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1.  The phosphorylation of Hsp20 enhances its association with amyloid-β to increase protection against neuronal cell death 
Up-regulation of Hsp20 protein levels in response to amyloid fibril formation is considered a key protective response against the onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Indeed, the physical interaction between Hsp20 and Aβ is known to prevent Aβ oligomerisation and protects neuronal cells from Aβ mediated toxicity, however, details of the molecular mechanism and regulatory cell signalling events behind this process have remained elusive. Using both conventional MTT end-point assays and novel real time measurement of cell impedance, we show that Hsp20 protects human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells from the neurotoxic effects of Aβ. In an attempt to provide a mechanism for the neuroprotection afforded by Hsp20, we used peptide array, co-immunoprecipitation analysis and NMR techniques to map the interaction between Hsp20 and Aβ and report a binding mode where Hsp20 binds adjacent to the oligomerisation domain of Aβ, preventing aggregation. The Hsp20/Aβ interaction is enhanced by Hsp20 phosphorylation, which serves to increase association with low molecular weight Aβ species and decrease the effective concentration of Hsp20 required to disrupt the formation of amyloid oligomers. Finally, using a novel fluorescent assay for the real time evaluation of morphology-specific Aβ aggregation, we show that phospho-dependency of this effect is more pronounced for fibrils than for globular Aβ forms and that 25mers corresponding to the Hsp20 N-terminal can be used as Aβ aggregate inhibitors. Our report is the first to provide a molecular model for the Hsp20/Aβ complex and the first to suggest that modulation of the cAMP/cGMP pathways could be a novel route to enhance Hsp20-mediated attenuation of Aβ fibril neurotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC4148482  PMID: 24859569
Hsp20; Aβ oligomerisation; Peptide array
2.  Identification of the domains of cauliflower mosaic virus protein P6 responsible for suppression of RNA silencing and salicylic acid signalling 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 12):2777-2789.
Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) encodes a 520 aa polypeptide, P6, which participates in several essential activities in the virus life cycle including suppressing RNA silencing and salicylic acid-responsive defence signalling. We infected Arabidopsis with CaMV mutants containing short in-frame deletions within the P6 ORF. A deletion in the distal end of domain D-I (the N-terminal 112 aa) of P6 did not affect virus replication but compromised symptom development and curtailed the ability to restore GFP fluorescence in a GFP-silenced transgenic Arabidopsis line. A deletion in the minimum transactivator domain was defective in virus replication but retained the capacity to suppress RNA silencing locally. Symptom expression in CaMV-infected plants is apparently linked to the ability to suppress RNA silencing. When transiently co-expressed with tomato bushy stunt virus P19, an elicitor of programmed cell death in Nicotiana tabacum, WT P6 suppressed the hypersensitive response, but three mutants, two with deletions within the distal end of domain D-I and one involving the N-terminal nuclear export signal (NES), were unable to do so. Deleting the N-terminal 20 aa also abolished the suppression of pathogen-associated molecular pattern-dependent PR1a expression following agroinfiltration. However, the two other deletions in domain D-I retained this activity, evidence that the mechanisms underlying these functions are not identical. The D-I domain of P6 when expressed alone failed to suppress either cell death or PR1a expression and is therefore necessary but not sufficient for all three defence suppression activities. Consequently, concerns about the biosafety of genetically modified crops carrying truncated ORFVI sequences appear unfounded.
PMCID: PMC3836500  PMID: 24088344
3.  The structure of latherin, a surfactant allergen protein from horse sweat and saliva 
Latherin is a highly surface-active allergen protein found in the sweat and saliva of horses and other equids. Its surfactant activity is intrinsic to the protein in its native form, and is manifest without associated lipids or glycosylation. Latherin probably functions as a wetting agent in evaporative cooling in horses, but it may also assist in mastication of fibrous food as well as inhibition of microbial biofilms. It is a member of the PLUNC family of proteins abundant in the oral cavity and saliva of mammals, one of which has also been shown to be a surfactant and capable of disrupting microbial biofilms. How these proteins work as surfactants while remaining soluble and cell membrane-compatible is not known. Nor have their structures previously been reported. We have used protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine the conformation and dynamics of latherin in aqueous solution. The protein is a monomer in solution with a slightly curved cylindrical structure exhibiting a ‘super-roll’ motif comprising a four-stranded anti-parallel β-sheet and two opposing α-helices which twist along the long axis of the cylinder. One end of the molecule has prominent, flexible loops that contain a number of apolar amino acid side chains. This, together with previous biophysical observations, leads us to a plausible mechanism for surfactant activity in which the molecule is first localized to the non-polar interface via these loops, and then unfolds and flattens to expose its hydrophobic interior to the air or non-polar surface. Intrinsically surface-active proteins are relatively rare in nature, and this is the first structure of such a protein from mammals to be reported. Both its conformation and proposed method of action are different from other, non-mammalian surfactant proteins investigated so far.
PMCID: PMC4043175  PMID: 23782536
latherin; horse; sweat; surfactant protein; PLUNC proteins
4.  Resonance assignments for latherin, a natural surfactant protein from horse sweat 
Biomolecular Nmr Assignments  2013;8(1):213-216.
Latherin is an intrinsically surfactant protein of ~23 kDa found in the sweat and saliva of horses. Its function is probably to enhance the translocation of sweat water from the skin to the surface of the pelt for evaporative cooling. Its role in saliva may be to enhance the wetting, softening and maceration of the dry, fibrous food for which equines are adapted. Latherin is unusual in its relatively high content of aliphatic amino acids (~25 % leucines) that might contribute to its surfactant properties. Latherin is related to the palate, lung, and nasal epithelium carcinoma-associated proteins (PLUNCs) of mammals, at least one of which is now known to exhibit similar surfactant activity to latherin. No structures of any PLUNC protein are currently available. 15N,13C-labelled recombinant latherin was produced in Escherichia coli, and essentially all of the resonances were assigned despite the signal overlap due to the preponderance of leucines. The most notable exceptions include a number of residues located in an apparently dynamic loop region between residues 145 and 154. The assignments have been deposited with BMRB accession number 19067.
PMCID: PMC3955484  PMID: 23708874
Latherin; Surfactant protein; Horse; Sweat; Saliva; Allergen; NMR
5.  Resonance assignment of As-p18, a fatty acid binding protein secreted by developing larvae of the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum 
Biomolecular Nmr Assignments  2012;8(1):33-36.
As-p18 is produced and secreted by larvae of the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum as they develop within their eggs. The protein is a member of the fatty acid binding protein (FABP) family found in a wide range of eukaryotes, but is distinctive in that it is secreted from the synthesizing cell and has predicted additional structural features not previously seen in other FABPs. As-p18 and similar proteins found only in nematodes have therefore been designated ‘nemFABPs’. Sequence-specific 1H, 13C and 15N resonance assignments were established for the 155 amino acid recombinant protein (18.3 kDa) in complex with oleic acid, using a series of three-dimensional triple-resonance heteronuclear NMR experiments. The secondary structure of As-p18 is predicted to be very similar to other FABPs, but the protein has extended loops that have not been observed in other FABPs whose structures have so far been solved.
PMCID: PMC3955487  PMID: 23225165
As-p18; Fatty acid binding protein; nemFABP; Nematode; Parasite; Ascaris suum
6.  Plant UVR8 Photoreceptor Senses UV-B by Tryptophan-Mediated Disruption of Cross-Dimer Salt Bridges 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;335(6075):1492-1496.
The recently identified plant photoreceptor UVR8 triggers regulatory changes in gene expression in response to ultraviolet-B (UV-B) light via an unknown mechanism. Here, crystallographic and solution structures of the UVR8 homodimer, together with mutagenesis and far-UV circular dichroism spectroscopy, reveal its mechanisms for UV-B perception and signal transduction. β-propeller subunits form a remarkable, tryptophan-dominated, dimer interface stitched together by a complex salt-bridge network. Salt-bridging arginines flank the excitonically coupled cross-dimer tryptophan “pyramid” responsible for UV-B sensing. Photoreception reversibly disrupts salt bridges, triggering dimer dissociation and signal initiation. Mutation of a single tryptophan to phenylalanine re-tunes the photoreceptor to detect UV-C wavelengths. Our analyses establish how UVR8 functions as a photoreceptor without a prosthetic chromophore to promote plant development and survival in sunlight.
PMCID: PMC3505452  PMID: 22323738
7.  1H, 13C and 15N chemical shift assignments of Na-FAR-1, a helix-rich fatty acid and retinol binding protein of the parasitic nematode Necator americanus 
Biomolecular Nmr Assignments  2012;8(1):19-21.
The fatty acid and retinol-binding (FAR) proteins are a family of unusual helix-rich lipid binding proteins found exclusively in nematodes, and are secreted by a range of parasites of humans, animals and plants. Na-FAR-1 is from the parasitic nematode Necator americanus, an intestinal blood-feeding parasite of humans. Sequence-specific 1H, 13C and 15N resonance assignments have been obtained for the recombinant 170 amino acid protein, using three-dimensional triple-resonance heteronuclear magnetic resonance experiments. Backbone assignments have been obtained for 99.3 % of the non-proline HN/N pairs (146 out of 147). The amide resonance of T45 was not observed, probably due to rapid exchange with solvent water. A total of 96.9 % of backbone resonances were identified, while 97.7 % assignment of amino acid sidechain protons is complete. All Hα(166), Hβ(250) and Hγ(160) and 98.4 % of the Hδ (126 out of 128) atoms were assigned. In addition, 99.4 % Cα (154 out of 155) and 99.3 % Cβ (143 out of 144) resonances have been assigned. No resonances were observed for the NHn groups of R93 NεHε, arginine, Nη1H2, Nη2H2, histidine Nδ1Hδ1, Nε1Hε1 and lysine Nζ3H3. Na-FAR-1 has a similar overall arrangement of α-helices to Ce-FAR-7 of the free-living Caeorhabditis elegans, but with an extra C-terminal helix.
PMCID: PMC3955486  PMID: 23179061
Parasitic nematode; Necator americanus; Fatty-acid and retinol-binding protein; Na-FAR-1; NMR
8.  Useable diffraction data from a multiple microdomain-containing crystal of Ascaris suum As-p18 fatty-acid-binding protein using a microfocus beamline 
As-p18, an unusual fatty-acid-binding protein from a parasitic nematode, was expressed in bacteria, purified and crystallized. The use of a microfocus beamline was essential for data collection.
As-p18 is a fatty-acid-binding protein from the parasitic nematode Ascaris suum. Although it exhibits sequence similarity to mammalian intracellular fatty-acid-binding proteins, it contains features that are unique to nematodes. Crystals were obtained, but initial diffraction data analysis revealed that they were composed of a number of ‘microdomains’. Interpretable data could only be collected using a microfocus beamline with a beam size of 12 × 8 µm.
PMCID: PMC3412778  PMID: 22869127
fatty-acid-binding proteins; parasitic nematodes; Ascaris suum; microfocus beamlines
9.  Two crystal forms of a helix-rich fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein, Na-FAR-1, from the parasitic nematode Necator americanus  
Na-FAR-1, a fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein, was expressed in bacteria, purified and crystallized. Crystals grew in two different morphologies under the same conditions.
Na-FAR-1 is an unusual α-helix-rich fatty acid- and retinol-binding protein from Necator americanus, a blood-feeding intestinal parasitic nematode of humans. It belongs to the FAR protein family, which is unique to nematodes; no structural information is available to date for FAR proteins from parasites. Crystals were obtained with two different morphologies that corresponded to different space groups. Crystal form 1 exhibited space group P432 (unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 120.80 Å, α = β = γ = 90°) and diffracted to 2.5 Å resolution, whereas crystal form 2 exhibited space group F23 (unit-cell parameters a = b = c = 240.38 Å, α = β = γ = 90°) and diffracted to 3.2 Å resolution. Crystal form 2 showed signs of significant twinning.
PMCID: PMC3388935  PMID: 22750878
fatty acid- and retinol-binding proteins; parasitic nematodes; Necator americanus; Na-FAR-1
10.  Identification of Bacterial Target Proteins for the Salicylidene Acylhydrazide Class of Virulence-blocking Compounds* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(34):29922-29931.
A class of anti-virulence compounds, the salicylidene acylhydrazides, has been widely reported to block the function of the type three secretion system of several Gram-negative pathogens by a previously unknown mechanism. In this work we provide the first identification of bacterial proteins that are targeted by this group of compounds. We provide evidence that their mode of action is likely to result from a synergistic effect arising from a perturbation of the function of several conserved proteins. We also examine the contribution of selected target proteins to the pathogenicity of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and to expression of virulence genes in Escherichia coli O157.
PMCID: PMC3191033  PMID: 21724850
Bacteria; Bacterial Genetics; Gene Regulation; Protein Drug Interactions; Protein Secretion; Protein Targeting; Transcription
11.  Solution Structure of a Repeated Unit of the ABA-1 Nematode Polyprotein Allergen of Ascaris Reveals a Novel Fold and Two Discrete Lipid-Binding Sites 
Nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs) are an unusual class of lipid-binding proteins found only in nematodes. They are synthesized as large, tandemly repetitive polyproteins that are post-translationally cleaved into multiple copies of small lipid binding proteins with virtually identical fatty acid and retinol (Vitamin A)-binding characteristics. They are probably central to transport and distribution of small hydrophobic compounds between the tissues of nematodes, and may play key roles in nutrient scavenging, immunomodulation, and IgE antibody-based responses in infection. In some species the repeating units are diverse in amino acid sequence, but, in ascarid and filarial nematodes, many of the units are identical or near-identical. ABA-1A is the most common repeating unit of the NPA of Ascaris suum, and is closely similar to that of Ascaris lumbricoides, the large intestinal roundworm of humans. Immune responses to NPAs have been associated with naturally-acquired resistance to infection in humans, and the immune repertoire to them is under strict genetic control.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The solution structure of ABA-1A was determined by protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The protein adopts a novel seven-helical fold comprising a long central helix that participates in two hollow four-helical bundles on either side. Discrete hydrophobic ligand-binding pockets are found in the N-terminal and C-terminal bundles, and the amino acid sidechains affected by ligand (fatty acid) binding were identified. Recombinant ABA-1A contains tightly-bound ligand(s) of bacterial culture origin in one of its binding sites.
This is the first mature, post-translationally processed, unit of a naturally-occurring tandemly-repetitive polyprotein to be structurally characterized from any source, and it belongs to a new structural class. NPAs have no counterparts in vertebrates, so represent potential targets for drug or immunological intervention. The nature of the (as yet) unidentified bacterial ligand(s) may be pertinent to this, as will our characterization of the unusual binding sites.
Author Summary
Parasitic nematode worms cause serious health problems in humans and other animals. They can induce allergic-type immune responses, which can be harmful but may at the same time protect against the infections. Allergens are proteins that trigger allergic reactions and these parasites produce a type that is confined to nematodes, the nematode polyprotein allergens (NPAs). These are synthesized as large precursor proteins comprising repeating units of similar amino acid sequence that are subsequently cleaved into multiple copies of the allergen protein. NPAs bind small lipids such as fatty acids and retinol (Vitamin A) and probably transport these sensitive and insoluble compounds between the tissues of the worms. Nematodes cannot synthesize these lipids, so NPAs may also be crucial for extracting nutrients from their hosts. They may also be involved in altering immune responses by controlling the lipids by which the immune and inflammatory cells communicate. We describe the molecular structure of one unit of an NPA, the well-known ABA-1 allergen of Ascaris, and find its structure to be of a type not previously found for lipid-binding proteins, and we describe the unusual sites where lipids bind within this structure.
PMCID: PMC3079579  PMID: 21526216
FEBS letters  2008;582(4):485-490.
We have evaluated the roles of key amino acids to the action of the natural inhibitor chagasin of papain-family cysteine peptidases. A W93A substitution decreased inhibitor affinity for human cathepsin L 100-fold, while substitutions of T31 resulted in 10-100-fold increases in the Ki for cruzipain of Trypanosoma cruzi. A T31A/T32A double mutant had increased affinity for cathepsin L but not for cruzipain, while the T31-T32 deletion drastically affected inhibition of both human and parasite peptidases. These differential effects reflect the occurrence of direct interactions between chagasin and helix 8 of cathepsin L, interactions that do not occur with cruzipain.
PMCID: PMC2607524  PMID: 18201565
Chagasin; cysteine peptidase; inhibitor; mutant; Trypanosoma
14.  The role of conserved residues of chagasin in the inhibition of cysteine peptidases 
Febs Letters  2008;582(4-3):485-490.
We have evaluated the roles of key amino acids to the action of the natural inhibitor chagasin of papain-family cysteine peptidases. A W93A substitution decreased inhibitor affinity for human cathepsin L 100-fold, while substitutions of T31 resulted in 10–100-fold increases in the Ki for cruzipain of Trypanosoma cruzi. A T31A/T32A double mutant had increased affinity for cathepsin L but not for cruzipain, while the T31-T32 deletion drastically affected inhibition of both human and parasite peptidases. These differential effects reflect the occurrence of direct interactions between chagasin and helix 8 of cathepsin L, interactions that do not occur with cruzipain.
PMCID: PMC2607524  PMID: 18201565
Z-Phe-Arg-MCA, carbobenzoxy-phenylalanyl-arginyl-7-amido-4-methylcoumarin; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; cruzain, recombinant cruzipain truncated at the C-terminal extension; DTT, dithiothreitol; EDTA, ethylenidiaminetetracetic acid disodium salt 2-hydrate; E-64, l-trans-epoxysuccinylleucylamido-(4-guanidino) butane; IPTG, isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside; Chagasin; Cysteine peptidase; Inhibitor; Mutant; Trypanosoma
The Journal of biological chemistry  2005;281(9):5821-5828.
Clan CA, family C1 cysteine peptidases (CPs) are important virulence factors and drug targets in parasites that cause neglected diseases. Natural CP inhibitors of the I42 family, known as ICP, occur in some protozoa and bacterial pathogens, but are absent from metazoa. They are active against both parasite and mammalian CPs, despite having no sequence similarity with other classes of CP inhibitor. Recent data suggest that L. mexicana ICP plays an important role in host-parasite interactions. We have now solved the structure of ICP from L. mexicanaby NMR and shown that it adopts a type of immunoglobulin-like fold not previously reported in lower eukaryotes or bacteria. The structure places three loops containing highly conserved residues at one end of the molecule, one loop being highly mobile. Interaction studies with CPs confirm the importance of these loops for the interaction between ICP and CPs and suggest the mechanism of inhibition. Structure-guided mutagenesis of ICP has revealed that residues in the mobile loop are critical for CP inhibition. Data-driven docking models support the importance of the loops in the ICP-CP interaction. This study provides structural evidence for the convergent evolution from an immunoglobulin fold of CP inhibitors with a cystatin-like mechanism.
PMCID: PMC1473161  PMID: 16407198
16.  The metabolic enzyme AdhE controls the virulence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 
Molecular Microbiology  2014;93(1):199-211.
Classical studies have focused on the role that individual regulators play in controlling virulence gene expression. An emerging theme, however, is that bacterial metabolism also plays a key role in this process. Our previous work identified a series of proteins that were implicated in the regulation of virulence. One of these proteins was AdhE, a bi-functional acetaldehyde-CoA dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase. Deletion of its gene (adhE) resulted in elevated levels of extracellular acetate and a stark pleiotropic phenotype: strong suppression of the Type Three Secretion System (T3SS) and overexpression of non-functional flagella. Correspondingly, the adhE mutant bound poorly to host cells and was unable to swim. Furthermore, the mutant was significantly less virulent than its parent when tested in vivo, which supports the hypothesis that attachment and motility are central to the colonization process. The molecular basis by which AdhE affects virulence gene regulation was found to be multifactorial, involving acetate-stimulated transcription of flagella expression and post-transcriptional regulation of the T3SS through Hfq. Our study reveals fascinating insights into the links between bacterial physiology, the expression of virulence genes, and the underlying molecular mechanism mechanisms by which these processes are regulated.
PMCID: PMC4249723  PMID: 24846743

Results 1-16 (16)