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1.  Fungal effector Ecp6 outcompetes host immune receptor for chitin binding through intrachain LysM dimerization 
eLife  2013;2:e00790.
While host immune receptors detect pathogen-associated molecular patterns to activate immunity, pathogens attempt to deregulate host immunity through secreted effectors. Fungi employ LysM effectors to prevent recognition of cell wall-derived chitin by host immune receptors, although the mechanism to compete for chitin binding remained unclear. Structural analysis of the LysM effector Ecp6 of the fungal tomato pathogen Cladosporium fulvum reveals a novel mechanism for chitin binding, mediated by intrachain LysM dimerization, leading to a chitin-binding groove that is deeply buried in the effector protein. This composite binding site involves two of the three LysMs of Ecp6 and mediates chitin binding with ultra-high (pM) affinity. Intriguingly, the remaining singular LysM domain of Ecp6 binds chitin with low micromolar affinity but can nevertheless still perturb chitin-triggered immunity. Conceivably, the perturbation by this LysM domain is not established through chitin sequestration but possibly through interference with the host immune receptor complex.
eLife digest
The ability to launch an immune response is not unique to animals. Plants have also evolved the ability to detect molecules present on the surface of pathogens such as fungi. These molecular signatures are known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), and they are detected by specialized receptors on the surface of plant cells.
Chitin, the main structural component of the cell wall in fungi, is one example of a PAMP. Many species of plants are able to detect chitin using receptors that contain sequences of amino acids called lysin motifs. Previous work in the model plant Arabidopsis has shown that chitin binds to a single lysin motif within each plant receptor.
However, just as plants have evolved the ability to recognize PAMPs, so fungi have evolved ways to outwit plants. They have developed small molecules called effector proteins that bind to PAMPs, in effect hiding them from the plant receptors. The tomato fungus Cladosporium fulvum, for example, secretes an effector protein called Ecp6, which contains lysin motifs just like those in the plant receptors. By binding chitin fragments, Ecp6 helps the fungus to avoid detection by its host plant.
Now, Sánchez-Vallet et al. present the high resolution crystal structure of Ecp6 and reveal the mechanism by which it outcompetes the plant’s own chitin receptors. In the presence of chitin, two lysin binding motifs within the Ecp6 protein combine to produce a binding site with ultrahigh affinity for chitin. This can outcompete the plant receptors, which use only a single lysin domain to bind the fungal protein.
As well as providing a molecular explanation for how certain fungi manage to evade the immune response in plants, the work of Sánchez-Vallet et al. offers an unusual example of convergent evolution, in which two evolutionarily distant organisms have evolved the ability to recognize the same molecule through structurally diverse proteins.
PMCID: PMC3700227  PMID: 23840930
Cladosporium; tomato; effector; immunity; receptor; Other
2.  A unique GCN5-related glucosamine N-acetyltransferase region exist in the fungal multi-domain glycoside hydrolase family 3 β-N-acetylglucosaminidase 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:18292.
Glycoside hydrolase (GH) family 3 β-N-acetylglucosaminidases widely exist in the filamentous fungi, which may play a key role in chitin metabolism of fungi. A multi-domain GH family 3 β-N-acetylglucosaminidase from Rhizomucor miehei (RmNag), exhibiting a potential N-acetyltransferase region, has been recently reported to show great potential in industrial applications. In this study, the crystal structure of RmNag was determined at 2.80 Å resolution. The three-dimensional structure of RmNag showed four distinctive domains, which belong to two distinguishable functional regions — a GH family 3 β-N-acetylglucosaminidase region (N-terminal) and a N-acetyltransferase region (C-terminal). From structural and functional analysis, the C-terminal region of RmNag was identified as a unique tandem array linking general control non-derepressible 5 (GCN5)-related N-acetyltransferase (GNAT), which displayed glucosamine N-acetyltransferase activity. Structural analysis of this glucosamine N-acetyltransferase region revealed that a unique glucosamine binding pocket is located in the pantetheine arm binding terminal region of the conserved CoA binding pocket, which is different from all known GNAT members. This is the first structural report of a glucosamine N-acetyltransferase, which provides novel structural information about substrate specificity of GNATs. The structural and functional features of this multi-domain β-N-acetylglucosaminidase could be useful in studying the catalytic mechanism of GH family 3 proteins.
PMCID: PMC4680927  PMID: 26669854
3.  3C Protease of Enterovirus 68: Structure-Based Design of Michael Acceptor Inhibitors and Their Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Effects against Picornaviruses 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(8):4339-4351.
We have determined the cleavage specificity and the crystal structure of the 3C protease of enterovirus 68 (EV68 3Cpro). The protease exhibits a typical chymotrypsin fold with a Cys...His...Glu catalytic triad; its three-dimensional structure is closely related to that of the 3Cpro of rhinovirus 2, as well as to that of poliovirus. The phylogenetic position of the EV68 3Cpro between the corresponding enzymes of rhinoviruses on the one hand and classical enteroviruses on the other prompted us to use the crystal structure for the design of irreversible inhibitors, with the goal of discovering broad-spectrum antiviral compounds. We synthesized a series of peptidic α,β-unsaturated ethyl esters of increasing length and for each inhibitor candidate, we determined a crystal structure of its complex with the EV68 3Cpro, which served as the basis for the next design round. To exhibit inhibitory activity, compounds must span at least P3 to P1′; the most potent inhibitors comprise P4 to P1′. Inhibitory activities were found against the purified 3C protease of EV68, as well as with replicons for poliovirus and EV71 (50% effective concentration [EC50] = 0.5 μM for the best compound). Antiviral activities were determined using cell cultures infected with EV71, poliovirus, echovirus 11, and various rhinovirus serotypes. The most potent inhibitor, SG85, exhibited activity with EC50s of ≈180 nM against EV71 and ≈60 nM against human rhinovirus 14 in a live virus–cell-based assay. Even the shorter SG75, spanning only P3 to P1′, displayed significant activity (EC50 = 2 to 5 μM) against various rhinoviruses.
PMCID: PMC3624371  PMID: 23388726
4.  Evidence for a Two-Metal-Ion Mechanism in the Cytidyltransferase KdsB, an Enzyme Involved in Lipopolysaccharide Biosynthesis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23231.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is located on the surface of Gram-negative bacteria and is responsible for maintaining outer membrane stability, which is a prerequisite for cell survival. Furthermore, it represents an important barrier against hostile environmental factors such as antimicrobial peptides and the complement cascade during Gram-negative infections. The sugar 3-deoxy-d-manno-oct-2-ulosonic acid (Kdo) is an integral part of LPS and plays a key role in LPS functionality. Prior to its incorporation into the LPS molecule, Kdo has to be activated by the CMP-Kdo synthetase (CKS). Based on the presence of a single Mg2+ ion in the active site, detailed models of the reaction mechanism of CKS have been developed previously. Recently, a two-metal-ion hypothesis suggested the involvement of two Mg2+ ions in Kdo activation. To further investigate the mechanistic aspects of Kdo activation, we kinetically characterized the CKS from the hyperthermophilic organism Aquifex aeolicus. In addition, we determined the crystal structure of this enzyme at a resolution of 2.10 Å and provide evidence that two Mg2+ ions are part of the active site of the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3149649  PMID: 21826242
5.  Crystallization and preliminary diffraction analysis of Escherichia coli WrbA in complex with its cofactor flavin mononucleotide 
E. coli WrbA, the founding member of a novel flavoprotein family, was crystallized in complex with its physiological cofactor. Preliminary diffraction analysis is reported.
The flavoprotein WrbA from Escherichia coli is considered to be the prototype of a new family of multimeric flavodoxin-like proteins that are implicated in cell protection against oxidative stress. The present study is aimed at structural characterization of the E. coli protein with respect to its recently revealed oxidoreductase activity. Crystals of WrbA holoprotein in complex with the oxidized flavin cofactor (FMN) were obtained using standard vapour-diffusion techniques. Deep yellow tetragonal crystals obtained from differing crystallization conditions display different space groups and unit-cell parameters. X-­ray crystal structures of the WrbA holoprotein have been determined to resolutions of 2.0 and 2.6 Å.
PMCID: PMC2335133  PMID: 17620713
flavoproteins; flavin cofactor
6.  The SARS-Unique Domain (SUD) of SARS Coronavirus Contains Two Macrodomains That Bind G-Quadruplexes 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(5):e1000428.
Since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the three-dimensional structures of several of the replicase/transcriptase components of SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the non-structural proteins (Nsps), have been determined. However, within the large Nsp3 (1922 amino-acid residues), the structure and function of the so-called SARS-unique domain (SUD) have remained elusive. SUD occurs only in SARS-CoV and the highly related viruses found in certain bats, but is absent from all other coronaviruses. Therefore, it has been speculated that it may be involved in the extreme pathogenicity of SARS-CoV, compared to other coronaviruses, most of which cause only mild infections in humans. In order to help elucidate the function of the SUD, we have determined crystal structures of fragment 389–652 (“SUDcore”) of Nsp3, which comprises 264 of the 338 residues of the domain. Both the monoclinic and triclinic crystal forms (2.2 and 2.8 Å resolution, respectively) revealed that SUDcore forms a homodimer. Each monomer consists of two subdomains, SUD-N and SUD-M, with a macrodomain fold similar to the SARS-CoV X-domain. However, in contrast to the latter, SUD fails to bind ADP-ribose, as determined by zone-interference gel electrophoresis. Instead, the entire SUDcore as well as its individual subdomains interact with oligonucleotides known to form G-quadruplexes. This includes oligodeoxy- as well as oligoribonucleotides. Mutations of selected lysine residues on the surface of the SUD-N subdomain lead to reduction of G-quadruplex binding, whereas mutations in the SUD-M subdomain abolish it. As there is no evidence for Nsp3 entering the nucleus of the host cell, the SARS-CoV genomic RNA or host-cell mRNA containing long G-stretches may be targets of SUD. The SARS-CoV genome is devoid of G-stretches longer than 5–6 nucleotides, but more extended G-stretches are found in the 3′-nontranslated regions of mRNAs coding for certain host-cell proteins involved in apoptosis or signal transduction, and have been shown to bind to SUD in vitro. Therefore, SUD may be involved in controlling the host cell's response to the viral infection. Possible interference with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-like domains is also discussed.
Author Summary
The genome of the SARS coronavirus codes for 16 non-structural proteins that are involved in replicating this huge RNA (approximately 29 kilobases). The roles of many of these in replication (and/or transcription) are unknown. We attempt to derive conclusions concerning the possible functions of these proteins from their three-dimensional structures, which we determine by X-ray crystallography. Non-structural protein 3 contains at least seven different functional modules within its 1922-amino-acid polypeptide chain. One of these is the so-called SARS-unique domain, a stretch of about 338 residues that is completely absent from any other coronavirus. It may thus be responsible for the extraordinarily high pathogenicity of the SARS coronavirus, compared to other viruses of this family. We describe here the three-dimensional structure of the SARS-unique domain and show that it consists of two modules with a known fold, the so-called macrodomain. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these domains bind unusual nucleic-acid structures formed by consecutive guanosine nucleotides, where four strands of nucleic acid are forming a superhelix (so-called G-quadruplexes). SUD may be involved in binding to viral or host-cell RNA bearing this peculiar structure and thereby regulate viral replication or fight the immune response of the infected host cell.
PMCID: PMC2674928  PMID: 19436709
7.  Functional Characterization of the Cleavage Specificity of the Sapovirus Chymotrypsin-Like Protease▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(16):8085-8093.
Sapovirus is a positive-stranded RNA virus with a translational strategy based on processing of a polyprotein precursor by a chymotrypsin-like protease. So far, the molecular mechanisms regulating cleavage specificity of the viral protease are poorly understood. In this study, the catalytic activities and substrate specificities of the predicted forms of the viral protease, the 3C-like protease (NS6) and the 3CD-like protease-polymerase (NS6-7), were examined in vitro. The purified NS6 and NS6-7 were able to cleave synthetic peptides (15 to 17 residues) displaying the cleavage sites of the sapovirus polyprotein, both NS6 and NS6-7 proteins being active forms of the viral protease. High-performance liquid chromatography and subsequent mass spectrometry analysis of digested products showed a specific trans cleavage of peptides bearing Gln-Gly, Gln-Ala, Glu-Gly, Glu-Pro, or Glu-Lys at the scissile bond. In contrast, peptides bearing Glu-Ala or Gln-Asp at the scissile bond (NS4-NS5 and NS5-NS6, or NS6-NS7 junctions, respectively) were resistant to trans cleavage by NS6 or NS6-7 proteins, whereas cis cleavage of the Glu-Ala scissile bond of the NS5-NS6 junction was evidenced. Interestingly, the presence of a Phe at position P4 overruled the resistance to trans cleavage of the Glu-Ala junction (NS5-NS6), whereas substitutions at the P1 and P2′ positions altered the cleavage efficiency. The differential cleavage observed is supported by a model of the substrate-binding site of the sapovirus protease, indicating that the P4, P1, and P2′ positions in the substrate modulate the cleavage specificity and efficiency of the sapovirus chymotrypsin-like protease.
PMCID: PMC2519560  PMID: 18550673

Results 1-7 (7)