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1.  The structure of an authentic spore photoproduct lesion in DNA suggests a basis for recognition. Corrigendum 
A correction is made to the article by Singh et al. [(2014). Acta Cryst. D70, 752–759].
The article by Singh et al. [ (2014). Acta Cryst. D70, 752–759] is corrected.
PMCID: PMC4030664
spore photoproduct; DNA; host–guest approach; corrigendum
2.  Resolution of structural heterogeneity in dynamic crystallography 
An analytical approach is presented to identify and resolve several distinct structural species dynamically mixed in multiple crystallographic data sets.
Dynamic behavior of proteins is critical to their function. X-­ray crystallography, a powerful yet mostly static technique, faces inherent challenges in acquiring dynamic information despite decades of effort. Dynamic ‘structural changes’ are often indirectly inferred from ‘structural differences’ by comparing related static structures. In contrast, the direct observation of dynamic structural changes requires the initiation of a biochemical reaction or process in a crystal. Both the direct and the indirect approaches share a common challenge in analysis: how to interpret the structural heterogeneity intrinsic to all dynamic processes. This paper presents a real-space approach to this challenge, in which a suite of analytical methods and tools to identify and refine the mixed structural species present in multiple crystallographic data sets have been developed. These methods have been applied to representative scenarios in dynamic crystallography, and reveal structural information that is otherwise difficult to interpret or inaccessible using conventional methods.
PMCID: PMC3663119  PMID: 23695239
dynamic crystallography; structural heterogeneity
3.  Structural consequences of cutting a binding loop: two circularly permuted variants of streptavidin 
The crystal structures of two circularly permuted streptavidins probe the role of a flexible loop in the tight binding of biotin. Molecular-dynamics calculations for one of the mutants suggests that increased fluctuations in a hydrogen bond between the protein and biotin are associated with cleavage of the binding loop.
Circular permutation of streptavidin was carried out in order to investigate the role of a main-chain amide in stabilizing the high-affinity complex of the protein and biotin. Mutant proteins CP49/48 and CP50/49 were constructed to place new N-termini at residues 49 and 50 in a flexible loop involved in stabilizing the biotin complex. Crystal structures of the two mutants show that half of each loop closes over the binding site, as observed in wild-type streptavidin, while the other half adopts the open conformation found in the unliganded state. The structures are consistent with kinetic and thermodynamic data and indicate that the loop plays a role in enthalpic stabilization of the bound state via the Asn49 amide–biotin hydrogen bond. In wild-type streptavidin, the entropic penalties of immobilizing a flexible portion of the protein to enhance binding are kept to a manageable level by using a contiguous loop of medium length (six residues) which is already constrained by its anchorage to strands of the β-barrel protein. A molecular-dynamics simulation for CP50/49 shows that cleavage of the binding loop results in increased structural fluctuations for Ser45 and that these fluctuations destabilize the streptavidin–biotin complex.
PMCID: PMC3663120  PMID: 23695241
biotin-binding protein; biotin; circular permutation
4.  Yellow fluorescent protein phiYFPv (Phialidium): structure and structure-based mutagenesis 
The yellow fluorescent protein phiYFPv with improved folding has been developed from the spectrally identical wild-type phiYFP found in the marine jellyfish Phialidium.
The yellow fluorescent protein phiYFPv (λem max ≃ 537 nm) with improved folding has been developed from the spectrally identical wild-type phiYFP found in the marine jellyfish Phialidium. The latter fluorescent protein is one of only two known cases of naturally occurring proteins that exhibit emission spectra in the yellow–orange range (535–555 nm). Here, the crystal structure of phiYFPv has been determined at 2.05 Å resolution. The ‘yellow’ chromophore formed from the sequence triad Thr65-Tyr66-Gly67 adopts the bicyclic structure typical of fluorophores emitting in the green spectral range. It was demonstrated that perfect antiparallel π-stacking of chromophore Tyr66 and the proximal Tyr203, as well as Val205, facing the chromophore phenolic ring are chiefly responsible for the observed yellow emission of phiYFPv at 537 nm. Structure-based site-directed mutagenesis has been used to identify the key functional residues in the chromophore environment. The obtained results have been utilized to improve the properties of phiYFPv and its homologous monomeric biomarker tagYFP.
PMCID: PMC3663121  PMID: 23695245
yellow fluorescent protein; Phialidium; structure–function relationship; chromophores; oligomeric structure; intersubunit surface
5.  Structure of Streptococcus agalactiae tip pilin GBS104: a model for GBS pili assembly and host interactions 
The crystal structure of a 75 kDa central fragment of GBS104, a tip pilin from the 2063V/R strain of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococcus; GBS), is reported.
The crystal structure of a 75 kDa central fragment of GBS104, a tip pilin from the 2063V/R strain of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococcus; GBS), is reported. In addition, a homology model of the remaining two domains of GBS104 was built and a model of full-length GBS104 was generated by combining the homology model (the N1 and N4 domains) and the crystal structure of the 75 kDa fragment (the N2 and N3 domains). This rod-shaped GBS104 model is constructed of three IgG-like domains (the N1, N2 and N4 domains) and one vWFA-like domain (the N3 domain). The N1 and N2 domains of GBS104 are assembled with distinct and remote segments contributed by the N- and C-termini. The metal-binding site in the N3 domain of GBS104 is in the closed/low-affinity conformation. Interestingly, this domain hosts two long arms that project away from the metal-binding site. Using site-directed mutagenesis, two cysteine residues that lock the N3 domain of GBS104 into the open/high-affinity conformation were introduced. Both wild-type and disulfide-locked recombinant proteins were tested for binding to extracellular matrix proteins such as collagen, fibronectin, fibrinogen and laminin, and an increase in fibronectin binding affinity was identified for the disulfide-locked N3 domain, suggesting that induced conformational changes may play a possible role in receptor binding.
PMCID: PMC3663123  PMID: 23695252
tip pilins; GBS104; pili assembly; group B streptococcus
6.  Simulation of modulated protein crystal structure and diffraction data in a supercell and in superspace 
A computer simulation was created for a modulated protein structure along with structure factors in a periodic supercell and in superspace for the purpose of developing and validating software modifications that will be used to solve and refine modulated protein crystals.
The toolbox for computational protein crystallography is full of easy-to-use applications for the routine solution and refinement of periodic diffraction data sets and protein structures. There is a gap in the available software when it comes to aperiodic crystallographic data. Current protein crystallography software cannot handle modulated data, and small-molecule software for aperiodic crystallography cannot work with protein structures. To adapt software for modulated protein data requires training data to test and debug the changed software. Thus, a comprehensive training data set consisting of atomic positions with associated modulation functions and the modulated structure factors packaged as both a three-dimensional supercell and as a modulated structure in (3+1)D superspace has been created. The (3+1)D data were imported into Jana2006; this is the first time that this has been performed for protein data.
PMCID: PMC4005373  PMID: 23695251
protein; modulated structures; satellite reflections; q vectors; average structure; disorder; supercells; superspace
7.  Crystal structure of human CRMP-4: correction of intensities for lattice-translocation disorder 
Crystals of human CRMP-4 showed severe lattice-translocation disorder. Intensities were demodulated using the so-called lattice-alignment method and a new more general method with simplified parameterization, and the structure is presented.
Collapsin response mediator proteins (CRMPs) are cytosolic phosphoproteins that are mainly involved in neuronal cell development. In humans, the CRMP family comprises five members. Here, crystal structures of human CRMP-4 in a truncated and a full-length version are presented. The latter was determined from two types of crystals, which were either twinned or partially disordered. The crystal disorder was coupled with translational NCS in ordered domains and manifested itself with a rather sophisticated modulation of intensities. The data were demodulated using either the two-lattice treatment of lattice-translocation effects or a novel method in which demodulation was achieved by independent scaling of several groups of intensities. This iterative protocol does not rely on any particular parameterization of the modulation coefficients, but uses the current refined structure as a reference. The best results in terms of R factors and map correlation coefficients were obtained using this new method. The determined structures of CRMP-4 are similar to those of other CRMPs. Structural comparison allowed the confirmation of known residues, as well as the identification of new residues, that are important for the homo- and hetero-oligomerization of these proteins, which are critical to nerve-cell development. The structures provide further insight into the effects of medically relevant mutations of the DPYSL-3 gene encoding CRMP-4 and the putative enzymatic activities of CRMPs.
PMCID: PMC4051505  PMID: 24914979
CRMP-4; lattice-translocation disorder
8.  Structural and functional characterization of human and murine C5a anaphylatoxins 
The structure of the human C5aR antagonist, C5a-A8, reveals a three-helix bundle conformation similar to that observed for human C5a-desArg, whereas murine C5a and C5a-desArg both form the canonical four-helix bundle. These conformational differences are discussed in light of the differential C5aR activation properties observed for the human and murine complement anaphylatoxins across species.
Complement is an ancient part of the innate immune system that plays a pivotal role in protection against invading pathogens and helps to clear apoptotic and necrotic cells. Upon complement activation, a cascade of proteolytic events generates the complement effectors, including the anaphylatoxins C3a and C5a. Signalling through their cognate G-protein coupled receptors, C3aR and C5aR, leads to a wide range of biological events promoting inflammation at the site of complement activation. The function of anaphylatoxins is regulated by circulating carboxypeptidases that remove their C-terminal arginine residue, yielding C3a-desArg and C5a-desArg. Whereas human C3a and C3a-desArg adopt a canonical four-helix bundle fold, the conformation of human C5a-desArg has recently been described as a three-helix bundle. Here, the crystal structures of an antagonist version of human C5a, A8Δ71–73, and of murine C5a and C5a-desArg are reported. Whereas A8Δ71–73 adopts a three-helix bundle conformation similar to human C5a-desArg, the two murine proteins form a four-helix bundle. A cell-based functional assay reveals that murine C5a-desArg, in contrast to its human counterpart, exerts the same level of activition as murine C5a on its cognate receptor. The role of the different C5a conformations is discussed in relation to the differential activation of C5a receptors across species.
PMCID: PMC4051506  PMID: 24914981
complement anaphylatoxins; C5a; C5a-desArg; GPCR activation; three-helix bundle
9.  Structure solution of DNA-binding proteins and complexes with ARCIMBOLDO libraries 
The structure solution of DNA-binding protein structures and complexes based on the combination of location of DNA-binding protein motif fragments with density modification in a multi-solution frame is described.
Protein–DNA interactions play a major role in all aspects of genetic activity within an organism, such as transcription, packaging, rearrangement, replication and repair. The molecular detail of protein–DNA interactions can be best visualized through crystallography, and structures emphasizing insight into the principles of binding and base-sequence recognition are essential to understanding the subtleties of the underlying mechanisms. An increasing number of high-quality DNA-binding protein structure determinations have been witnessed despite the fact that the crystallographic particularities of nucleic acids tend to pose specific challenges to methods primarily developed for proteins. Crystallographic structure solution of protein–DNA complexes therefore remains a challenging area that is in need of optimized experimental and computational methods. The potential of the structure-solution program ARCIMBOLDO for the solution of protein–DNA complexes has therefore been assessed. The method is based on the combination of locating small, very accurate fragments using the program Phaser and density modification with the program SHELXE. Whereas for typical proteins main-chain α-helices provide the ideal, almost ubiquitous, small fragments to start searches, in the case of DNA complexes the binding motifs and DNA double helix constitute suitable search fragments. The aim of this work is to provide an effective library of search fragments as well as to determine the optimal ARCIMBOLDO strategy for the solution of this class of structures.
PMCID: PMC4051508  PMID: 24914984
protein–DNA complexes and macromolecule structure solutions; structure-solution pipelines; molecular replacement; density modification
10.  In and out of the minor groove: interaction of an AT-rich DNA with the drug CD27 
New features of an antiprotozoal DNA minor-groove binding drug, which acts as a cross-linking agent, are presented. It also fills the minor groove of DNA completely and prevents the access of proteins. These features are also expected for other minor-groove binding drugs when associated with suitable DNA targets.
The DNA of several pathogens is very rich in AT base pairs. Typical examples include the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and the causative agents of trichomoniasis and trypanosomiases. This fact has prompted studies of drugs which interact with the minor groove of DNA, some of which are used in medical practice. Previous studies have been performed almost exclusively with the AATT sequence. New features should be uncovered through the study of different DNA sequences. In this paper, the crystal structure of the complex of the DNA duplex d(AAAATTTT)2 with the dicationic drug 4,4′-bis(imidazolinylamino)diphenylamine (CD27) is presented. The drug binds to the minor groove of DNA as expected, but it shows two new features that have not previously been described: (i) the drugs protrude from the DNA and interact with neighbouring molecules, so that they may act as cross-linking agents, and (ii) the drugs completely cover the whole minor groove of DNA and displace bound water. Thus, they may prevent the access to DNA of proteins such as AT-hook proteins. These features are also expected for other minor-groove binding drugs when associated with all-AT DNA. These findings allow a better understanding of this family of compounds and will help in the development of new, more effective drugs. New data on the biological interaction of CD27 with the causative agent of trichomoniasis, Trichomonas vaginalis, are also reported.
PMCID: PMC4051503  PMID: 24914972
CD27; minor-groove binding drug; AT-rich DNA; d(AAAATTTT)2
11.  Structural and functional analysis of the human spliceosomal DEAD-box helicase Prp28 
The crystal structure of the helicase domain of the human spliceosomal DEAD-box protein Prp28 was solved by SAD. The binding of ADP and ATP by Prp28 was studied biochemically and analysed with regard to the crystal structure.
The DEAD-box protein Prp28 is essential for pre-mRNA splicing as it plays a key role in the formation of an active spliceosome. Prp28 participates in the release of the U1 snRNP from the 5′-splice site during association of the U5·U4/U6 tri-snRNP, which is a crucial step in the transition from a pre-catalytic spliceosome to an activated spliceosome. Here, it is demonstrated that the purified helicase domain of human Prp28 (hPrp28ΔN) binds ADP, whereas binding of ATP and ATPase activity could not be detected. ATP binding could not be observed for purified full-length hPrp28 either, but within an assembled spliceosomal complex hPrp28 gains ATP-binding activity. In order to understand the structural basis for the ATP-binding deficiency of isolated hPrp28, the crystal structure of hPrp28ΔN was determined at 2.0 Å resolution. In the crystal the helicase domain adopts a wide-open conformation, as the two RecA-like domains are extraordinarily displaced from the productive ATPase conformation. Binding of ATP is hindered by a closed conformation of the P-loop, which occupies the space required for the γ-phosphate of ATP.
PMCID: PMC4051504  PMID: 24914973
Prp28; DEAD-box proteins; helicase domain
12.  The structure of Plasmodium falciparum serine hydroxymethyltransferase reveals a novel redox switch that regulates its activities 
The crystal structure of P. falciparum SHMT revealed snapshots of an intriguing disulfide/sulfhydryl switch controlling the functional activity.
Plasmodium falciparum serine hydroxymethyltransferase (PfSHMT), an enzyme in the dTMP synthesis cycle, is an antimalarial target because inhibition of its expression or function has been shown to be lethal to the parasite. As the wild-type enzyme could not be crystallized, protein engineering of residues on the surface was carried out. The surface-engineered mutant PfSHMT-F292E was successfully crystallized and its structure was determined at 3 Å resolution. The PfSHMT-F292E structure is a good representation of PfSHMT as this variant revealed biochemical properties similar to those of the wild type. Although the overall structure of PfSHMT is similar to those of other SHMTs, unique features including the presence of two loops and a distinctive cysteine pair formed by Cys125 and Cys364 in the tetrahydrofolate (THF) substrate binding pocket were identified. These structural characteristics have never been reported in other SHMTs. Biochemical characterization and mutation analysis of these two residues confirm that they act as a disulfide/sulfhydryl switch to regulate the THF-dependent catalytic function of the enzyme. This redox switch is not present in the human enzyme, in which the cysteine pair is absent. The data reported here can be further exploited as a new strategy to specifically disrupt the activity of the parasite enzyme without interfering with the function of the human enzyme.
PMCID: PMC4051499  PMID: 24914963
Plasmodium falciparum; serine hydroxymethyltransferase; antimalarial target; protein engineering; disulfide/sulfhydryl switch
13.  CrowdPhase: crowdsourcing the phase problem 
The idea of attacking the phase problem by crowdsourcing is introduced. Using an interactive, multi-player, web-based system, participants work simultaneously to select phase sets that correspond to better electron-density maps in order to solve low-resolution phasing problems.
The human mind innately excels at some complex tasks that are difficult to solve using computers alone. For complex problems amenable to parallelization, strategies can be developed to exploit human intelligence in a collective form: such approaches are sometimes referred to as ‘crowdsourcing’. Here, a first attempt at a crowdsourced approach for low-resolution ab initio phasing in macromolecular crystallography is proposed. A collaborative online game named CrowdPhase was designed, which relies on a human-powered genetic algorithm, where players control the selection mechanism during the evolutionary process. The algorithm starts from a population of ‘individuals’, each with a random genetic makeup, in this case a map prepared from a random set of phases, and tries to cause the population to evolve towards individuals with better phases based on Darwinian survival of the fittest. Players apply their pattern-recognition capabilities to evaluate the electron-density maps generated from these sets of phases and to select the fittest individuals. A user-friendly interface, a training stage and a competitive scoring system foster a network of well trained players who can guide the genetic algorithm towards better solutions from generation to generation via gameplay. CrowdPhase was applied to two synthetic low-resolution phasing puzzles and it was shown that players could successfully obtain phase sets in the 30° phase error range and corresponding molecular envelopes showing agreement with the low-resolution models. The successful preliminary studies suggest that with further development the crowdsourcing approach could fill a gap in current crystallographic methods by making it possible to extract meaningful information in cases where limited resolution might otherwise prevent initial phasing.
PMCID: PMC4051500  PMID: 24914965
CrowdPhase; crowdsourcing; phase problem
14.  The structure of the SBP-Tag–streptavidin complex reveals a novel helical scaffold bridging binding pockets on separate subunits 
The structure of the SBP-Tag–streptavidin complex reveals a novel mode of peptide recognition in which a single peptide binds simultaneously to biotin-binding pockets from adjacent subunits of streptavidin. The molecular details of peptide recognition suggest how the SBP-Tag can be further modified to become an even more useful tag for a wider range of biotechnological applications.
The 38-residue SBP-Tag binds to streptavidin more tightly (K d ≃ 2.5–4.9 nM) than most if not all other known peptide sequences. Crystallographic analysis at 1.75 Å resolution shows that the SBP-Tag binds to streptavidin in an unprecedented manner by simultaneously interacting with biotin-binding pockets from two separate subunits. An N-­terminal HVV peptide sequence (residues 12–14) and a C-­terminal HPQ sequence (residues 31–33) form the bulk of the direct interactions between the SBP-Tag and the two biotin-binding pockets. Surprisingly, most of the peptide spanning these two sites (residues 17–28) adopts a regular α-­helical structure that projects three leucine side chains into a groove formed at the interface between two streptavidin protomers. The crystal structure shows that residues 1–10 and 35–38 of the original SBP-Tag identified through in vitro selection and deletion analysis do not appear to contact streptavidin and thus may not be important for binding. A 25-­residue peptide comprising residues 11–34 (SBP-Tag2) was synthesized and shown using surface plasmon resonance to bind streptavidin with very similar affinity and kinetics when compared with the SBP-Tag. The SBP-Tag2 was also added to the C-­terminus of β-lactamase and was shown to be just as effective as the full-length SBP-Tag in affinity purification. These results validate the molecular structure of the SBP-Tag–streptavidin complex and establish a minimal bivalent streptavidin-binding tag from which further rational design and optimization can proceed.
PMCID: PMC3640474  PMID: 23633599
protein–protein recognition; protein engineering; molecular recognition
15.  The 1.6 Å resolution structure of a FRET-optimized Cerulean fluorescent protein 
The high resolution X-ray structure of the cyan fluorescent protein mCerulean3 demonstrates that different combinations of correlated residue substitutions can provide near optimum quantum yield values for fluorescence.
Genetically encoded cyan fluorescent proteins (CFPs) bearing a tryptophan-derived chromophore are commonly used as energy-donor probes in Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) experiments useful in live cell-imaging applications. In recent years, significant effort has been expended on eliminating the structural and excited-state heterogeneity of these proteins, which has been linked to undesirable photophysical properties. Recently, mCerulean3, a descendant of enhanced CFP, was introduced as an optimized FRET donor protein with a superior quantum yield of 0.87. Here, the 1.6 Å resolution X-ray structure of mCerulean3 is reported. The chromophore is shown to adopt a planar trans configuration at low pH values, indicating that the acid-induced isomerization of Cerulean has been eliminated. β-Strand 7 appears to be well ordered in a single conformation, indicating a loss of conformational heterogeneity in the vicinity of the chromophore. Although the side chains of Ile146 and Leu167 appear to exist in two rotamer states, they are found to be well packed against the indole group of the chromophore. The Ser65 reversion mutation allows improved side-chain packing of Leu220. A structural comparison with mTurquoise2 is presented and additional engineering strategies are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3640468  PMID: 23633585
GFP-like proteins; enhanced cyan fluorescent proteins; ECFP; chromophores; directed evolution; structure-guided protein engineering; FRET; quantum yield
16.  AutoDrug: fully automated macromolecular crystallography workflows for fragment-based drug discovery 
New software has been developed for automating the experimental and data-processing stages of fragment-based drug discovery at a macromolecular crystallography beamline. A new workflow-automation framework orchestrates beamline-control and data-analysis software while organizing results from multiple samples.
AutoDrug is software based upon the scientific workflow paradigm that integrates the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource macromolecular crystallography beamlines and third-party processing software to automate the crystallo­graphy steps of the fragment-based drug-discovery process. AutoDrug screens a cassette of fragment-soaked crystals, selects crystals for data collection based on screening results and user-specified criteria and determines optimal data-collection strategies. It then collects and processes diffraction data, performs molecular replacement using provided models and detects electron density that is likely to arise from bound fragments. All processes are fully automated, i.e. are performed without user interaction or supervision. Samples can be screened in groups corresponding to particular proteins, crystal forms and/or soaking conditions. A single AutoDrug run is only limited by the capacity of the sample-storage dewar at the beamline: currently 288 samples. AutoDrug was developed in conjunction with RestFlow, a new scientific workflow-automation framework. RestFlow simplifies the design of AutoDrug by managing the flow of data and the organization of results and by orchestrating the execution of computational pipeline steps. It also simplifies the execution and interaction of third-party programs and the beamline-control system. Modeling AutoDrug as a scientific workflow enables multiple variants that meet the requirements of different user groups to be developed and supported. A workflow tailored to mimic the crystallography stages comprising the drug-discovery pipeline of CoCrystal Discovery Inc. has been deployed and successfully demonstrated. This workflow was run once on the same 96 samples that the group had examined manually and the workflow cycled successfully through all of the samples, collected data from the same samples that were selected manually and located the same peaks of unmodeled density in the resulting difference Fourier maps.
PMCID: PMC3640469  PMID: 23633588
AutoDrug; fragment-based drug discovery; workflow automation
17.  Towards protein-crystal centering using second-harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy 
The potential of second-harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy for automated crystal centering to guide synchrotron X-­ray diffraction of protein crystals has been explored.
The potential of second-harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy for automated crystal centering to guide synchrotron X-­ray diffraction of protein crystals was explored. These studies included (i) comparison of microcrystal positions in cryoloops as determined by SHG imaging and by X-ray diffraction rastering and (ii) X-ray structure determinations of selected proteins to investigate the potential for laser-induced damage from SHG imaging. In studies using β2 adrenergic receptor membrane-protein crystals prepared in lipidic mesophase, the crystal locations identified by SHG images obtained in transmission mode were found to correlate well with the crystal locations identified by raster scanning using an X-­ray minibeam. SHG imaging was found to provide about 2 µm spatial resolution and shorter image-acquisition times. The general insensitivity of SHG images to optical scatter enabled the reliable identification of microcrystals within opaque cryocooled lipidic mesophases that were not identified by conventional bright-field imaging. The potential impact of extended exposure of protein crystals to five times a typical imaging dose from an ultrafast laser source was also assessed. Measurements of myoglobin and thaumatin crystals resulted in no statistically significant differences between structures obtained from diffraction data acquired from exposed and unexposed regions of single crystals. Practical constraints for integrating SHG imaging into an active beamline for routine automated crystal centering are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3640472  PMID: 23633594
second-harmonic generation microscopy; crystal centering; imaging
18.  Effects of cryoprotectants on the structure and thermostability of the human carbonic anhydrase II–acetazolamide complex 
Here, a case study of the effects of cryoprotectants on the kinetics of carbonic anhydrase II (CA II) and its inhibition by the clinically used inhibitor acetazolamide (AZM) is presented.
Protein X-ray crystallography has seen a progressive shift from data collection at cool/room temperature (277–298 K) to data collection at cryotemperature (100 K) because of its ease of crystal preparation and the lessening of the detrimental effects of radiation-induced crystal damage, with 20–25%(v/v) glycerol (GOL) being the preferred choice of cryoprotectant. Here, a case study of the effects of cryoprotectants on the kinetics of carbonic anhydrase II (CA II) and its inhibition by the clinically used inhibitor acetazolamide (AZM) is presented. Comparative studies of crystal structure, kinetics, inhibition and thermostability were performed on CA II and its complex with AZM in the presence of either GOL or sucrose. These results suggest that even though the cryoprotectant GOL was previously shown to be directly bound in the active site and to interact with AZM, it affects neither the thermostability of CA II nor the binding of AZM in the crystal structure or in solution. However, addition of GOL does affect the kinetics of CA II, presumably as it displaces the water proton-transfer network in the active site.
PMCID: PMC3640473  PMID: 23633596
carbonic anhydrase; acetazolamide; cryoprotectants; glycerol; sucrose
19.  On optimal placement of molecules in the unit cell 
Standard ways for the placement of molecules in the unit cell are proposed.
There are currently no rules for a unified, standard way of placing macromolecular structures in the crystal lattice. An analysis of all possible symmetry-equivalent representations of molecular structures in various space groups leads to the concept of the anti-Cheshire symmetry and suggests that the center of a unique structural motif can always be placed within the selected asymmetric unit of the anti-Cheshire cell. The placement of structures according to this suggestion will ensure uniformity of presentation of all structurally equivalent Protein Data Bank models and will therefore diminish the possibility of confusing less crystallographically knowledgeable users of the PDB. The anti-Cheshire cells and their asymmetric units are defined and tabulated for all 65 space groups relevant to macromolecular crystallography that exhibit only rotational symmetry operations.
PMCID: PMC4005360  PMID: 23633598
placement of molecules; Cheshire symmetry; anti-Cheshire symmetry
20.  Hitting the target: fragment screening with acoustic in situ co-crystallization of proteins plus fragment libraries on pin-mounted data-collection micromeshes 
A method is presented for screening fragment libraries using acoustic droplet ejection to co-crystallize proteins and chemicals directly on micromeshes with as little as 2.5 nl of each component. This method was used to identify previously unreported fragments that bind to lysozyme, thermolysin, and trypsin.
Acoustic droplet ejection (ADE) is a powerful technology that supports crystallographic applications such as growing, improving and manipulating protein crystals. A fragment-screening strategy is described that uses ADE to co-crystallize proteins with fragment libraries directly on MiTeGen MicroMeshes. Co-crystallization trials can be prepared rapidly and economically. The high speed of specimen preparation and the low consumption of fragment and protein allow the use of individual rather than pooled fragments. The Echo 550 liquid-handling instrument (Labcyte Inc., Sunnyvale, California, USA) generates droplets with accurate trajectories, which allows multiple co-crystallization experiments to be discretely positioned on a single data-collection micromesh. This accuracy also allows all components to be transferred through small apertures. Consequently, the crystallization tray is in equilibrium with the reservoir before, during and after the transfer of protein, precipitant and fragment to the micromesh on which crystallization will occur. This strict control of the specimen environment means that the crystallography experiments remain identical as the working volumes are decreased from the few microlitres level to the few nanolitres level. Using this system, lysozyme, thermolysin, trypsin and stachydrine demethylase crystals were co-crystallized with a small 33-compound mini-library to search for fragment hits. This technology pushes towards a much faster, more automated and more flexible strategy for structure-based drug discovery using as little as 2.5 nl of each major component.
PMCID: PMC4014116  PMID: 24816088
in situ X-ray data collection; acoustic droplet ejection; fragment screening; drug discovery; chemical biology; protein crystallization; synchrotron radiation
21.  Structure of sulfamidase provides insight into the molecular pathology of mucopolysaccharidosis IIIA 
Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIA is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that typically manifests itself in childhood and is caused by mutations in the gene for the lysosomal enzyme sulfamidase. The first structure of this enzyme is presented, which provides insight into the molecular basis of disease-causing mutations, and the enzymatic mechanism is proposed.
Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA (Sanfilippo A syndrome), a fatal childhood-onset neurodegenerative disease with mild facial, visceral and skeletal abnormalities, is caused by an inherited deficiency of the enzyme N-sulfoglucosamine sulfohydrolase (SGSH; sulfamidase). More than 100 mutations in the SGSH gene have been found to reduce or eliminate its enzymatic activity. However, the molecular understanding of the effect of these mutations has been confined by a lack of structural data for this enzyme. Here, the crystal structure of glycosylated SGSH is presented at 2 Å resolution. Despite the low sequence identity between this unique N-sulfatase and the group of O-sulfatases, they share a similar overall fold and active-site architecture, including a catalytic formylglycine, a divalent metal-binding site and a sulfate-binding site. However, a highly conserved lysine in O-sulfatases is replaced in SGSH by an arginine (Arg282) that is positioned to bind the N-linked sulfate substrate. The structure also provides insight into the diverse effects of pathogenic mutations on SGSH function in mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA and convincing evidence for the molecular consequences of many missense mutations. Further, the molecular characterization of SGSH mutations will lay the groundwork for the development of structure-based drug design for this devastating neurodegenerative disorder.
PMCID: PMC4014121  PMID: 24816101
sulfamidase; mucopolysaccharidosis IIIA
22.  Flexible torsion-angle noncrystallographic symmetry restraints for improved macromolecular structure refinement 
Flexible torsion angle-based NCS restraints have been implemented in phenix.refine, allowing improved model refinement at all resolutions. Rotamer correction and rotamer consistency checks between NCS-related amino-acid side chains further improve the final model quality.
One of the great challenges in refining macromolecular crystal structures is a low data-to-parameter ratio. Historically, knowledge from chemistry has been used to help to improve this ratio. When a macromolecule crystallizes with more than one copy in the asymmetric unit, the noncrystallographic symmetry relationships can be exploited to provide additional restraints when refining the working model. However, although globally similar, NCS-related chains often have local differences. To allow for local differences between NCS-related molecules, flexible torsion-based NCS restraints have been introduced, coupled with intelligent rotamer handling for protein chains, and are available in phenix.refine for refinement of models at all resolutions.
PMCID: PMC4014122  PMID: 24816103
macromolecular crystallography; noncrystallographic symmetry; NCS; refinement; automation
23.  Structural basis of sialidase in complex with geranylated flavonoids as potent natural inhibitors 
The crystal structure of sialidase from C. perfringens, a pathogenic bacterium causing various gastrointestinal diseases, was determined in complex with a potent natural polyphenolic geranylated flavonoid-based inhibitor. The complex structure and comparative kinetic studies revealed that the geranyl group and C3′ hydroxyl group of the flavonoid backbone contribute to inhibition of the bacterial sialidase and generation of the stable enzyme–inhibitor complex.
Sialidase catalyzes the removal of a terminal sialic acid from glycoconjugates and plays a pivotal role in nutrition, cellular interactions and pathogenesis mediating various infectious diseases including cholera, influenza and sepsis. An array of antiviral sialidase agents have been developed and are commercially available, such as zanamivir and oseltamivir for treating influenza. However, the development of bacterial sialidase inhibitors has been much less successful. Here, natural polyphenolic geranylated flavonoids which show significant inhibitory effects against Cp-NanI, a sialidase from Clostridium perfringens, are reported. This bacterium causes various gastrointestinal diseases. The crystal structure of the Cp-NanI catalytic domain in complex with the best inhibitor, diplacone, is also presented. This structure explains how diplacone generates a stable enzyme–inhibitor complex. These results provide a structural framework for understanding the interaction between sialidase and natural flavonoids, which are promising scaffolds on which to discover new anti-sialidase agents.
PMCID: PMC4014123  PMID: 24816104
sialidase; NanI; geranylated flavonoid; diplacone; sialidase inhibitor
24.  In cellulo structure determination of a novel cypovirus polyhedrin 
The crystal structure of a previously unsolved type of cypovirus polyhedrin has been determined from data collected directly from frozen live insect cells.
This work demonstrates that with the use of a microfocus synchrotron beam the structure of a novel viral polyhedrin could be successfully determined from microcrystals within cells, removing the preparatory step of sample isolation and maintaining a favourable biological environment. The data obtained are of high quality, comparable to that obtained from isolated crystals, and enabled a facile structure determination. A small but significant difference is observed between the unit-cell parameters and the mosaic spread of in cellulo and isolated crystals, suggesting that even these robust crystals are adversely affected by removal from the cell.
PMCID: PMC4014125  PMID: 24816111
microcrystals; viral protein; data collection; in cellulo
25.  Structure of the unique SEFIR domain from human interleukin 17 receptor A reveals a composite ligand-binding site containing a conserved α-helix for Act1 binding and IL-17 signaling 
Crystal structure of the SEFIR domain from human IL-17 receptor A provides new insights into IL-17 signaling.
Interleukin 17 (IL-17) cytokines play a crucial role in mediating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. A unique intracellular signaling domain termed SEFIR is found within all IL-17 receptors (IL-17Rs) as well as the key adaptor protein Act1. SEFIR-mediated protein–protein interaction is a crucial step in IL-17 cytokine signaling. Here, the 2.3 Å resolution crystal structure of the SEFIR domain of IL-17RA, the most commonly shared receptor for IL-17 cytokine signaling, is reported. The structure includes the complete SEFIR domain and an additional α-helical C-terminal extension, which pack tightly together to form a compact unit. Structural comparison between the SEFIR domains of IL-17RA and IL-17RB reveals substantial differences in protein topology and folding. The uniquely long insertion between strand βC and helix αC in IL-17RA SEFIR is mostly well ordered, displaying a helix (αCC′ins) and a flexible loop (CC′). The DD′ loop in the IL-17RA SEFIR structure is much shorter; it rotates nearly 90° with respect to the counterpart in the IL-17RB SEFIR structure and shifts about 12 Å to accommodate the αCC′ins helix without forming any knots. Helix αC was identified as critical for its interaction with Act1 and IL-17-stimulated gene expression. The data suggest that the heterotypic SEFIR–SEFIR association via helix αC is a conserved and signature mechanism specific for IL-17 signaling. The structure also suggests that the downstream motif of IL-17RA SEFIR together with helix αC could provide a composite ligand-binding surface for recruiting Act1 during IL-17 signaling.
PMCID: PMC4014126  PMID: 24816115
SEFIR domain; interleukin 17 receptor A; Act1 binding; IL-17 signaling

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