The avalanche of genomic information in the past decade has revealed that natural product biosynthesis using the ribosomal machinery is much more widespread than originally anticipated. Nearly all of these compounds are crafted through posttranslational modifications of a larger precursor peptide that often contains the marching orders for the biosynthetic enzymes. We review here the available information for how the peptide sequences in the precursors govern the posttranslational tailoring processes for several classes of natural products. In addition, we highlight the great potential these leader peptide directed biosynthetic systems offer for engineering conformationally restrained and pharmacophore-rich products with structural diversity that greatly expands the proteinogenic repertoire.
Phospholipase D (PLD) is an essential enzyme responsible for the production of the lipid second messenger phosphatidic acid. Phosphatidic acid participates in both G protein-coupled receptor and receptor tyrosine kinase signal transduction networks. The lack of potent and isoform-selective inhibitors has limited progress in defining the cellular roles of PLD. We used a diversity-oriented synthetic approach and developed a library of PLD inhibitors with considerable pharmacological characterization. Here we report the rigorous evaluation of that library, which contains highly potent inhibitors, including the first isoform-selective PLD inhibitors. Specific members of this series inhibit isoforms with > 100-fold selectivity both in vitro and in cells. A subset of inhibitors was shown to block invasiveness in metastatic breast cancer models. These findings demonstrate the power of diversity-oriented synthesis combined with biochemical assays and mass spectrometric lipid profiling of cellular responses to develop the first isoform-selective PLD inhibitors—a new class of antimetastatic agents.
Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) contributes to cellular quality control and the cellular response to stress through the selective degradation of cytosolic proteins in lysosomes. Decrease in CMA activity occurs in aging and in age-related disorders (for example, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes). Although prevention of this age-dependent decline through genetic manipulation in mouse has proven beneficial, chemical modulation of CMA is not currently possible, due in part to the lack of information on the signaling mechanisms that modulate this pathway. In this work, we report that signaling through the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα) inhibits CMA and apply structure-based chemical design to develop synthetic derivatives of all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) to specifically neutralize this inhibitory effect. We demonstrate that chemical enhancement of CMA protects cells from oxidative stress and from proteotoxicity, supporting a potential therapeutic opportunity when reduced CMA contributes to cellular dysfunction and disease.
all-trans-retinoic acid; lysosomes; oxidative stress; proteotoxicity; retinoic acid receptor
PreQ1 riboswitches regulate genes by binding the pyrrolopyrimidine intermediate preQ1 during biosynthesis of the essential tRNA base queuosine. We report the first preQ1-II riboswitch structure at 2.3 Å resolution, which uses a novel fold to achieve effector recognition at the confluence of a three-way-helical junction flanking a pseudoknotted ribosome-binding site (RBS). The results account for preQ1-II-riboswitch-mediated translational control, and expand the known repertoire of ligand binding modes utilized by regulatory RNAs.
Human cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) mediates the net transfer of cholesteryl ester mass from atheroprotective high-density lipoproteins to atherogenic low-density lipoproteins by an unknown mechanism. Delineating this mechanism would be an important step toward the rational design of new CETP inhibitors for treating cardiovascular diseases. Using EM, single-particle image processing and molecular dynamics simulation, we discovered that CETP bridges a ternary complex with its N-terminal β-barrel domain penetrating into high-density lipoproteins and its C-terminal domain interacting with low-density lipoprotein or very-low-density lipoprotein. In our mechanistic model, the CETP lipoprotein-interacting regions, which are highly mobile, form pores that connect to a hydrophobic central cavity, thereby forming a tunnel for transfer of neutral lipids from donor to acceptor lipoproteins. These new insights into CETP transfer provide a molecular basis for analyzing mechanisms for CETP inhibition.
Perfringolysin O (PFO), a bacterial cholesterol-dependent cytolysin, binds to a mammalian cell membrane, oligomerizes into a circular prepore complex (PPC), and forms a 250-Å transmembrane β-barrel pore in the cell membrane. Each PFO monomer has two sets of 3 short α-helices that unfold and ultimately refold into two transmembrane β-hairpin (TMH) components of the membrane-embedded β-barrel. Inter-strand disulfide bond scanning revealed that β-strands in a fully assembled PFOβ-barrel were strictly aligned and tilted at 20 ° to the membrane perpendicular. In contrast, in a low temperature-trapped PPC intermediate, the TMHs were unfolded and had sufficient freedom of motion to interact transiently with each other; yet the TMHs were not aligned or stably hydrogen-bonded. The PFO PPC-to-pore transition therefore converts TMHs in a dynamic folding intermediate far above the membrane into transmembrane β-hairpins that are hydrogen bonded to those of adjacent subunits in the bilayer-embedded β-barrel.
Inhibition of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling is of great clinical interest. Here we exploit Hedgehog acyltransferase (Hhat)-mediated Shh palmitoylation, a modification critical for Shh signaling, as a novel target for Shh pathway inhibition. A target-oriented high-throughput screen was used to identify small-molecule inhibitors of Hhat. In cells, these Hhat inhibitors specifically block Shh palmitoylation and inhibit autocrine and paracrine Shh signaling.
Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIFs) are heterodimeric transcription factors induced in many cancers where they frequently promote the expression of many protumorigenic pathways. Though transcription factors are typically considered “undruggable”, the PAS-B domain of the HIF-2α subunit contains a large cavity within its hydrophobic core that offers a unique foothold for small-molecule regulation. Here we identify artificial ligands that bind within this pocket and characterize the resulting structural and functional changes caused by binding. Notably, these ligands antagonize HIF-2 heterodimerization and DNA-binding activity in vitro and in cultured cells, reducing HIF-2 target gene expression. Despite the high identity between HIF-2α and HIF-1α, these ligands are highly selective and do not affect HIF-1 function. These chemical tools establish the molecular basis for selective regulation of HIF-2, providing potential therapeutic opportunities to intervene in HIF-2-driven tumors such as renal cell carcinomas.
As a field, lipidomics is in its infancy, yet it has already begun to influence lipid biochemistry in myriad ways. As with other omic technologies, the field is driven by advances in analytical chemistry, particularly by mass spectrometry. At the heart of a renaissance in lipid biochemistry, systems biology is being used to define the cellular lipome, build a comprehensive picture of metabolic interconnections, discover new molecular species and determine how lipids modulate biological functions.
Ligand-binding dynamics control allosteric signaling through the estrogen receptor-α (ERα), but the biological consequences of such dynamic binding orientations are unknown. Here, we compare a set of ER ligands having dynamic binding orientation (dynamic ligands) with a control set of isomers that are constrained to bind in a single orientation (constrained ligands). Proliferation of breast cancer cells directed by constrained ligands is associated with DNA binding, coactivator recruitment and activation of the estrogen-induced gene GREB1, reflecting a highly interconnected signaling network. In contrast, proliferation driven by dynamic ligands is associated with induction of ERα-mediated transcription in a DNA-binding domain (DBD)-dependent manner. Further, dynamic ligands displayed enhanced anti-inflammatory activity. The DBD-dependent profile was predictive of these signaling patterns in a larger diverse set of natural and synthetic ligands. Thus, ligand dynamics directs unique signaling pathways, and reveals a novel role of the DBD in allosteric control of ERα-mediated signaling.
Purine riboswitches play an essential role in genetic regulation of bacterial metabolism. This family includes the 2′-deoxyguanosine (dG) riboswitch, involved in feedback control of deoxyguanosine biosynthesis. To understand the principles that define dG selectivity, we determined crystal structures of natural Mesoplasma florum riboswitch bound to cognate dG, as well as non-cognate guanosine, deoxyguanosine monophosphate and guanosine monophosphate. Comparison with related purine riboswitch structures reveals that the dG riboswitch achieves its specificity by modifying key interactions involving the nucleobase and through rearrangement of the ligand-binding pocket, so as to accommodate the additional sugar moiety. In addition, we observe novel conformational changes beyond the junctional binding pocket, extending as far as peripheral loop-loop interactions. It appears that re-engineering riboswitch scaffolds will require consideration of selectivity features dispersed throughout the riboswitch tertiary fold, and that structure-guided drug design efforts targeted to junctional RNA scaffolds need to be addressed within such an expanded framework.
IFN-γ engenders strong anti-proliferative responses, in part through activation of p53. However, the long-known IFN-γ-dependent upregulation of human Trp-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS), a cytoplasmic enzyme that activates tryptophan to form Trp-AMP in the first step of protein synthesis, is unexplained. Here we report a nuclear complex of TrpRS with the catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PKcs) and with poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP-1), the major PARP in human cells. The IFN-γ-dependent poly (ADP-ribosyl)ation of DNA-PKcs (which activates its kinase function) and concomitant activation of p53 were specifically prevented by Trp-SA, an analog of Trp-AMP that disrupted the TrpRS/DNA-PKcs/PARP-1 complex. The connection of TrpRS to p53 signaling in vivo was confirmed in a vertebrate system. These and further results suggest a surprising evolutionary expansion of the protein synthesis apparatus to a nuclear role that links major signaling pathways.
Although metabolic networks have been reconstructed on a genome-scale, the corresponding reconstruction and integration of governing transcriptional regulatory networks has not been fully achieved. Here we reconstruct such an integrated network for amino acid metabolism in Escherichia coli. Analysis of ChIP-chip and gene expression data for the transcription factors ArgR, Lrp, and TrpR showed that ∼82% of the genes they regulate are directly involved in amino acid metabolism. Further analysis shows that 19/20 amino acid biosynthetic pathways are either directly or indirectly controlled by these three transcription factors. Classifying the regulated genes into three functional categories of transport, biosynthesis, and metabolism leads to elucidation of regulatory motifs constituting the integrated network's basic building blocks. The regulatory logic of these motifs was determined based on the relationships between transcription factor binding and changes in transcript levels in response to exogenous amino acids. Remarkably, the resulting logic shows how amino acids are differentiated as signaling and nutrient molecules, and thus revealing the overarching regulatory principles of this stimulon.
The phospholipid-lysophospholipid transacylase tafazzin is responsible for enrichment of the cardiolipin fraction of mitochondria with tetralinoleoyl-cardiolipin. The specificity for linoleoyl hydrocarbon chains is now explained by the specific action of tafazzin on negatively curved lipid monolayers.
Nontranslational functions of vertebrate aminoacyl tRNA synthetases (aaRSs), which catalyze the production of aminoacyl-tRNAs for protein synthesis, have recently been discovered. While these new functions were thought to be ‘moonlighting activities’, many are as critical for cellular homeostasis as the activity in translation. New roles have been associated with cytoplasmic forms as well as with nuclear and secreted extracellular forms that impact pathways for cardiovascular development, the immune response, and mTOR, IFN-γ and p53 signaling. The associations of aaRSs with autoimmune disorders, cancers and neurological disorders further highlight nontranslational functions of these proteins. Novel architecture elaborations of the aaRSs accompany their functional expansion in higher organisms and have been associated with the nontranslational functions for several aaRSs. While a general understanding of how these functions developed is limited, the expropriation of aaRSs for essential nontranslational functions may have been initiated by co-opting the amino acid binding site for another purpose.
Nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) is overexpressed in a variety of human cancers, where it contributes to tumorigenesis by a still poorly understood mechanism. Here, we show using metabolomics that NNMT impairs the methylation potential of cancer cells by consuming methyl units from S-adenosyl methionine to create the stable metabolic product 1-methylnicotinamide. As a result, NNMT-expressing cancer cells possess an altered epigenetic state that includes hypomethylated histones and other cancer-related proteins combined with heightened expression of pro-tumorigenic gene products. Our findings thus point to a direct mechanistic link between the deregulation of a metabolic enzyme and widespread changes in the methylation landscape of cancer cells.
Few antimicrobial drugs function by directly targeting RNA. A small molecule that binds the hepatitis C viral genome by ‘locking’ in a particular RNA conformation to inhibit viral protein production suggests a new paradigm for drug design.
It is widely accepted that ubiquitin conjugating enzymes (E2) contain an active site asparagine that serves as an oxyanion hole, thereby stabilizing a negatively charged transition state intermediate and promoting ubiquitin transfer. Using structural and biochemical approaches to study the role of the conserved asparagine to ubiquitin conjugation by Ubc13/Mms2, we conclude that the importance of this residue stems primarily from its structural role in stabilizing an active site loop.
We describe the discovery of UNC1215, a potent and selective chemical probe for the methyl-lysine (Kme) reading function of L3MBTL3, a member of the malignant brain tumor (MBT) family of chromatin interacting transcriptional repressors. UNC1215 binds L3MBTL3 with a Kd of 120 nM, competitively displacing mono- or dimethyl-lysine containing peptides, and is greater than 50-fold selective versus other members of the MBT family while also demonstrating selectivity against more than 200 other reader domains examined. X-ray crystallography identified a novel 2:2 polyvalent mode of interaction. In cells, UNC1215 is non-toxic and binds directly to L3MBTL3 via the Kme-binding pocket of the MBT domains. UNC1215 increases the cellular mobility of GFP-L3MBTL3 fusion proteins and point mutants that disrupt the Kme binding function of GFP-L3MBTL3 phenocopy the effects of UNC1215. Finally, UNC1215 demonstrates a novel Kme-dependent interaction of L3MBTL3 with BCLAF1, a protein implicated in DNA damage repair and apoptosis.
The enterococcal cytolysin is a two-component lantibiotic of unknown structure with hemolytic activity that is important for virulence. We prepared cytolysin by co-expression of each precursor peptide with the synthetase CylM in E. coli, and characterized its structure. Surprisingly, cytolysin is the first example of a lantibiotic containing lanthionine and methyllanthionine structures with different stereochemistries in the same peptide, which is determined by the sequence of the substrate peptide.
Copper resistance has emerged as an important virulence determinant of microbial pathogens. In Streptococcus pneumoniae, copper resistance is mediated by the copper-responsive repressor CopY, CupA, and CopA, a copper effluxing P1B-type ATPase. We show here that CupA is a novel cell membrane-anchored Cu(I) chaperone, and that a Cu(I)-binding competent, membrane-localized CupA is obligatory for copper resistance. The crystal structures of the soluble domain of CupA (sCupA) and the N-terminal metal binding domain (MBD) of CopA (CopAMBD) reveal isostructural cupredoxin-like folds each harboring a binuclear Cu(I) cluster unprecedented in bacterial copper trafficking. NMR studies reveal unidirectional Cu(I) transfer from the low-affinity site on sCupA to the high-affinity site of CopAMBD. However, copper binding by CopAMBD is not essential for cellular copper resistance, consistent with a primary role of CupA in cytoplasmic Cu(I) sequestration and/or direct delivery to the transmembrane site of CopA for cellular efflux.
Following DNA damage, nuclear p53 induces the expression of PUMA, a BH3-only protein that binds and inhibits the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 repertoire, including BCL-xL. PUMA, unique amongst BH3-only proteins, disrupts the interaction between cytosolic p53 and BCL-xL, allowing p53 to promote apoptosis via direct activation of the BCL-2 effector molecules, BAX and BAK. Structural investigations using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography revealed that PUMA binding induced partial unfolding of two α-helices within BCL-xL. Wild-type PUMA or a PUMA mutant incapable of causing binding-induced unfolding of BCL-xL equivalently inhibited the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 repertoire to sensitize for death receptor (DR)-activated apoptosis, but only wild-type PUMA promoted p53-dependent, DNA damage-induced apoptosis. Our data suggest that PUMA-induced partial unfolding of BCL-xL disrupts interactions between cytosolic p53 and BCL-xL, releasing the bound p53 to initiate apoptosis. We propose that regulated unfolding of BCL-xL provides a mechanism to promote PUMA-dependent signaling within the apoptotic pathways.
The acquisition of water and nutrients by plant roots is a fundamental aspect of agriculture and strongly depends on root architecture. Root branching and expansion of the root system is achieved through the development of lateral roots and is to a large extent controlled by the plant hormone auxin. However, the pleiotropic effects of auxin or auxin-like molecules on root systems complicate the study of lateral root development. Here we describe a small-molecule screen in Arabidopsis thaliana that identified naxillin as what is to our knowledge the first non-auxin-like molecule that promotes root branching. By using naxillin as a chemical tool, we identified a new function for root cap-specific conversion of the auxin precursor indole-3-butyric acid into the active auxin indole-3-acetic acid and uncovered the involvement of the root cap in root branching. Delivery of an auxin precursor in peripheral tissues such as the root cap might represent an important mechanism shaping root architecture.
The PDZ domains of the trimeric DegS protease bind unassembled outer-membrane proteins (OMPs) that accumulate in the E. coli periplasm. This cooperative binding reaction triggers a proteolytic cascade that activates a transcriptional stress response. To dissect the mechanism of allosteric activation, we generated hybrid DegS trimers with different numbers of PDZ domains and/or protease-domain mutations. By studying the chemical reactivity and enzymatic properties of these hybrids, we show that all subunits experience a strongly coupled energetic landscape. For example, OMP-peptide binding to a single PDZ domain stimulates active-site chemical modification and proteolytic cleavage in the attached and neighboring protease domains. OMP-peptide binding relieves inhibitory PDZ interactions, whereas the interfaces between protease domains in the trimeric DegS core mediate positively cooperative activation driven both by substrate binding and inhibition relief.
Improving the control of energy homeostasis can lower cardiovascular risk in metabolically compromised individuals. To identify new regulators of whole-body energy control, we conducted a high-throughput screen in transgenic reporter zebrafish for small molecules that modulate the expression of the fasting-inducible gluconeogenic gene pck1. We show that this in vivo strategy identified several drugs that impact gluconeogenesis in humans, as well as metabolically uncharacterized compounds. Most notably, we find that the Translocator Protein (TSPO) ligands PK 11195 and Ro5-4864 are glucose lowering agents despite a strong inductive effect on pck1 expression. We show that these drugs are activators of a fasting-like energy state, and importantly that they protect high-fat diet induced obese mice from hepatosteatosis and glucose intolerance, two pathological manifestations of metabolic dysregulation. Thus, using a whole-organism screening strategy, this study has identified new small molecule activators of fasting metabolism.