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1.  Disruption of TgPHIL1 Alters Specific Parameters of Toxoplasma gondii Motility Measured in a Quantitative, Three-Dimensional Live Motility Assay 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85763.
T. gondii uses substrate-dependent gliding motility to invade cells of its hosts, egress from these cells at the end of its lytic cycle and disseminate through the host organism during infection. The ability of the parasite to move is therefore critical for its virulence. T. gondii engages in three distinct types of gliding motility on coated two-dimensional surfaces: twirling, circular gliding and helical gliding. We show here that motility in a three-dimensional Matrigel-based environment is strikingly different, in that all parasites move in irregular corkscrew-like trajectories. Methods developed for quantitative analysis of motility parameters along the smoothed trajectories demonstrate a complex but periodic pattern of motility with mean and maximum velocities of 0.58±0.07 µm/s and 2.01±0.17 µm/s, respectively. To test how a change in the parasite's crescent shape might affect trajectory parameters, we compared the motility of Δphil1 parasites, which are shorter and wider than wild type, to the corresponding parental and complemented lines. Although comparable percentages of parasites were moving for all three lines, the Δphil1 mutant exhibited significantly decreased trajectory lengths and mean and maximum velocities compared to the parental parasite line. These effects were either partially or fully restored upon complementation of the Δphil1 mutant. These results show that alterations in morphology may have a significant impact on T. gondii motility in an extracellular matrix-like environment, provide a possible explanation for the decreased fitness of Δphil1 parasites in vivo, and demonstrate the utility of the quantitative three-dimensional assay for studying parasite motility.
PMCID: PMC3906025  PMID: 24489670
2.  Structural and Biochemical Studies Reveal Differences in the Catalytic Mechanisms of Mammalian and Drosophila melanogaster Thioredoxin Reductases† 
Biochemistry  2007;46(16):4694-4705.
Thioredoxin reductase (TR) from Drosophila melanogaster(DmTR) is a member of the glutathione reductase (GR) family of pyridine nucleotide disulfide oxidoreductases and catalyzes the reduction of the redox-active disulfide bond of thioredoxin. DmTR is notable for having high catalytic activity without the presence of a selenocysteine (Sec) residue (which is essential for the mammalian thioredoxin reductases). We report here the X-ray crystal structure of DmTR at 2.4 Å resolution (Rwork = 19.8 %, Rfree = 24.7%) in which the enzyme was truncated to remove the C-terminal tripeptide sequence Cys-Cys-Ser. We also demonstrate that tetrapeptides equivalent to the oxidized C-terminal active sites of both mouse mitochondrial TR (mTR3) and DmTR, are substrates for the truncated forms of both enzymes. This truncated enzyme/peptide substrate system examines the kinetics of the ring opening step that occurs during the enzymatic cycle of TR. The ring opening step is 300-500 fold slower when Sec is replaced with Cys in mTR3 when using this system. Conversely, when Cys is replaced with Sec in DmTR, the rate of ring opening is only moderately increased (5-36 fold). Structures of these tetrapeptides were oriented in the active site of both enzymes using oxidized glutathione bound to GR as a template. DmTR has a more open subunit interface than the mouse enzyme and accommodates peptide Ser-Cys-Cys-Ser(ox) in a cis conformation that allows for protonation of the leaving group Cys by His464′, which helps to explain why this TR can function without the need for Sec. In contrast, mTR3 shows a narrower subunit interface. One possible result of this narrower interface is that the mammalian redox-active tetrapeptide Gly-Cys-Sec-Gly may adopt a trans conformation for a better fit. This places the Sec residue farther away from the protonating histidine residue, but the lower pKa of Sec in comparison to Cys eliminates the need for Sec to be protonated.
PMCID: PMC3687216  PMID: 17385893
3.  Insights into the mechanism of Rad51 recombinase from the structure and properties of a filament interface mutant 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(14):4889-4906.
Rad51 protein promotes homologous recombination in eukaryotes. Recombination activities are activated by Rad51 filament assembly on ssDNA. Previous studies of yeast Rad51 showed that His352 occupies an important position at the filament interface, where it could relay signals between subunits and active sites. To investigate, we characterized yeast Rad51 H352A and H352Y mutants, and solved the structure of H352Y. H352A forms catalytically competent but salt-labile complexes on ssDNA. In contrast, H352Y forms salt-resistant complexes on ssDNA, but is defective in nucleotide exchange, RPA displacement and strand exchange with full-length DNA substrates. The 2.5 Å crystal structure of H352Y reveals a right-handed helical filament in a high-pitch (130 Å) conformation with P61 symmetry. The catalytic core and dimer interface regions of H352Y closely resemble those of DNA-bound Escherichia coli RecA protein. The H352Y mutation stabilizes Phe187 from the adjacent subunit in a position that interferes with the γ-phosphate-binding site of the Walker A motif/P-loop, potentially explaining the limited catalysis observed. Comparison of Rad51 H352Y, RecA–DNA and related structures reveals that the presence of bound DNA correlates with the isomerization of a conserved cis peptide near Walker B to the trans configuration, which appears to prime the catalytic glutamate residue for ATP hydrolysis.
PMCID: PMC2919713  PMID: 20371520
4.  Crystal Structures of Monomeric Actin Bound to Cytochalasin D 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;384(4):848-864.
The fungal toxin cytochalasin D (CD) interferes with the normal dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton by binding to the barbed end of actin filaments. Despite its widespread use as a tool for studying actin-mediated processes, the exact location and nature of its binding to actin has not been previously determined. Here we describe two crystal structures of an expressed monomeric actin in complex with CD, one obtained by soaking preformed actin crystals with CD, and the other by co-crystallization. The binding site for CD, in the hydrophobic cleft between actin subdomains 1 and 3, is the same in the two structures. Polar and hydrophobic contacts play an equally important role in CD binding, and six hydrogen bonds stabilize the actin-CD complex. Many unrelated actin-binding proteins and marine toxins target this cleft, and the hydrophobic pocket at the front end of the cleft (viewing actin with subdomain 2 in the upper right corner). CD differs in that it binds to the back half of the cleft. The ability of CD to induce actin dimer formation and actin-catalyzed ATP hydrolysis may be related to its unique binding site, and the necessity to fit its bulky macrocycle into this cleft. Contacts with residues lining this cleft appear to be crucial to capping and/or severing. The co-crystallized actin-CD structure also revealed changes in actin conformation. A rotation of ~6° of the smaller actin domain (subdomains 1 and 2) with respect to the larger domain (subdomains 3 and 4) results in small changes in crystal packing that allow the D-loop to adopt an extended loop structure, instead of being disordered as it is in most crystal structures of actin. We speculate that these changes represent a potential conformation that the actin monomer can adopt on the pathway to polymerization or in the filament.
PMCID: PMC2638586  PMID: 18938176
actin; cytochalasin; domain motions; fungal toxin; crystal structure; filament capping
5.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of bacteriophage T4 UvsY recombination mediator protein 
UvsY, the recombination mediator protein of bacteriophage T4, has been crystallized in both native and selenium-substituted forms. X-ray diffraction data have been collected to 2.2 Å.
Bacteriophage T4 UvsY protein is considered to be the prototype of recombination mediator proteins, a class of proteins which assist in the loading of recombinases onto DNA. Wild-type and Se-substituted UvsY protein have been expressed and purified and crystallized by hanging-drop vapor diffusion. The crystals diffract to 2.4 Å using in-house facilities and to 2.2 Å at NSLS, Brookhaven National Laboratory. The crystals belong to space group P422, P4222, P4212 or P42212, the ambiguity arising from pseudo-centering, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 76.93, c = 269.8 Å. Previous biophysical characterization of UvsY indicates that it exists primarily as a hexamer in solution. Along with the absence of a crystallographic threefold, this suggests that the asymmetric unit of these crystals is likely to contain either three monomers, giving a solvent content of 71%, or six monomers, giving a solvent content of 41%.
PMCID: PMC2225191  PMID: 17012799
bacteriophage T4; UvsY; recombination mediator proteins
The Journal of biological chemistry  2006;281(34):24934-24944.
Serum transferrin reversibly binds iron in each of two lobes and delivers it to cells by a receptor-mediated, pH-dependant process. The binding and release of iron results in a large conformational change in which two subdomains in each lobe close or open with a rigid twisting motion around a hinge. We report the structure of human serum transferrin (hTF) lacking iron (apo-hTF) which was independently determined by two methods: (1) the crystal structure of recombinant non-glycosylated apo-hTF was solved at 2.7 Å resolution using a MAD phasing strategy, by substituting the nine methionines in hTF with selenomethionine and (2) the structure of glycosylated apo-hTF (isolated from serum) was determined to a resolution of 2.7 Å by molecular replacement using the human apo-N-lobe and the rabbit holo-C1-subdomain as search models. These two crystal structures are essentially identical. They represent the first published model for full-length human TF and reveal that, in contrast to family members (human lactoferrin and hen ovotransferrin), both lobes are almost equally open: 59.4° and 49.5° rotations are required to open the N- and C-lobe, respectively, (compared to closed pig TF). Availability of this structure is critical to a complete understanding of the metal binding properties of each lobe of hTF; the apo-hTF structure suggests that differences in the hinge regions of the N- and C-lobes may influence the rates of iron binding and release. In addition, we evaluate potential interactions between apo-hTF and the human transferrin receptor.
PMCID: PMC1895924  PMID: 16793765

Results 1-6 (6)