The cloning, overexpression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction data are described for UDP-galactopyranose mutase, an enzyme involved in cell-wall synthesis in A. fumigatus.
Aspergillus fumigatus UDP-galactopyranose mutase (AfUGM) is a potential drug target involved in the synthesis of the cell wall of this fungal pathogen. AfUGM was recombinantly produced in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized by the sitting-drop method, producing orthorhombic crystals that diffracted to a resolution of 3.25 Å. The crystals contained four molecules per asymmetric unit and belonged to space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 127.72, b = 134.30, c = 173.84 Å. Incorporation of selenomethionine was achieved, but the resulting crystals did not allow solution of the phase problem.
PMCID: PMC3370916  PMID: 22684076
UDP-galactopyranose mutase; Aspergillus fumigatus
18.  IQGAP Proteins Reveal an Atypical Phosphoinositide (aPI) Binding Domain with a Pseudo C2 Domain Fold* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(27):22483-22496.
Background: Phosphoinositide 3-kinase lipid signals exert important biological effects through proteins with specific recognition domains.
Results: We identify a novel such protein domain in IQGAP proteins and define its crystal structure and phosphoinositide binding preferences.
Conclusion: This domain is a distinct cellular phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate sensor, characteristic of select IQGAP proteins.
Significance: These observations open a new and unexpected window on phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling networks.
Class I phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinases act through effector proteins whose 3-PI selectivity is mediated by a limited repertoire of structurally defined, lipid recognition domains. We describe here the lipid preferences and crystal structure of a new class of PI binding modules exemplified by select IQGAPs (IQ motif containing GTPase-activating proteins) known to coordinate cellular signaling events and cytoskeletal dynamics. This module is defined by a C-terminal 105–107 amino acid region of which IQGAP1 and -2, but not IQGAP3, binds preferentially to phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PtdInsP3). The binding affinity for PtdInsP3, together with other, secondary target-recognition characteristics, are comparable with those of the pleckstrin homology domain of cytohesin-3 (general receptor for phosphoinositides 1), an established PtdInsP3 effector protein. Importantly, the IQGAP1 C-terminal domain and the cytohesin-3 pleckstrin homology domain, each tagged with enhanced green fluorescent protein, were both re-localized from the cytosol to the cell periphery following the activation of PI 3-kinase in Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts, consistent with their common, selective recognition of endogenous 3-PI(s). The crystal structure of the C-terminal IQGAP2 PI binding module reveals unexpected topological similarity to an integral fold of C2 domains, including a putative basic binding pocket. We propose that this module integrates select IQGAP proteins with PI 3-kinase signaling and constitutes a novel, atypical phosphoinositide binding domain that may represent the first of a larger group, each perhaps structurally unique but collectively dissimilar from the known PI recognition modules.
PMCID: PMC3391087  PMID: 22493426
Cell signaling; Crystal Structure; PI 3-Kinase (PI3K); Protein Domains; Receptors; C2 Domain; IQGAP; PH Domain; PtdInsP3; aPI Domain
19.  Synergy of Peptide and Sugar in O-GlcNAcase Substrate Recognition 
Chemistry & Biology  2012;19(2):173-178.
Protein O-GlcNAcylation is an essential reversible posttranslational modification in higher eukaryotes. O-GlcNAc addition and removal is catalyzed by O-GlcNAc transferase and O-GlcNAcase, respectively. We report the molecular details of the interaction of a bacterial O-GlcNAcase homolog with three different synthetic glycopeptides derived from characterized O-GlcNAc sites in the human proteome. Strikingly, the peptides bind a conserved O-GlcNAcase substrate binding groove with similar orientation and conformation. In addition to extensive contacts with the sugar, O-GlcNAcase recognizes the peptide backbone through hydrophobic interactions and intramolecular hydrogen bonds, while avoiding interactions with the glycopeptide side chains. These findings elucidate the molecular basis of O-GlcNAcase substrate specificity, explaining how a single enzyme achieves cycling of the complete O-GlcNAc proteome. In addition, this work will aid development of O-GlcNAcase inhibitors that target the peptide binding site.
► Multiple O-GlcNAc peptides bind OGA with similar orientation and conformations ► OGA interacts with the peptide backbone of substrates, not with side chains ► Intramolecular hydrogen bonds affect substrate conformation and Km of glycopeptides ► Different OGA inhibitors display varying levels of peptide mimicry
PMCID: PMC3476531  PMID: 22365600
20.  The Vibrio cholerae Colonization Factor GbpA Possesses a Modular Structure that Governs Binding to Different Host Surfaces 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(1):e1002373.
Vibrio cholerae is a bacterial pathogen that colonizes the chitinous exoskeleton of zooplankton as well as the human gastrointestinal tract. Colonization of these different niches involves an N-acetylglucosamine binding protein (GbpA) that has been reported to mediate bacterial attachment to both marine chitin and mammalian intestinal mucin through an unknown molecular mechanism. We report structural studies that reveal that GbpA possesses an unusual, elongated, four-domain structure, with domains 1 and 4 showing structural homology to chitin binding domains. A glycan screen revealed that GbpA binds to GlcNAc oligosaccharides. Structure-guided GbpA truncation mutants show that domains 1 and 4 of GbpA interact with chitin in vitro, whereas in vivo complementation studies reveal that domain 1 is also crucial for mucin binding and intestinal colonization. Bacterial binding studies show that domains 2 and 3 bind to the V. cholerae surface. Finally, mouse virulence assays show that only the first three domains of GbpA are required for colonization. These results explain how GbpA provides structural/functional modular interactions between V. cholerae, intestinal epithelium and chitinous exoskeletons.
Author Summary
Vibrio cholerae is the bacterium that causes cholera, a disease endemic in developing countries with poor sanitation. The bacterium colonizes aquatic organisms that serve as a reservoir of transmission to humans. Our work has focused on GbpA, a protein that is secreted by V. cholerae and appears to facilitate growth of the bacteria both in the human intestine and on the exoskeletons of marine organisms. We show that the protein possesses an unusual three-dimensional structure consisting of four separate domains. Two of the domains are similar to proteins that are known to bind chitin, an exoskeleton biopolymer, and our data show that these domains indeed harbour the chitin binding properties of GbpA. One of these domains is also capable of binding intestinal mucus. The two remaining domains are required for interacting with the bacterium itself, creating a stable interface between the bacterium and the human/marine host, facilitating colonization. Finally, work with a cholera mouse model shows that only the first three domains of GbpA are required for colonization. These results show how GbpA provides structural/functional modular interactions between V. cholerae, the intestinal epithelium and chitinous exoskeletons.
PMCID: PMC3257281  PMID: 22253590
21.  Discovery of catalytically active orthologues of the Parkinson's disease kinase PINK1: analysis of substrate specificity and impact of mutations 
Open biology  2011;1(3):110012.
Missense mutations of the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) gene cause autosomal-recessive Parkinson's disease. To date, little is known about the intrinsic catalytic properties of PINK1 since the human enzyme displays such low kinase activity in vitro. We have discovered that, in contrast to mammalian PINK1, insect orthologues of PINK1 we have investigated—namely Drosophila melanogaster (dPINK1), Tribolium castaneum (TcPINK1) and Pediculus humanus corporis (PhcPINK1)—are active as judged by their ability to phosphorylate the generic substrate myelin basic protein. We have exploited the most active orthologue, TcPINK1, to assess its substrate specificity and elaborated a peptide substrate (PINKtide, KKWIpYRRSPRRR) that can be employed to quantify PINK1 kinase activity. Analysis of PINKtide variants reveal that PINK1 phosphorylates serine or threonine, but not tyrosine, and we show that PINK1 exhibits a preference for a proline at the +1 position relative to the phosphorylation site. We have also, for the first time, been able to investigate the effect of Parkinson's disease-associated PINK1 missense mutations, and found that nearly all those located within the kinase domain, as well as the C-terminal non-catalytic region, markedly suppress kinase activity. This emphasizes the crucial importance of PINK1 kinase activity in preventing the development of Parkinson's disease. Our findings will aid future studies aimed at understanding how the activity of PINK1 is regulated and the identification of physiological substrates.
PMCID: PMC3352081  PMID: 22645651
biochemistry; Parkinson's disease; kinase
23.  Charge-Surrounded Pockets and Electrostatic Interactions with Small Ions Modulate the Activity of Retroviral Fusion Proteins 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(2):e1001268.
Refolding of viral class-1 membrane fusion proteins from a native state to a trimer-of-hairpins structure promotes entry of viruses into cells. Here we present the structure of the bovine leukaemia virus transmembrane glycoprotein (TM) and identify a group of asparagine residues at the membrane-distal end of the trimer-of-hairpins that is strikingly conserved among divergent viruses. These asparagines are not essential for surface display of pre-fusogenic envelope. Instead, substitution of these residues dramatically disrupts membrane fusion. Our data indicate that, through electrostatic interactions with a chloride ion, the asparagine residues promote assembly and profoundly stabilize the fusion-active structures that are required for viral envelope-mediated membrane fusion. Moreover, the BLV TM structure also reveals a charge-surrounded hydrophobic pocket on the central coiled coil and interactions with basic residues that cluster around this pocket are critical to membrane fusion and form a target for peptide inhibitors of envelope function. Charge-surrounded pockets and electrostatic interactions with small ions are common among class-1 fusion proteins, suggesting that small molecules that specifically target such motifs should prevent assembly of the trimer-of-hairpins and be of value as therapeutic inhibitors of viral entry.
Author Summary
Human T-cell leukaemia virus types-1 (HTLV-1) and bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) are divergent blood borne viruses that cause hematological malignancies in humans and cattle respectively. In common with other enveloped viruses, infection of cells by HTLV-1 and BLV is dependent on the membrane fusion properties of the viral envelope glycoproteins. Here we have solved the crystal structure of the BLV transmembrane glycoprotein, and, through a functional and comparative analysis with HTLV-1, we have identified features that are critical to fusion protein function. In particular, we demonstrate that electrostatic interactions with small ions dramatically stabilize the assembly and fusion-associated forms of the BLV TM, but are not required for the cell surface display of native pre-fusogenic envelope. Moreover, we show that charged residues that border a deep hydrophobic pocket contribute directly to appropriate folding of fusion-active envelope and are critical to membrane fusion. Importantly, the charged residues that border the pocket are key features that determine the specificity and activity of peptide inhibitors of envelope function. Our study demonstrates that charge-surrounded pockets and electrostatic interactions with small ions are significant leitmotifs of diverse class-1 fusion proteins and that these elements represent ideal targets for novel small-molecule inhibitors of viral entry.
PMCID: PMC3033372  PMID: 21304939
24.  Acetazolamide-based fungal chitinase inhibitors 
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry  2010;18(23):8334-8340.
Graphical abstract
Chitin is an essential structural component of the fungal cell wall. Chitinases are thought to be important for fungal cell wall remodelling, and inhibition of these enzymes has been proposed as a potential strategy for development of novel anti-fungals. The fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus possesses two distinct multi-gene chitinase families. Here we explore acetazolamide as a chemical scaffold for the inhibition of an A. fumigatus ‘plant-type’ chitinase. A co-crystal structure of AfChiA1 with acetazolamide was used to guide synthesis and screening of acetazolamide analogues that yielded SAR in agreement with these structural data. Although acetazolamide and its analogues are weak inhibitors of the enzyme, they have a high ligand efficiency and as such are interesting leads for future inhibitor development.
PMCID: PMC2997425  PMID: 21044846
Chitinase; Aspergillus fumigatus
25.  Cell-Penetrant, Nanomolar O-GlcNAcase Inhibitors Selective against Lysosomal Hexosaminidases 
Chemistry & Biology  2010;17(11):1250-1255.
Posttranslational modification of metazoan nucleocytoplasmic proteins with N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is essential, dynamic, and inducible and can compete with protein phosphorylation in signal transduction. Inhibitors of O-GlcNAcase, the enzyme removing O-GlcNAc, are useful tools for studying the role of O-GlcNAc in a range of cellular processes. We report the discovery of nanomolar OGA inhibitors that are up to 900,000-fold selective over the related lysosomal hexosaminidases. When applied at nanomolar concentrations on live cells, these cell-penetrant molecules shift the O-GlcNAc equilibrium toward hyper-O-GlcNAcylation with EC50 values down to 3 nM and are thus invaluable tools for the study of O-GlcNAc cell biology.
► Structure-guided design of human O-GlcNAcase inhibitors, GlcNAcstatins ► The GlcNAcstatins are competitive, nanomolar inhibitors ► The molecular basis of the exquisite selectivity revealed by crystallography ► First direct evidence of O-GlcNAcase inhibitors penetrating cells
PMCID: PMC3032886  PMID: 21095575

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