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2.  Crystal structure and biophysical characterization of the nucleoside diphosphate kinase from Leishmania braziliensis 
Nucleoside diphosphate kinase (NDK) is a housekeeping enzyme that plays key roles in nucleotide recycling and homeostasis in trypanosomatids. It is also secreted by the intracellular parasite Leishmania to modulate the host response. These functions make NDK an attractive target for drug design and for studies aiming at a better understanding of the mechanisms mediating host-pathogen interactions.
We report the crystal structure and biophysical characterization of the NDK from Leishmania braziliensis (LbNDK). The subunit consists of six α-helices along with a core of four β-strands arranged in a β2β3β1β4 antiparallel topology order. In contrast to the NDK from L. major, the LbNDK C-terminal extension is partially unfolded. SAXS data showed that LbNDK forms hexamers in solution in the pH range from 7.0 to 4.0, a hydrodynamic behavior conserved in most eukaryotic NDKs. However, DSF assays show that acidification and alkalization decrease the hexamer stability.
Our results support that LbNDK remains hexameric in pH conditions akin to that faced by this enzyme when secreted by Leishmania amastigotes in the parasitophorous vacuoles (pH 4.7 to 5.3). The unusual unfolded conformation of LbNDK C-terminus decreases the surface buried in the trimer interface exposing new regions that might be explored for the development of compounds designed to disturb enzyme oligomerization, which may impair the important nucleotide salvage pathway in these parasites.
PMCID: PMC4322457  PMID: 25643978
Nucleoside diphosphate kinase; Leishmania braziliensis; Quaternary structure; Conformational stability
3.  Structural importance of the C-terminal region in pig aldo-keto reductase family 1 member C1 and their effects on enzymatic activity 
Pig aldo-keto reductase family 1 member C1 (AKR1C1) belongs to AKR superfamily which catalyzes the NAD(P)H-dependent reduction of various substrates including steroid hormones. Previously we have reported two paralogous pig AKR1C1s, wild-type AKR1C1 (C-type) and C-terminal-truncated AKR1C1 (T-type). Also, the C-terminal region significantly contributes to the NADPH-dependent reductase activity for 5α-DHT reduction. Molecular modeling studies combined with kinetic experiments were performed to investigate structural and enzymatic differences between wild-type AKR1C1 C-type and T-type.
The results of the enzyme kinetics revealed that Vmax and kcat values of the T-type were 2.9 and 1.6 folds higher than those of the C-type. Moreover, catalytic efficiency was also 1.9 fold higher in T-type compared to C-type. Since x-ray crystal structures of pig AKR1C1 were not available, three dimensional structures of the both types of the protein were predicted using homology modeling methodology and they were used for molecular dynamics simulations. The structural comparisons between C-type and T-type showed that 5α-DHT formed strong hydrogen bonds with catalytic residues such as Tyr55 and His117 in T-type. In particular, C3 ketone group of the substrate was close to Tyr55 and NADPH in T-type.
Our results showed that 5α-DHT binding in T-type was more favorable for catalytic reaction to facilitate hydride transfer from the cofactor, and were consistent with experimental results. We believe that our study provides valuable information to understand important role of C-terminal region that affects enzymatic properties for 5α-DHT, and further molecular mechanism for the enzyme kinetics of AKR1C1 proteins.
PMCID: PMC4310174  PMID: 25583233
Aldo-keto reductase; Homology modeling; Molecular dynamic simulation; NADPH-dependent reduction; Steroid hormone
4.  A three dimensional visualisation approach to protein heavy-atom structure reconstruction 
BMC Structural Biology  2014;14(1):27.
A commonly recurring problem in structural protein studies, is the determination of all heavy atom positions from the knowledge of the central α-carbon coordinates.
We employ advances in virtual reality to address the problem. The outcome is a 3D visualisation based technique where all the heavy backbone and side chain atoms are treated on equal footing, in terms of the Cα coordinates. Each heavy atom is visualised on the surfaces of a different two-sphere, that is centered at another heavy backbone and side chain atoms. In particular, the rotamers are visible as clusters, that display a clear and strong dependence on the underlying backbone secondary structure.
We demonstrate that there is a clear interdependence between rotameric states and secondary structure. Our method easily detects those atoms in a crystallographic protein structure which are either outliers or have been likely misplaced, possibly due to radiation damage. Our approach forms a basis for the development of a new generation, visualization based side chain construction, validation and refinement tools. The heavy atom positions are identified in a manner which accounts for the secondary structure environment, leading to improved accuracy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12900-014-0027-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302604  PMID: 25551190
Side chain reconstruction; Cα trace problem; Rotamers; Protein visualisation
5.  Structural basis of RGD-hirudin binding to thrombin: Tyr3 and five C-terminal residues are crucial for inhibiting thrombin activity 
BMC Structural Biology  2014;14(1):26.
Hirudin is an anti-coagulation protein produced by the salivary glands of the medicinal leech Hirudomedicinalis. It is a powerful and specific thrombin inhibitor. The novel recombinant hirudin, RGD-hirudin, which contains an RGD motif, competitively inhibits the binding of fibrinogen to GPIIb/IIIa on platelets, thus inhibiting platelet aggregation while maintaining its anticoagulant activity.
Recombinant RGD-hirudin and six mutant variants (Y3A, S50A, Q53A, D55A, E57A and I59A), designed based on molecular simulations, were expressed in Pichia pastoris. The proteins were refolded and purified to homogeneity as monomers by gel filtration and anion exchange chromatography. The anti-thrombin activity of the six mutants and RGD-hirudin was tested. Further, we evaluated the binding of the mutant variants and RGD-hirudin to thrombin using BIAcore surface plasmon resonance analysis (SPR). Kinetics and affinity constants showed that the KD values of all six mutant proteins were higher than that of RGD-hirudin.
These findings contribute to a novel understanding of the interaction between RGD-hirudin and thrombin.
PMCID: PMC4304120  PMID: 25526801
Recombinant RGD-hirudin; Thrombin; Molecular simulation; Surface plasmon resonance; Affinity constants
6.  In vitro histone lysine methylation by NSD1, NSD2/MMSET/WHSC1 and NSD3/WHSC1L 
BMC Structural Biology  2014;14(1):25.
Histone lysine methylation has a pivotal role in regulating the chromatin. Histone modifiers, including histone methyl transferases (HMTases), have clear roles in human carcinogenesis but the extent of their functions and regulation are not well understood. The NSD family of HMTases comprised of three members (NSD1, NSD2/MMSET/WHSC1, and NSD3/WHSC1L) are oncogenes aberrantly expressed in several cancers, suggesting their potential to serve as novel therapeutic targets. However, the substrate specificity of the NSDs and the molecular mechanism of histones H3 and H4 recognition and methylation have not yet been established.
Herein, we investigated the in vitro mechanisms of histones H3 and H4 recognition and modifications by the catalytic domain of NSD family members. In this study, we quantified in vitro mono-, di- and tri- methylations on H3K4, H3K9, H3K27, H3K36, H3K79, and H4K20 by the carboxyl terminal domain (CTD) of NSD1, NSD2 and NSD3, using histone as substrate. Next, we used a molecular modelling approach and docked 6-mer peptides H3K4 a.a. 1-7; H3K9 a.a. 5-11; H3K27 a.a. 23-29; H3K36 a.a. 32-38; H3K79 a.a. 75-81; H4K20 a.a. 16-22 with the catalytic domain of the NSDs to provide insight into lysine-marks recognition and methylation on histones H3 and H4.
Our data highlight the versatility of NSD1, NSD2, and NSD3 for recognizing and methylating several histone lysine marks on histones H3 and H4. Our work provides a basis to design selective and specific NSDs inhibitors. We discuss the relevance of our findings for the development of NSD inhibitors amenable for novel chemotherapies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12900-014-0025-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4280037  PMID: 25494638
Epigenetic therapy of cancer; Histone lysine methyltransferase; NSD1; NSD2/MMSET/WHSC1; NSD3/WHSC1L; HMTase inhibitors
7.  Structural insights into Escherichia coli polymyxin B resistance protein D with X-ray crystallography and small-angle X-ray scattering 
BMC Structural Biology  2014;14(1):24.
Polymyxin B resistance protein D (PmrD) plays a key role in the polymyxin B-resistance pathway, as it is the signaling protein that can act as a specific connecter between PmrA/PmrB and PhoP/PhoQ. We conducted structural analysis to characterize Escherichia coli (E. coli) PmrD, which exhibits different features compared with PmrD in other bacteria.
The X-ray crystal structure of E. coli PmrD was determined at a 2.00 Å resolution, revealing novel information such as the unambiguous secondary structures of the protein and the presence of a disulfide bond. Furthermore, various assays such as native gel electrophoresis, surface plasmon resonance (SPR), size-exclusion chromatography, dynamic light scattering (DLS), and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements, were performed to elucidate the structural and functional role of the internal disulfide bond in E. coli PmrD.
The structural characteristics of E. coli PmrD were clearly identified via diverse techniques. The findings help explain the different protective mechanism of E. coli compared to other Gram-negative bacteria.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12900-014-0024-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4263063  PMID: 25480013
PmrD; E. coli; SAXS; Crystal structure; Solution structure; Mutational study
8.  A PDB-wide, evolution-based assessment of protein–protein interfaces 
Thanks to the growth in sequence and structure databases, more than 50 million sequences are now available in UniProt and 100,000 structures in the PDB. Rich information about protein–protein interfaces can be obtained by a comprehensive study of protein contacts in the PDB, their sequence conservation and geometric features.
An automated computational pipeline was developed to run our Evolutionary Protein–Protein Interface Classifier (EPPIC) software on the entire PDB and store the results in a relational database, currently containing > 800,000 interfaces. This allows the analysis of interface data on a PDB-wide scale. Two large benchmark datasets of biological interfaces and crystal contacts, each containing about 3000 entries, were automatically generated based on criteria thought to be strong indicators of interface type. The BioMany set of biological interfaces includes NMR dimers solved as crystal structures and interfaces that are preserved across diverse crystal forms, as catalogued by the Protein Common Interface Database (ProtCID) from Xu and Dunbrack. The second dataset, XtalMany, is derived from interfaces that would lead to infinite assemblies and are therefore crystal contacts. BioMany and XtalMany were used to benchmark the EPPIC approach. The performance of EPPIC was also compared to classifications from the Protein Interfaces, Surfaces, and Assemblies (PISA) program on a PDB-wide scale, finding that the two approaches give the same call in about 88% of PDB interfaces. By comparing our safest predictions to the PDB author annotations, we provide a lower-bound estimate of the error rate of biological unit annotations in the PDB. Additionally, we developed a PyMOL plugin for direct download and easy visualization of EPPIC interfaces for any PDB entry. Both the datasets and the PyMOL plugin are available at
Our computational pipeline allows us to analyze protein–protein contacts and their sequence conservation across the entire PDB. Two new benchmark datasets are provided, which are over an order of magnitude larger than existing manually curated ones. These tools enable the comprehensive study of several aspects of protein–protein contacts in the PDB and represent a basis for future, even larger scale studies of protein–protein interactions.
PMCID: PMC4274722  PMID: 25326082
Protein–protein interfaces; Biological interfaces; Crystal contacts; EPPIC; PISA; PDB
9.  Molecular dynamics simulations of the Nip7 proteins from the marine deep- and shallow-water Pyrococcus species 
The identification of the mechanisms of adaptation of protein structures to extreme environmental conditions is a challenging task of structural biology. We performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of the Nip7 protein involved in RNA processing from the shallow-water (P. furiosus) and the deep-water (P. abyssi) marine hyperthermophylic archaea at different temperatures (300 and 373 K) and pressures (0.1, 50 and 100 MPa). The aim was to disclose similarities and differences between the deep- and shallow-sea protein models at different temperatures and pressures.
The current results demonstrate that the 3D models of the two proteins at all the examined values of pressures and temperatures are compact, stable and similar to the known crystal structure of the P. abyssi Nip7. The structural deviations and fluctuations in the polypeptide chain during the MD simulations were the most pronounced in the loop regions, their magnitude being larger for the C-terminal domain in both proteins. A number of highly mobile segments the protein globule presumably involved in protein-protein interactions were identified. Regions of the polypeptide chain with significant difference in conformational dynamics between the deep- and shallow-water proteins were identified.
The results of our analysis demonstrated that in the examined ranges of temperatures and pressures, increase in temperature has a stronger effect on change in the dynamic properties of the protein globule than the increase in pressure. The conformational changes of both the deep- and shallow-sea protein models under increasing temperature and pressure are non-uniform. Our current results indicate that amino acid substitutions between shallow- and deep-water proteins only slightly affect overall stability of two proteins. Rather, they may affect the interactions of the Nip7 protein with its protein or RNA partners.
PMCID: PMC4209456  PMID: 25315147
Molecular dynamics simulation; Nip7 protein; High pressure; Adaptation; Salt bridges
10.  Structural insight into the recognition of amino-acylated initiator tRNA by eIF5B in the 80S initiation complex 
From bacteria to eukarya, the specific recognition of the amino-acylated initiator tRNA by the universally conserved translational GTPase eIF5B/IF2 is one of the most central interactions in the process of translation initiation. However, the molecular details, particularly also in the context of ribosomal initiation complexes, are only partially understood.
A reinterpretation of the 6.6 Å resolution cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of the eukaryal 80S initiation complex using the recently published crystal structure of eIF5B reveals that domain IV of eIF5B forms extensive interaction interfaces with the Met-tRNAi, which, in contrast to the previous model, directly involve the methionylated 3′ CCA-end of the acceptor stem. These contacts are mediated by a conserved surface area, which is homologous to the surface areas mediating the interactions between IF2 and fMet-tRNAfMet as well as between domain II of EF-Tu and amino-acylated elongator tRNAs.
The reported observations provide novel direct structural insight into the specific recognition of the methionylated acceptor stem by eIF5B domain IV and demonstrate its universality among eIF5B/IF2 orthologs in the three domains of life.
PMCID: PMC4236685  PMID: 25350701
Ribosome; Translation initiation; Subunit joining; Initiator tRNA; eIF5B/IF2; Structure; Protein evolution
11.  A simple method for finding a protein’s ligand-binding pockets 
This paper provides a simple and rapid method for a protein-clustering strategy. The basic idea implemented here is to use computational geometry methods to predict and characterize ligand-binding pockets of a given protein structure. In addition to geometrical characteristics of the protein structure, we consider some simple biochemical properties that help recognize the best candidates for pockets in a protein’s active site.
Our results are shown to produce good agreement with known empirical results.
The method presented in this paper is a low-cost rapid computational method that could be used to classify proteins and other biomolecules, and furthermore could be useful in reducing the cost and time of drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC4112621  PMID: 25038637
Protein structure; Ligand-binding pockets; Computational methods
12.  Characterization of the SAM domain of the PKD-related protein ANKS6 and its interaction with ANKS3 
Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common genetic disorder leading to end-stage renal failure in humans. In the PKD/Mhm(cy/+) rat model of ADPKD, the point mutation R823W in the sterile alpha motif (SAM) domain of the protein ANKS6 is responsible for disease. SAM domains are known protein-protein interaction domains, capable of binding each other to form polymers and heterodimers. Despite its physiological importance, little is known about the function of ANKS6 and how the R823W point mutation leads to PKD. Recent work has revealed that ANKS6 interacts with a related protein called ANKS3. Both ANKS6 and ANKS3 have a similar domain structure, with ankyrin repeats at the N-terminus and a SAM domain at the C-terminus.
The SAM domain of ANKS3 is identified as a direct binding partner of the ANKS6 SAM domain. We find that ANKS3-SAM polymerizes and ANKS6-SAM can bind to one end of the polymer. We present crystal structures of both the ANKS3-SAM polymer and the ANKS3-SAM/ANKS6-SAM complex, revealing the molecular details of their association. We also learn how the R823W mutation disrupts ANKS6 function by dramatically destabilizing the SAM domain such that the interaction with ANKS3-SAM is lost.
ANKS3 is a direct interacting partner of ANKS6. By structurally and biochemically characterizing the interaction between the ANKS3 and ANKS6 SAM domains, our work provides a basis for future investigation of how the interaction between these proteins mediates kidney function.
PMCID: PMC4105859  PMID: 24998259
Polycystic kidney disease; Protein-protein interaction; Polymerization; Crystal structure
13.  High-resolution crystal structure of spin labelled (T21R1) azurin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a challenging structural benchmark for in silico spin labelling algorithms 
EPR-based distance measurements between spin labels in proteins have become a valuable tool in structural biology. The direct translation of the experimental distances into structural information is however often impaired by the intrinsic flexibility of the spin labelled side chains. Different algorithms exist that predict the approximate conformation of the spin label either by using pre-computed rotamer libraries of the labelled side chain (rotamer approach) or by simply determining its accessible volume (accessible volume approach). Surprisingly, comparisons with many experimental distances have shown that both approaches deliver the same distance prediction accuracy of about 3 Å.
Here, instead of comparing predicted and experimental distances, we test the ability of both approaches to predict the actual conformations of spin labels found in a new high-resolution crystal structure of spin labelled azurin (T21R1). Inside the crystal, the label is found in two very different environments which serve as a challenging test for the in silico approaches.
Our results illustrate why simple and more sophisticated programs lead to the same prediciton error. Thus, a more precise treatment of the complete environment of the label and also its interactions with the environment will be needed to increase the accuracy of in silico spin labelling algorithms.
PMCID: PMC4055355  PMID: 24884565
14.  Sequence analysis on the information of folding initiation segments in ferredoxin-like fold proteins 
While some studies have shown that the 3D protein structures are more conservative than their amino acid sequences, other experimental studies have shown that even if two proteins share the same topology, they may have different folding pathways. There are many studies investigating this issue with molecular dynamics or Go-like model simulations, however, one should be able to obtain the same information by analyzing the proteins’ amino acid sequences, if the sequences contain all the information about the 3D structures. In this study, we use information about protein sequences to predict the location of their folding segments. We focus on proteins with a ferredoxin-like fold, which has a characteristic topology. Some of these proteins have different folding segments.
Despite the simplicity of our methods, we are able to correctly determine the experimentally identified folding segments by predicting the location of the compact regions considered to play an important role in structural formation. We also apply our sequence analyses to some homologues of each protein and confirm that there are highly conserved folding segments despite the homologues’ sequence diversity. These homologues have similar folding segments even though the homology of two proteins’ sequences is not so high.
Our analyses have proven useful for investigating the common or different folding features of the proteins studied.
PMCID: PMC4055915  PMID: 24884463
Folding initiation segment prediction; Sequence analysis; Inter-residue average distance statistics; Evolutionarily conserved folding; Ribosomal protein S6; Procarboxypeptidase A2; U1A Spliceosomal protein; mt-Acylphosphatase
15.  High resolution structure of cleaved Serpin 42 Da from Drosophila melanogaster 
The Drosophila melanogaster Serpin 42 Da gene (previously Serpin 4) encodes a serine protease inhibitor that is capable of remarkable functional diversity through the alternative splicing of four different reactive centre loop exons. Eight protein isoforms of Serpin 42 Da have been identified to date, targeting the protease inhibitor to both different proteases and cellular locations. Biochemical and genetic studies suggest that Serpin 42 Da inhibits target proteases through the classical serpin ‘suicide’ inhibition mechanism, however the crystal structure of a representative Serpin 42 Da isoform remains to be determined.
We report two high-resolution crystal structures of Serpin 42 Da representing the A/B isoforms in the cleaved conformation, belonging to two different space-groups and diffracting to 1.7 Å and 1.8 Å. Structural analysis reveals the archetypal serpin fold, with the major elements of secondary structure displaying significant homology to the vertebrate serpin, neuroserpin. Key residues known to have central roles in the serpin inhibitory mechanism are conserved in both the hinge and shutter regions of Serpin 42 Da. Furthermore, these structures identify important conserved interactions that appear to be of crucial importance in allowing the Serpin 42 Da fold to act as a versatile template for multiple reactive centre loops that have different sequences and protease specificities.
In combination with previous biochemical and genetic studies, these structures confirm for the first time that the Serpin 42 Da isoforms are typical inhibitory serpin family members with the conserved serpin fold and inhibitory mechanism. Additionally, these data reveal the remarkable structural plasticity of serpins, whereby the basic fold is harnessed as a template for inhibition of a large spectrum of proteases by reactive centre loop exon ‘switching’. This is the first structure of a Drosophila serpin reported to date, and will provide a platform for future mutational studies in Drosophila to ascertain the functional role of each of the Serpin 42 Da isoforms.
PMCID: PMC4006314  PMID: 24758516
Serpin 42Da; Serpin 4; Serine protease inhibitor; Neuroserpin; Drosophila; Furin
16.  Designing and evaluating the MULTICOM protein local and global model quality prediction methods in the CASP10 experiment 
Protein model quality assessment is an essential component of generating and using protein structural models. During the Tenth Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP10), we developed and tested four automated methods (MULTICOM-REFINE, MULTICOM-CLUSTER, MULTICOM-NOVEL, and MULTICOM-CONSTRUCT) that predicted both local and global quality of protein structural models.
MULTICOM-REFINE was a clustering approach that used the average pairwise structural similarity between models to measure the global quality and the average Euclidean distance between a model and several top ranked models to measure the local quality. MULTICOM-CLUSTER and MULTICOM-NOVEL were two new support vector machine-based methods of predicting both the local and global quality of a single protein model. MULTICOM-CONSTRUCT was a new weighted pairwise model comparison (clustering) method that used the weighted average similarity between models in a pool to measure the global model quality. Our experiments showed that the pairwise model assessment methods worked better when a large portion of models in the pool were of good quality, whereas single-model quality assessment methods performed better on some hard targets when only a small portion of models in the pool were of reasonable quality.
Since digging out a few good models from a large pool of low-quality models is a major challenge in protein structure prediction, single model quality assessment methods appear to be poised to make important contributions to protein structure modeling. The other interesting finding was that single-model quality assessment scores could be used to weight the models by the consensus pairwise model comparison method to improve its accuracy.
PMCID: PMC3996498  PMID: 24731387
Protein model quality assessment; Protein model quality assurance program; Protein structure prediction; Support vector machine; Clustering
17.  Crystal structure of an engineered YopM-InlB hybrid protein 
The multi-domain protein InlB (internalin B) from Listeria monocytogenes is an agonist of the human receptor tyrosine kinase MET. Only the internalin domain directly interacts with MET. The internalin domain consists of seven central leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) flanked by an N-terminal helical cap domain and a C-terminal immunoglobulin-like structure. A potential function of the N-terminal cap in receptor binding could so far not be demonstrated by deleting the cap, since the cap is also implicated in nucleating folding of the LRR domain.
We generated an InlB variant (YopM-InlB) in which the InlB cap domain was replaced by the unrelated N-terminal capping structure of the LRR protein YopM from Yersinia enterocolitica. The crystal structure of the engineered protein shows that it folds properly. Because the first LRR is structurally closely linked to the cap domain, we exchanged LRR1 along with the cap domain. This resulted in unexpected structural changes extending to LRR2 and LRR3, which are deeply involved in MET binding. As a consequence, the binding of YopM-InlB to MET was substantially weaker than that of wild type InlB. The engineered protein was about one order of magnitude less active in colony scatter assays than wild type InlB.
We obtained a well-behaved InlB variant with an altered N-terminal capping structure through protein design. The reduced affinity for MET precludes a straightforward interpretation of the results from cell-based assays. Still, the engineered hybrid protein induced cell scatter, suggesting that the cap is required for folding and stability of InlB but is not essential for interactions that assemble the signalling-active receptor complex. The cap swap approach described here is clearly applicable to other L. monocytogenes internalins and other LRR proteins such as YopM and may yield useful structure/function correlates within this protein family.
PMCID: PMC3986869  PMID: 24669959
Capping structure; Cap domain; Chimeric protein; Hybrid protein; Internalin; Leucine-rich repeat; LRR; Protein chimera; Protein engineering; Protein stability
18.  A Sco protein among the hypothetical proteins of Bacillus lehensis G1: Its 3D macromolecular structure and association with Cytochrome C Oxidase 
At least a quarter of any complete genome encodes for hypothetical proteins (HPs) which are largely non-similar to other known, well-characterized proteins. Predicting and solving their structures and functions is imperative to aid understanding of any given organism as a complete biological system. The present study highlights the primary effort to classify and cluster 1202 HPs of Bacillus lehensis G1 alkaliphile to serve as a platform to mine and select specific HP(s) to be studied further in greater detail.
All HPs of B. lehensis G1 were grouped according to their predicted functions based on the presence of functional domains in their sequences. From the metal-binding group of HPs of the cluster, an HP termed Bleg1_2507 was discovered to contain a thioredoxin (Trx) domain and highly-conserved metal-binding ligands represented by Cys69, Cys73 and His159, similar to all prokaryotic and eukaryotic Sco proteins. The built 3D structure of Bleg1_2507 showed that it shared the βαβαββ core structure of Trx-like proteins as well as three flanking β-sheets, a 310 –helix at the N-terminus and a hairpin structure unique to Sco proteins. Docking simulations provided an interesting view of Bleg1_2507 in association with its putative cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COXII) redox partner, Bleg1_2337, where the latter can be seen to hold its partner in an embrace, facilitated by hydrophobic and ionic interactions between the proteins. Although Bleg1_2507 shares relatively low sequence identity (47%) to BsSco, interestingly, the predicted metal-binding residues of Bleg1_2507 i.e. Cys-69, Cys-73 and His-159 were located at flexible active loops similar to other Sco proteins across biological taxa. This highlights structural conservation of Sco despite their various functions in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
We propose that HP Bleg1_2507 is a Sco protein which is able to interact with COXII, its redox partner and therefore, may possess metallochaperone and redox functions similar to other documented bacterial Sco proteins. It is hoped that this scientific effort will help to spur the search for other physiologically relevant proteins among the so-called “orphan” proteins of any given organism.
PMCID: PMC3994876  PMID: 24641837
Hypothetical proteins; Bleg1_2507; Sco; Thioredoxin; Copper binding; Redox reaction; Cytochrome c oxidase
19.  Structural insights into Noonan/LEOPARD syndrome-related mutants of protein-tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 (PTPN11) 
The ubiquitous non-receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 (encoded by PTPN11) plays a key role in RAS/ERK signaling downstream of most, if not all growth factors, cytokines and integrins, although its major substrates remain controversial. Mutations in PTPN11 lead to several distinct human diseases. Germ-line PTPN11 mutations cause about 50% of Noonan Syndrome (NS), which is among the most common autosomal dominant disorders. LEOPARD Syndrome (LS) is an acronym for its major syndromic manifestations: multiple Lentigines, Electrocardiographic abnormalities, Ocular hypertelorism, Pulmonary stenosis, Abnormalities of genitalia, Retardation of growth, and sensorineural Deafness. Frequently, LS patients have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and they might also have an increased risk of neuroblastoma (NS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Consistent with the distinct pathogenesis of NS and LS, different types of PTPN11 mutations cause these disorders.
Although multiple studies have reported the biochemical and biological consequences of NS- and LS-associated PTPN11 mutations, their structural consequences have not been analyzed fully. Here we report the crystal structures of WT SHP2 and five NS/LS-associated SHP2 mutants. These findings enable direct structural comparisons of the local conformational changes caused by each mutation.
Our structural analysis agrees with, and provides additional mechanistic insight into, the previously reported catalytic properties of these mutants. The results of our research provide new information regarding the structure-function relationship of this medically important target, and should serve as a solid foundation for structure-based drug discovery programs.
PMCID: PMC4007598  PMID: 24628801
20.  Structural interrogation of phosphoproteome identified by mass spectrometry reveals allowed and disallowed regions of phosphoconformation 
High-throughput mass spectrometric (HT-MS) study is the method of choice for monitoring global changes in proteome. Data derived from these studies are meant for further validation and experimentation to discover novel biological insights. Here we evaluate use of relative solvent accessible surface area (rSASA) and DEPTH as indices to assess experimentally determined phosphorylation events deposited in PhosphoSitePlus.
Based on accessibility, we map these identifications on allowed (accessible) or disallowed (inaccessible) regions of phosphoconformation. Surprisingly a striking number of HT-MS/MS derived events (1461/5947 sites or 24.6%) are present in the disallowed region of conformation. By considering protein dynamics, autophosphorylation events and/or the sequence specificity of kinases, 13.8% of these phosphosites can be moved to the allowed region of conformation. We also demonstrate that rSASA values can be used to increase the confidence of identification of phosphorylation sites within an ambiguous MS dataset.
While MS is a stand-alone technique for the identification of vast majority of phosphorylation events, identifications within disallowed region of conformation will benefit from techniques that independently probe for phosphorylation and protein dynamics. Our studies also imply that trapping alternate protein conformations may be a viable alternative to the design of inhibitors against mutation prone drug resistance kinases.
PMCID: PMC4007652  PMID: 24618394
Phosphorylation; Mass spectrometry; Structure; Dynamics; Accessibility; Bioinformatics
21.  Molecular analysis of hyperthermophilic endoglucanase Cel12B from Thermotoga maritima and the properties of its functional residues 
Although many hyperthermophilic endoglucanases have been reported from archaea and bacteria, a complete survey and classification of all sequences in these species from disparate evolutionary groups, and the relationship between their molecular structures and functions are lacking. The completion of several high-quality gene or genome sequencing projects provided us with the unique opportunity to make a complete assessment and thorough comparative analysis of the hyperthermophilic endoglucanases encoded in archaea and bacteria.
Structure alignment of the 19 hyperthermophilic endoglucanases from archaea and bacteria which grow above 80°C revealed that Gly30, Pro63, Pro83, Trp115, Glu131, Met133, Trp135, Trp175, Gly227 and Glu229 are conserved amino acid residues. In addition, the average percentage composition of residues cysteine and histidine of 19 endoglucanases is only 0.28 and 0.74 while it is high in thermophilic or mesophilic one. It can be inferred from the nodes that there is a close relationship among the 19 protein from hyperthermophilic bacteria and archaea based on phylogenetic analysis. Among these conserved amino acid residues, as far as Cel12B concerned, two Glu residues might be the catalytic nucleophile and proton donor, Gly30, Pro63, Pro83 and Gly227 residues might be necessary to the thermostability of protein, and Trp115, Met133, Trp135, Trp175 residues is related to the binding of substrate. Site-directed mutagenesis results reveal that Pro63 and Pro83 contribute to the thermostability of Cel12B and Met133 is confirmed to have role in enhancing the binding of substrate.
The conserved acids have been shown great importance to maintain the structure, thermostability, as well as the similarity of the enzymatic properties of those proteins. We have made clear the function of these conserved amino acid residues in Cel12B protein, which is helpful in analyzing other undetailed molecular structure and transforming them with site directed mutagenesis, as well as providing the theoretical basis for degrading cellulose from woody and herbaceous plants.
PMCID: PMC3936955  PMID: 24529187
Cellulose; Conserved amino acid residues; Endoglucanase; Phylogenetic analysis; Thermostability
22.  Structure to function prediction of hypothetical protein KPN_00953 (Ycbk) from Klebsiella pneumoniae MGH 78578 highlights possible role in cell wall metabolism 
Klebsiella pneumoniae plays a major role in causing nosocomial infection in immunocompromised patients. Medical inflictions by the pathogen can range from respiratory and urinary tract infections, septicemia and primarily, pneumonia. As more K. pneumoniae strains are becoming highly resistant to various antibiotics, treatment of this bacterium has been rendered more difficult. This situation, as a consequence, poses a threat to public health. Hence, identification of possible novel drug targets against this opportunistic pathogen need to be undertaken. In the complete genome sequence of K. pneumoniae MGH 78578, approximately one-fourth of the genome encodes for hypothetical proteins (HPs). Due to their low homology and relatedness to other known proteins, HPs may serve as potential, new drug targets.
Sequence analysis on the HPs of K. pneumoniae MGH 78578 revealed that a particular HP termed KPN_00953 (YcbK) contains a M15_3 peptidases superfamily conserved domain. Some members of this superfamily are metalloproteases which are involved in cell wall metabolism. BLASTP similarity search on KPN_00953 (YcbK) revealed that majority of the hits were hypothetical proteins although two of the hits suggested that it may be a lipoprotein or related to twin-arginine translocation (Tat) pathway important for transport of proteins to the cell membrane and periplasmic space. As lipoproteins and other components of the cell wall are important pathogenic factors, homology modeling of KPN_00953 was attempted to predict the structure and function of this protein. Three-dimensional model of the protein showed that its secondary structure topology and active site are similar with those found among metalloproteases where two His residues, namely His169 and His209 and an Asp residue, Asp176 in KPN_00953 were found to be Zn-chelating residues. Interestingly, induced expression of the cloned KPN_00953 gene in lipoprotein-deficient E. coli JE5505 resulted in smoother cells with flattened edges. Some cells showed deposits of film-like material under scanning electron microscope.
We postulate that KPN_00953 is a Zn metalloprotease and may play a role in bacterial cell wall metabolism. Structural biology studies to understand its structure, function and mechanism of action pose the possibility of utilizing this protein as a new drug target against K. pneumoniae in the future.
PMCID: PMC3927764  PMID: 24499172
KPN_00953; Hypothetical protein; Homology modeling; Peptidase M15_3 superfamily; Cell wall metabolism
23.  Annual acknowledgement of manuscript reviewers 
Contributing reviewers
The editors of BMC Structural Biology would like to thank all of our reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 13 (2013).
PMCID: PMC3906763
24.  PcrG protects the two long helical oligomerization domains of PcrV, by an interaction mediated by the intramolecular coiled-coil region of PcrG 
PcrV is a hydrophilic translocator of type three secretion system (TTSS) and a structural component of the functional translocon. C-terminal helix of PcrV is essential for its oligomerization at the needle tip. Conformational changes within PcrV regulate the effector translocation. PcrG is a cytoplasmic regulator of TTSS and forms a high affinity complex with PcrV. C-terminal residues of PcrG control the effector secretion.
Both PcrV and PcrG-PcrV complex exhibit elongated conformation like their close homologs LcrV and LcrG-LcrV complex. The homology model of PcrV depicts a dumbbell shaped structure with N and C-terminal globular domains. The grip of the dumbbell is formed by two long helices (helix-7 and 12), which show high level of conservation both structurally and evolutionary. PcrG specifically protects a region of PcrV extending from helix-12 to helix-7, and encompassing the C-terminal globular domain. This fragment ∆PcrV(128–294) interacts with PcrG with high affinity, comparable to the wild type interaction. Deletion of N-terminal globular domain leads to the oligomerization of PcrV, but PcrG restores the monomeric state of PcrV by forming a heterodimeric complex. The N-terminal globular domain (∆PcrV(1–127)) does not interact with PcrG but maintains its monomeric state. Interaction affinities of various domains of PcrV with PcrG illustrates that helix-12 is the key mediator of PcrG-PcrV interaction, supported by helix-7. Bioinformatic analysis and study with our deletion mutant ∆PcrG(13–72) revealed that the first predicted intramolecular coiled-coil domain of PcrG contains the PcrV interaction site. However, 12 N-terminal amino acids of PcrG play an indirect role in PcrG-PcrV interaction, as their deletion causes 40-fold reduction in binding affinity and changes the kinetic parameters of interaction. ∆PcrG(13–72) fits within the groove formed between the two globular domains of PcrV, through hydrophobic interaction.
PcrG interacts with PcrV through its intramolecular coiled-coil region and masks the domains responsible for oligomerization of PcrV at the needle tip. Also, PcrG could restore the monomeric state of oligomeric PcrV. Therefore, PcrG prevents the premature oligomerization of PcrV and maintains its functional state within the bacterial cytoplasm, which is a pre-requisite for formation of the functional translocon.
PMCID: PMC3904411  PMID: 24460624
Regulation of TTSS; Functional translocon; Dynamic light scattering and elongated conformation; Homology model; Protease protected fragment; MS/MS sequence analysis; Reversal of oligomerization; Intramolecular coiled-coil; Deletion mutants; Surface plasmon resonance and protein-protein interaction; Molecular docking
25.  Synthetic cationic antimicrobial peptides bind with their hydrophobic parts to drug site II of human serum albumin 
Many biologically active compounds bind to plasma transport proteins, and this binding can be either advantageous or disadvantageous from a drug design perspective. Human serum albumin (HSA) is one of the most important transport proteins in the cardiovascular system due to its great binding capacity and high physiological concentration. HSA has a preference for accommodating neutral lipophilic and acidic drug-like ligands, but is also surprisingly able to bind positively charged peptides. Understanding of how short cationic antimicrobial peptides interact with human serum albumin is of importance for developing such compounds into the clinics.
The binding of a selection of short synthetic cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAPs) to human albumin with binding affinities in the μM range is described. Competitive isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and NMR WaterLOGSY experiments mapped the binding site of the CAPs to the well-known drug site II within subdomain IIIA of HSA. Thermodynamic and structural analysis revealed that the binding is exclusively driven by interactions with the hydrophobic moieties of the peptides, and is independent of the cationic residues that are vital for antimicrobial activity. Both of the hydrophobic moieties comprising the peptides were detected to interact with drug site II by NMR saturation transfer difference (STD) group epitope mapping (GEM) and INPHARMA experiments. Molecular models of the complexes between the peptides and albumin were constructed using docking experiments, and support the binding hypothesis and confirm the overall binding affinities of the CAPs.
The biophysical and structural characterizations of albumin-peptide complexes reported here provide detailed insight into how albumin can bind short cationic peptides. The hydrophobic elements of the peptides studied here are responsible for the main interaction with HSA. We suggest that albumin binding should be taken into careful consideration in antimicrobial peptide studies, as the systemic distribution can be significantly affected by HSA interactions.
PMCID: PMC3907362  PMID: 24456893
Albumin binding; Drug site II; Isothermal titration calorimetry; Group epitope mapping; Molecular docking; NMR; Crystal structure

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