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1.  Mirror‐Image Packing Provides a Molecular Basis for the Nanomolar Equipotency of Enantiomers of an Experimental Herbicide 
Programs of drug discovery generally exploit one enantiomer of a chiral compound for lead development following the principle that enantiomer recognition is central to biological specificity. However, chiral promiscuity has been identified for a number of enzyme families, which have shown that mirror‐image packing can enable opposite enantiomers to be accommodated in an enzyme's active site. Reported here is a series of crystallographic studies of complexes between an enzyme and a potent experimental herbicide whose chiral center forms an essential part of the inhibitor pharmacophore. Initial studies with a racemate at 1.85 Å resolution failed to identify the chirality of the bound inhibitor, however, by extending the resolution to 1.1 Å and by analyzing high‐resolution complexes with the enantiopure compounds, we determined that both enantiomers make equivalent pseudosymmetric interactions in the active site, thus mimicking an achiral reaction intermediate.
PMCID: PMC5113775  PMID: 27717128
chirality; drug design; enantioselectivity; inhibitors; structural biology
2.  Characterization of 2,4-Diamino-6-oxo-1,6-dihydropyrimidin-5-yl Ureido Based Inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei FolD and Testing for Antiparasitic Activity 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2015;58(20):7938-7948.
The bifunctional enzyme N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclo hydrolase (FolD) is essential for growth in Trypanosomatidae. We sought to develop inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei FolD (TbFolD) as potential antiparasitic agents. Compound 2 was synthesized, and the molecular structure was unequivocally assigned through X-ray crystallography of the intermediate compound 3. Compound 2 showed an IC50 of 2.2 μM, against TbFolD and displayed antiparasitic activity against T. brucei (IC50 49 μM). Using compound 2, we were able to obtain the first X-ray structure of TbFolD in the presence of NADP+ and the inhibitor, which then guided the rational design of a new series of potent TbFolD inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4621507  PMID: 26322631
3.  Crystal Structures Reveal that the Reaction Mechanism of Imidazoleglycerol-Phosphate Dehydratase Is Controlled by Switching Mn(II) Coordination 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2015;23(7):1236-1245.
Imidazoleglycerol-phosphate dehydratase (IGPD) catalyzes the Mn(II)-dependent dehydration of imidazoleglycerol phosphate (IGP) to 3-(1H-imidazol-4-yl)-2-oxopropyl dihydrogen phosphate during biosynthesis of histidine. As part of a program of herbicide design, we have determined a series of high-resolution crystal structures of an inactive mutant of IGPD2 from Arabidopsis thaliana in complex with IGP. The structures represent snapshots of the enzyme trapped at different stages of the catalytic cycle and show how substrate binding triggers a switch in the coordination state of an active site Mn(II) between six- and five-coordinate species. This switch is critical to prime the active site for catalysis, by facilitating the formation of a high-energy imidazolate intermediate. This work not only provides evidence for the molecular processes that dominate catalysis in IGPD, but also describes how the manipulation of metal coordination can be linked to discrete steps in catalysis, demonstrating one way that metalloenzymes exploit the unique properties of metal ions to diversify their chemistry.
Graphical Abstract
•IGPD forms open and closed complexes with IGP bound in two distinct conformations•Mn(II) controls catalysis by switching between 6- and 5-coordination states•A ligand-depleted 5-coordinate Mn(II) aids formation of the imidazolate intermediate•Enzyme and substrate conformational changes are required for product formation
Bisson et al. determined structures that describe the reaction mechanism of IGPD, showing how the enzyme harnesses substrate binding energy to generate a ligand-depleted Mn(II) at the catalytic center. Conformational changes in the enzyme-substrate complex and switches in coordination chemistry control successive steps in catalysis.
PMCID: PMC4509728  PMID: 26095028
4.  High-resolution structure of the M14-type cytosolic carboxypeptidase from Burkholderia cenocepacia refined exploiting PDB_REDO strategies 
The structure of a bacterial M14-family carboxypeptidase determined exploiting microfocus synchrotron radiation and highly automated refinement protocols reveals its potential to act as a polyglutamylase.
A potential cytosolic metallocarboxypeptidase from Burk­holderia cenocepacia has been crystallized and a synchrotron-radiation microfocus beamline allowed the acquisition of diffraction data to 1.9 Å resolution. The asymmetric unit comprises a tetramer containing over 1500 amino acids, and the high-throughput automated protocols embedded in PDB_REDO were coupled with model–map inspections in refinement. This approach has highlighted the value of such protocols for efficient analyses. The subunit is constructed from two domains. The N-terminal domain has previously only been observed in cytosolic carboxypeptidase (CCP) proteins. The C-terminal domain, which carries the Zn2+-containing active site, serves to classify this protein as a member of the M14D subfamily of carboxypeptidases. Although eukaryotic CCPs possess deglutamylase activity and are implicated in processing modified tubulin, the function and substrates of the bacterial family members remain unknown. The B. cenocepacia protein did not display deglutamylase activity towards a furylacryloyl glutamate derivative, a potential substrate. Residues previously shown to coordinate the divalent cation and that contribute to peptide-bond cleavage in related enzymes such as bovine carboxypeptidase are conserved. The location of a conserved basic patch in the active site adjacent to the catalytic Zn2+, where an acetate ion is identified, suggests recognition of the carboxy-terminus in a similar fashion to other carboxypeptidases. However, there are significant differences that indicate the recognition of substrates with different properties. Of note is the presence of a lysine in the S1′ recognition subsite that suggests specificity towards an acidic substrate.
PMCID: PMC3940198  PMID: 24531462
carboxypeptidases; metalloproteins; refinement; specificity; zinc enzymes
5.  Two high-resolution structures of the human E3 ubiquitin ligase Siah1 
Acta Crystallographica Section F  2013;69(Pt 12):1339-1343.
Two structures of human Siah1 at 1.95 and 1.58 Å resolution provide more complete models for this protein and identify conformational variability in the subdomain organization.
Siah1 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that contributes to proteasome-mediated degradation of multiple targets in key cellular processes and which shows promise as a therapeutic target in oncology. Structures of a truncated Siah1 bound to peptide-based inhibitors have been reported. Here, new crystallization conditions have allowed the determination of a construct encompassing dual zinc-finger subdomains and substrate-binding domains at significantly higher resolution. Although the crystals appear isomorphous, two structures present distinct states in which the spatial orientation of one zinc-finger subdomain differs with respect to the rest of the dimeric protein. Such a difference, which is indicative of conformational freedom, infers potential biological relevance related to recognition of binding partners. The crystallization conditions and improved models of Siah1 may aid future studies investigating Siah1–ligand complexes.
PMCID: PMC3855715  PMID: 24316825
E3 ubiquitin ligase; seven-in-absentia homologue 1 (Siah1); zinc finger
6.  Structure of the SCAN Domain of Human Paternally Expressed Gene 3 Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69538.
Human paternally expressed gene 3 protein (PEG3) is a large multi-domain entity with diverse biological functions, including acting as a transcription factor. PEG3 contains twelve Cys2-His2 type zinc finger domains, extended regions of predicted disorder and at the N-terminus a SCAN domain. PEG3 has been identified as partner of the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase Siah1, an association we sought to investigate. An efficient bacterial recombinant expression system of the human PEG3-SCAN domain was prepared and crystals appeared spontaneously when the protein was being concentrated after purification. The structure was determined at 1.95 Å resolution and reveals a polypeptide fold of five helices in an extended configuration. An extensive dimerization interface, using almost a quarter of the solvent accessible surface, and key salt bridge interactions explain the stability of the dimer. Comparison with other SCAN domains reveals a high degree of conservation involving residues that contribute to the dimer interface. The PEG3-SCAN domain appears to constitute an assembly block, enabling PEG3 homo- or heterodimerization to control gene expression in a combinatorial fashion.
PMCID: PMC3720700  PMID: 23936039
7.  Acinetobacter baumannii FolD ligand complexes – potent inhibitors of folate metabolism and a re-evaluation of the structure of LY374571 
The FEBS journal  2012;279(23):4350-4360.
The bifunctional N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase (DHCH or FolD), which is widely distributed in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, is involved in the biosynthesis of folate cofactors that are essential for growth and cellular development. The enzyme activities represent a potential antimicrobial drug target. We have characterized the kinetic properties of FolD from the Gram-negative pathogen Acinetobacter baumanni and determined high-resolution crystal structures of complexes with a cofactor and two potent inhibitors. The data reveal new details with respect to the molecular basis of catalysis and potent inhibition. A unexpected finding was that our crystallographic data revealed a different structure for LY374571 (an inhibitor studied as an antifolate) than that previously published. The implications of this observation are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3655515  PMID: 23050773
antifolate; cyclohydrolase; dehydrogenase; enzyme inhibition; X-ray structure
8.  Assessment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa N5,N10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase - Cyclohydrolase as a Potential Antibacterial Drug Target 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35973.
The bifunctional enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase – cyclohydrolase (FolD) is identified as a potential drug target in Gram-negative bacteria, in particular the troublesome Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In order to provide a comprehensive and realistic assessment of the potential of this target for drug discovery we generated a highly efficient recombinant protein production system and purification protocol, characterized the enzyme, carried out screening of two commercial compound libraries by differential scanning fluorimetry, developed a high-throughput enzyme assay and prosecuted a screening campaign against almost 80,000 compounds. The crystal structure of P. aeruginosa FolD was determined at 2.2 Å resolution and provided a template for an assessment of druggability and for modelling of ligand complexes as well as for comparisons with the human enzyme. New FolD inhibitors were identified and characterized but the weak levels of enzyme inhibition suggest that these compounds are not optimal starting points for future development. Furthermore, the close similarity of the bacterial and human enzyme structures suggest that selective inhibition might be difficult to attain. In conclusion, although the preliminary biological data indicates that FolD represents a valuable target for the development of new antibacterial drugs, indeed spurred us to investigate it, our screening results and structural data suggest that this would be a difficult enzyme to target with respect to developing the appropriate lead molecules required to underpin a serious drug discovery effort.
PMCID: PMC3338484  PMID: 22558288
9.  The crystal structure of Leishmania major N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase and assessment of a potential drug target☆ 
Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology  2012;181(2-6):178-185.
Graphical abstract
The crystal structure of Leishmania major N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/N5,N10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase is used to assess the potential of this bifunctional enzyme as a drug target.
► We report the structure of Leishmania major methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase. ► Sequence–structure comparisons are carried out with homologues from kinetoplastids and the human host. ► The potential of this bifunctional enzyme as a drug target is assessed. ► The similarities between parasite and human enzymes suggest a difficult target for drug discovery.
Three enzyme activities in the protozoan Leishmania major, namely N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/N5,N10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase (DHCH) and N10-formyltetrahydrofolate ligase (FTL) produce the essential intermediate N10-formyltetrahydrofolate. Although trypanosomatids possess at least one functional DHCH, the same is not true for FTL, which is absent in Trypanosoma brucei. Here, we present the 2.7 Å resolution crystal structure of the bifunctional apo-DHCH from L. major, which is a potential drug target. Sequence alignments show that the cytosolic enzymes found in trypanosomatids share a high level of identity of approximately 60%. Additionally, residues that interact and participate in catalysis in the human homologue are conserved amongst trypanosomatid sequences and this may complicate attempts to derive potent, parasite specific DHCH inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3368264  PMID: 22108435
Antifolate; Cyclohydrolase; Dehydrogenase; Drug target; Leishmania; Trypanosoma
10.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa 4-Amino-4-Deoxychorismate Lyase: Spatial Conservation of an Active Site Tyrosine and Classification of Two Types of Enzyme 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24158.
4-Amino-4-deoxychorismate lyase (PabC) catalyzes the formation of 4-aminobenzoate, and release of pyruvate, during folate biosynthesis. This is an essential activity for the growth of Gram-negative bacteria, including important pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A high-resolution (1.75 Å) crystal structure of PabC from P. aeruginosa has been determined, and sequence-structure comparisons with orthologous structures are reported. Residues around the pyridoxal 5′-phosphate cofactor are highly conserved adding support to aspects of a mechanism generic for enzymes carrying that cofactor. However, we suggest that PabC can be classified into two groups depending upon whether an active site and structurally conserved tyrosine is provided from the polypeptide that mainly forms an active site or from the partner subunit in the dimeric assembly. We considered that the conserved tyrosine might indicate a direct role in catalysis: that of providing a proton to reduce the olefin moiety of substrate as pyruvate is released. A threonine had previously been suggested to fulfill such a role prior to our observation of the structurally conserved tyrosine. We have been unable to elucidate an experimentally determined structure of PabC in complex with ligands to inform on mechanism and substrate specificity. Therefore we constructed a computational model of the catalytic intermediate docked into the enzyme active site. The model suggests that the conserved tyrosine helps to create a hydrophobic wall on one side of the active site that provides important interactions to bind the catalytic intermediate. However, this residue does not appear to participate in interactions with the C atom that undergoes an sp2 to sp3 conversion as pyruvate is produced. The model and our comparisons rather support the hypothesis that an active site threonine hydroxyl contributes a proton used in the reduction of the substrate methylene to pyruvate methyl in the final stage of the mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3174152  PMID: 21935381
11.  Crystal structures of Burkholderia cenocepacia dihydropteroate synthase in the apo-form and complexed with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate 
The enzyme dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) participates in the de novo synthesis of folate cofactors by catalyzing the formation of 7,8-dihydropteroate from condensation of p-aminobenzoic acid with 6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropteroate pyrophosphate. DHPS is absent from humans, who acquire folates from diet, and has been validated as an antimicrobial therapeutic target by chemical and genetic means. The bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen and an infective agent of cystic fibrosis patients. The organism is highly resistant to antibiotics and there is a recognized need for the identification of new drugs against Burkholderia and related Gram-negative pathogens. Our characterization of the DHPS active site and interactions with the enzyme product are designed to underpin early stage drug discovery.
An efficient recombinant protein expression system for DHPS from B. cenocepacia (BcDHPS) was prepared, the dimeric enzyme purified in high yield and crystallized. The structure of the apo-enzyme and the complex with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate have been determined to 2.35 Å and 1.95 Å resolution respectively in distinct orthorhombic crystal forms. The latter represents the first crystal structure of the DHPS-pterin product complex, reveals key interactions involved in ligand binding, and reinforces data generated by other structural studies. Comparisons with orthologues identify plasticity near the substrate-binding pocket and in particular a range of loop conformations that contribute to the architecture of the DHPS active site. These structural data provide a foundation for hit discovery. An intriguing observation, an artifact of the analysis, that of a potential sulfenamide bond within the ligand complex structure is mentioned.
Structural similarities between BcDHPS and orthologues from other Gram-negative species are evident as expected on the basis of a high level of sequence identity. The presence of 7,8-dihydropteroate in the binding site provides details about ligand recognition by the enzyme and the different states of the enzyme allow us to visualize distinct conformational states of loops adjacent to the active site. Improved drugs to combat infections by Burkholderia sp. and related Gram-negative bacteria are sought and our study now provides templates to assist that process and allow us to discuss new ways of inhibiting DHPS.
PMCID: PMC3098144  PMID: 21554707

Results 1-11 (11)