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1.  Identification of Key Hinge Residues Important for Nucleotide-Dependent Allostery in E. coli Hsp70/DnaK 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(11):e1003279.
DnaK is a molecular chaperone that has important roles in protein folding. The hydrolysis of ATP is essential to this activity, and the effects of nucleotides on the structure and function of DnaK have been extensively studied. However, the key residues that govern the conformational motions that define the apo, ATP-bound, and ADP-bound states are not entirely clear. Here, we used molecular dynamics simulations, mutagenesis, and enzymatic assays to explore the molecular basis of this process. Simulations of DnaK's nucleotide-binding domain (NBD) in the apo, ATP-bound, and ADP/Pi-bound states suggested that each state has a distinct conformation, consistent with available biochemical and structural information. The simulations further suggested that large shearing motions between subdomains I-A and II-A dominated the conversion between these conformations. We found that several evolutionally conserved residues, especially G228 and G229, appeared to function as a hinge for these motions, because they predominantly populated two distinct states depending on whether ATP or ADP/Pi was bound. Consistent with the importance of these “hinge” residues, alanine point mutations caused DnaK to have reduced chaperone activities in vitro and in vivo. Together, these results clarify how sub-domain motions communicate allostery in DnaK.
Author Summary
DnaK belongs to the highly conserved heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family, a group of ATP-dependent molecular chaperones that regulates proteostasis. Studies have suggested that global movements of the subdomains in the nucleotide-binding domain (NBD) of DnaK regulate its catalytic activity. However, there is less known about the key residues involved in these subdomain motions and whether these residues might also regulate inter-domain allostery with the substrate-binding domain (SBD). To examine the motions in the NBD, dynamics simulations of DnaK's NBD in the apo, ATP-bound, and ADP/Pi-bound states were performed. Through essential dynamics and torsion angle analyses, we identified motions and highly conserved hinge residues between subdomains IIA and IIB that are likely to be important for nucleotide cycling and for communicating the nucleotide state to the SBD. Supporting this model, mutating these conserved hinge residues affected ATPase activity and chaperone functions in vitro and in bacteria, suggesting their importance in the nucleotide-dependent motions in DnaK.
PMCID: PMC3836694  PMID: 24277995
Molecular bioSystems  2012;8(9):2323-2333.
In Escherichia coli, the molecular chaperones DnaK and DnaJ cooperate to assist the folding of newly synthesized or unfolded polypeptides. DnaK and DnaJ bind to hydrophobic motifs in these proteins and also each other to promote folding. This system is thought to be sufficiently versatile to act on the entire proteome, which creates interesting challenges in understanding the large-scale, ternary interactions between DnaK, DnaJ and their thousands of potential substrates. To address this question, we computationally predicted the number and frequency of DnaK- and DnaJ-binding motifs in the E. coli proteome, guided by free energy-based binding consensus motifs. This analysis revealed that nearly every protein is predicted to contain multiple DnaK- and DnaJ-binding sites, with the DnaJ sites occurring approximately twice as often. Further, we found that an overwhelming majority of the DnaK sites partially or completely overlapped with the DnaJ-binding motifs. It is well known that high concentrations of DnaJ inhibit DnaK-DnaJ-mediated refolding. The observed overlapping binding sites suggest that this phenomenon may be explained by an important balance in the relative stoichiometry of DnaK and DnaJ which determines whether they bind synergistically or competitively. To test this idea, we measured the chaperone-assisted folding of two denatured substrates and found that the distribution of predicted DnaK- and DnaJ-binding sites was indeed a good predictor of the optimal stoichiometry required for folding. These studies provide insight into how DnaK and DnaJ might cooperate to maintain global protein homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3462289  PMID: 22732719
3.  Chemical Screens Against A Reconstituted Multi-Protein Complex: Myricetin Blocks DnaJ Regulation of DnaK through an Allosteric Mechanism 
Chemistry & biology  2011;18(2):210-221.
DnaK is a molecular chaperone responsible for multiple aspects of proteostasis. The intrinsically slow ATPase activity of DnaK is stimulated by its co-chaperone, DnaJ, and these proteins often work in concert. To identify inhibitors, we screened plant-derived extracts against a re-constituted mixture of DnaK and DnaJ. This approach resulted in the identification of flavonoids, including myricetin, which inhibited activity by up to 75%. Interestingly, myricetin prevented DnaJ-mediated stimulation of ATPase activity, with minimal impact on either DnaK’s intrinsic turnover rate or its stimulation by another co-chaperone, GrpE. Using NMR, we found that myricetin binds DnaK at an unanticipated site between the IB and IIB subdomains and that it allosterically blocked binding of DnaJ. Together, these results highlight a “gray box” screening approach, which approximates a limited amount of the complexity expected in physiological, multi-protein systems.
PMCID: PMC3057461  PMID: 21338918
4.  High Throughput Screen for Escherichia coli Heat Shock Protein 70 (Hsp70/DnaK): ATPase Assay in Low Volume By Exploiting Energy Transfer 
Journal of biomolecular screening  2010;15(10):1211-1219.
Members of the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family of molecular chaperones are emerging as potential therapeutic targets. Their ATPase activity has classically been measured using colorimetric phosphate-detection reagents, such as quinaldine red (QR). While such assays are suitable for 96-well plate formats, they typically lose sensitivity when attempted in lower volume due to path length and meniscus effects. These limitations and Hsp70’s weak enzymatic activity have combined to create significant challenges in high throughput screening. To overcome these difficulties, we have adopted an energy transfer strategy that was originally reported by Zuck et al. (Anal. Biochem. 2005, 342:254–259). Briefly, white 384-well plates emit fluorescence when irradiated at 430 nm. In turn, this intrinsic fluorescence can be quenched by energy transfer with the QR-based chromophore. Using this more sensitive approach, we tested 55,400 compounds against DnaK, a prokaryotic member of the Hsp70 family. The assay performance was good (Z′ ~ 0.6, CV ~8%) and at least one promising new inhibitor was identified. In secondary assays, this compound specifically blocked stimulation of DnaK by its co-chaperone, DnaJ. Thus, this simple and inexpensive adaptation of a colorimetric method might be suitable for screening against Hsp70-family members.
PMCID: PMC3052282  PMID: 20926844
phosphate; malachite green; ATPase; molecular chaperone; fluorescence assay
5.  Heat Shock Protein 70 (Hsp70) as an Emerging Drug Target 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2010;53(12):4585-4602.
PMCID: PMC2895966  PMID: 20334364
6.  Binding of a Small Molecule at a Protein–Protein Interface Regulates the Chaperone Activity of Hsp70–Hsp40 
ACS chemical biology  2010;5(6):611-622.
Heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) is a highly conserved molecular chaperone that plays multiple roles in protein homeostasis. In these various tasks, the activity of Hsp70 is shaped by interactions with co-chaperones, such as Hsp40. The Hsp40 family of co-chaperones binds to Hsp70 through a conserved J-domain, and these factors stimulate ATPase and protein-folding activity. Using chemical screens, we identified a compound, 115-7c, which acts as an artificial co-chaperone for Hsp70. Specifically, the activities of 115-7c mirrored those of a Hsp40; the compound stimulated the ATPase and protein-folding activities of a prokaryotic Hsp70 (DnaK) and partially compensated for a Hsp40 loss-of-function mutation in yeast. Consistent with these observations, NMR and mutagenesis studies indicate that the binding site for 115-7c is adjacent to a region on DnaK that is required for J-domain-mediated stimulation. Interestingly, we found that 115-7c and the Hsp40 do not compete for binding but act in concert. Using this information, we introduced additional steric bulk to 115-7c and converted it into an inhibitor. Thus, these chemical probes either promote or inhibit chaperone functions by regulating Hsp70–Hsp40 complex assembly at a native protein–protein interface. This unexpected mechanism may provide new avenues for exploring how chaperones and co-chaperones cooperate to shape protein homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2950966  PMID: 20481474
7.  Chemical Manipulation of Hsp70 ATPase Activity Regulates Tau Stability 
Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies have recently been clustered with a group of nervous system disorders termed protein misfolding diseases. The common element established between these disorders is their requirement for processing by the chaperone complex. It is now clear that the individual components of the chaperone system, such as Hsp70 and Hsp90, exist in an intricate signaling network that exerts pleiotropic effects on a host of substrates. Therefore, we have endeavored to identify new compounds that can specifically regulate individual components of the chaperone family. Here, we hypothesized that chemical manipulation of Hsp70 ATPase activity, a target that has not previously been pursued, could illuminate an entirely novel pathway towards chaperone-based therapies. Using a newly developed high-throughput screening system, we identified inhibitors and activators of Hsp70 enzymatic activity. Inhibitors led to rapid proteasome-dependent tau degradation in a cell-based model. Conversely, Hsp70 activators preserved tau levels in the same system. Hsp70 inhibition did not result in general protein degradation, nor did it induce a heat shock response. We also found that inhibiting Hsp70 ATPase activity after increasing its expression levels facilitated tau degradation at lower doses, suggesting that we can combine genetic and pharmacologic manipulation of Hsp70 to control the fate of bound substrates. Disease relevance of this strategy was further established when tau levels were rapidly and substantially reduced in brain tissue from tau transgenic mice. These findings reveal an entirely novel path towards therapeutic intervention of tauopathies by inhibition of the previously untargeted ATPase activity of Hsp70.
PMCID: PMC2775811  PMID: 19793966
Tau; Alzheimer’s disease; chaperones; heat shock proteins; therapeutic; chemical

Results 1-7 (7)