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1.  Substrate specificity and the effect of calcium on Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase 2 
The FEBS journal  2013;280(11):2608-2621.
Metacaspases are cysteine peptidases found only in yeast, plants and lower eukaryotes, including the protozoa. To investigate the extended substrate specificity and effects of Ca2+ on the activation of these enzymes, detailed kinetic, biochemical and structural analyses were carried out on metacaspase 2 from Trypanosoma brucei (TbMCA2). These results reveal that TbMCA2 has is an unambiguous preference for basic amino acids at the P1 position of peptide substrates and that this is most likely a result of hydrogen bonding from the P1 residue to Asp95 and Asp211 in TbMCA2. In addition, TbMCA2 also has a preference for charged residues at the P2 and P3 positions and for small residues at the prime-side of a peptide substrate. Studies into the effects of Ca2+ on the enzyme revealed the presence of two calcium-binding sites and a reversible structural modification of the enzyme upon Ca2+-binding. In addition, the concentration of Ca2+ used for activation of TbMCA2 was found to produce a differential effect on the activity of TbMCA2, but only when a series of peptides that differed in P2 were examined, suggesting that Ca2+ activation of TbMCA2 has a structural effect on the enzyme in the vicinity of the S2 binding pocket. Collectively, these data give new insights into the substrate specificity, and Ca2+ activation of TbMCA2. This provides important functional details and leads to a better understanding of metacaspases, which are known to play an important role in trypanosomes, and make attractive drug targets due to their absence in humans.
doi:10.1111/febs.12248
PMCID: PMC3779824  PMID: 23506317
Metacaspase; substrate specificity; structural modification; kinetic parameters; calcium binding
2.  Oligopeptidase B deficient mutants of Leishmania major 
Oligopeptidase B is a clan SC, family S9 serine peptidase found in gram positive bacteria, plants and trypanosomatids. Evidence suggests it is a virulence factor and thus therapeutic target in both Trypanosoma cruzi and T. brucei, but little is known about its function in Leishmania. In this study L. major OPB-deficient mutants (Δopb) were created. These grew normally as promastigotes, had a small deficiency in their ability to undergo differentiation to metacyclic promastigotes, were significantly less able to infect and survive within macrophages in vitro, but were virulent to mice. These data suggest that L. major OPB itself is not an important virulence factor, indicating functional differences between trypanosomes and Leishmania in their interaction with the mammalian host. The possibility that an OPB-like enzyme (designated OPB2) in L. major might compensate for the loss of OPB in Δopb was investigated via by mapping its sequence onto the 1.6 Å structure of L. major OPB. This suggested that the residues involved in the S1 and S2 subsites of OPB2 are identical to OPB and hence the substrate specificity would be similar. Consequently there may be redundancy between the two enzymes.
doi:10.1016/j.molbiopara.2010.09.003
PMCID: PMC3130898  PMID: 20883728
3.  Crystal Structure of Leishmania major Oligopeptidase B Gives Insight into the Enzymatic Properties of a Trypanosomatid Virulence Factor* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;285(50):39249-39259.
Oligopeptidase B (OPB) is a serine peptidase with dibasic substrate specificity. It is found in bacteria, plants, and trypanosomatid pathogens, where it has been identified as a virulence factor and potential drug target. In this study we expressed active recombinant Leishmania major OPB and provide the first structure of an oligopeptidase B at high resolution. The crystallographic study reveals that OPB comprises two domains, a catalytic and a propeller domain, linked together by a hinge region. The structure has been determined in complex with the oligopeptide, protease-inhibitor antipain, giving detailed information on the enzyme active site and extended substrate binding pockets. It shows that Glu-621 plays a critical role in the S1 binding pocket and, along with Phe-603, is largely responsible for the enzyme substrate specificity in P1. In the S2 binding pocket, Tyr-499 was shown to be important for substrate stability. The structure also allowed an investigation into the function of residues highlighted in other studies including Glu-623, which was predicted to be involved in the S1 binding pocket but is found forming an inter-domain hydrogen bond. Additional important salt bridges/hydrogen bonds between the two domains were observed, highlighting the significance of the domain interface in OPB. This work provides a foundation for the study of the role of OPBs as virulence factors in trypanosomatids. It could facilitate the development of specific OPB inhibitors with therapeutic potential by exploiting its unique substrate recognition properties as well as providing a model for OPBs in general.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.156679
PMCID: PMC2998157  PMID: 20926390
Enzyme Mechanisms; Parasitology; Peptidases; Protein Structure; Serine Protease; Leishmania major; Oligopeptidase B
4.  Initiating a crystallographic analysis of recombinant (S)-2-hydroxypropylphosphonic acid epoxidase from Streptomyces wedmorensis  
The gene encoding the unusual metal-ion-dependent epoxidase involved in fosfomycin biosynthesis, S. wedmorensis (S)-2-hydroxypropylphosphonic acid epoxidase, has been cloned and the protein expressed, purified and crystallized. Two crystal forms have been obtained, one of which diffracts to high resolution.
The oxirane (1R,2S)-1,2-epoxypropylphosphonic acid (fosfomycin) is a natural product antibiotic produced in Streptomyces wedmorensis by the metal-ion-dependent (S)-2-hydroxypropylphosphonic acid epoxidase. This epoxidase is highly unusual since it has no requirement for a haem prosthetic group. The gene encoding the enzyme, fom4, has been cloned and a highly efficient recombinant source of the enzyme established. Two different crystal forms, tetragonal and hexagonal, have been obtained. The hexagonal form displays symmetry consistent with space group P61/522 and unit-cell parameters a = 86.44, c = 221.56 Å, γ = 120°. The Matthews coefficient, V M, of 2.7 Å3 Da−1 corresponds to two subunits, each of approximate weight 21.4 kDa, in the asymmetric unit with 55% solvent content. These crystals diffract to high resolution and experimental phases are being sought to determine the structure.
doi:10.1107/S1744309105012376
PMCID: PMC1952317  PMID: 16511089
antibiotics; epoxidases; metalloenzymes; Streptomyces
5.  Structure and reactivity of Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase: inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate 
Molecular Microbiology  2006;61(6):1457-1468.
The protozoan Trypanosoma brucei has a functional pteridine reductase (TbPTR1), an NADPH-dependent short-chain reductase that participates in the salvage of pterins, which are essential for parasite growth. PTR1 displays broad-spectrum activity with pterins and folates, provides a metabolic bypass for inhibition of the trypanosomatid dihydrofolate reductase and therefore compromises the use of antifolates for treatment of trypanosomiasis. Catalytic properties of recombinant TbPTR1 and inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate have been characterized and the crystal structure of the ternary complex with cofactor NADP+ and the inhibitor determined at 2.2 Å resolution. This enzyme shares 50% amino acid sequence identity with Leishmania major PTR1 (LmPTR1) and comparisons show that the architecture of the cofactor binding site, and the catalytic centre are highly conserved, as are most interactions with the inhibitor. However, specific amino acid differences, in particular the placement of Trp221 at the side of the active site, and adjustment of the β6-α6 loop and α6 helix at one side of the substrate-binding cleft significantly reduce the size of the substrate binding site of TbPTR1 and alter the chemical properties compared with LmPTR1. A reactive Cys168, within the active site cleft, in conjunction with the C-terminus carboxyl group and His267 of a partner subunit forms a triad similar to the catalytic component of cysteine proteases. TbPTR1 therefore offers novel structural features to exploit in the search for inhibitors of therapeutic value against African trypanosomiasis.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05332.x
PMCID: PMC1618733  PMID: 16968221

Results 1-6 (6)