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1.  Conformation-Selective ATP-Competitive Inhibitors Control Regulatory Interactions and Noncatalytic Functions of Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases 
Chemistry & biology  2014;21(5):628-635.
Most potent protein kinase inhibitors act by competing with ATP to block the phosphotransferase activity of their targets. However, emerging evidence demonstrates that ATP-competitive inhibitors can affect kinase interactions and functions in ways beyond blocking catalytic activity. Here, we show that stabilizing alternative ATP-binding site conformations of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) p38α and Erk2 with ATP-competitive inhibitors differentially, and in some cases divergently, modulates the abilities of these kinases to interact with upstream activators and deactivating phosphatases. Conformation-selective ligands are also able to modulate Erk2’s ability to allosterically activate the MAPK phosphatase DUSP6, highlighting how ATP-competitive ligands can control noncatalytic kinase functions. Overall, these studies underscore the relationship between the ATP-binding and regulatory sites of MAPKs and provide insight into how ATP-competitive ligands can be designed to confer graded control over protein kinase function.
PMCID: PMC4123212  PMID: 24704509
2.  The Gatekeeper Residue and Beyond 
Parasitology  2014;141(11):1499-1509.
Specific roles of individual CDPKs vary, but in general, they mediate essential biological functions necessary for parasite's survival. A comparative analysis of the structural-activity relationships (SAR) of Neospora caninum, Eimeria tenella and Babesia bovis Calcium-dependent Protein kinases (CDPKs) together with those of Plasmodium falciparum, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Toxoplasma gondii was performed by screening against 333 Bumped kinase inhibitors (BKIs). Structural modeling and experimental data revealed that residues other than the gatekeeper influence compound-protein interactions resulting in distinct sensitivity profiles. We subsequently defined potential amino-acid structural influences within the ATP binding cavity for each orthologue necessary for consideration in the development of broad-spectrum apicomplexan CDPK inhibitors. Although the BKI library was developed for specific inhibition of glycine gatekeeper CDPKs combined with low inhibition of threonine gatekeeper human SRC kinase; some library compounds exhibit activity against serine or threonine containing CDPKs. Divergent BKI sensitivity of CDPK homologs could be explained on the basis of differences in the size and orientation of the hydrophobic pocket and specific variation at other amino-acid positions within the ATP binding cavity. In particular, BbCDPK4 and PfCDPK1 are sensitive to a larger fraction of compounds than EtCDPK1 despite the presence of threonine gatekeeper in all the three CDPKs.
PMCID: PMC4390295  PMID: 24927073
Apicomplexa; Calcium-dependent Protein kinases; bumped kinase inhibitors
3.  Development of Potent and Selective Plasmodium falciparum Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 4 (PfCDPK4) Inhibitors that Block the Transmission of Malaria to Mosquitoes 
Malaria remains a major health concern for a large percentage of the world’s population. While great strides have been made in reducing mortality due to malaria, new strategies and therapies are still needed. Therapies that are capable of blocking the transmission of Plasmodium parasites are particularly attractive, but only primaquine accomplishes this, and toxicity issues hamper its widespread use. In this study, we describe a series of pyrazolopyrimidine- and imidazopyrazine-based compounds that are potent inhibitors of PfCDPK4, which is a calcium-activated Plasmodium protein kinase that is essential for exflagellation of male gametocytes. Thus, PfCDPK4 is essential for the sexual development of Plasmodium parasites and their ability to infect mosquitos. We demonstrate that two structural features in the ATP-binding site of PfCDPK4 can be exploited in order to obtain potent and selective inhibitors of this enzyme. Furthermore, we demonstrate that pyrazolopyrimidine-based inhibitors that are potent inhibitors of the in vitro activity of PfCDPK4 are also able to block P. falciparum exflagellation with no observable toxicity to human cells. This medicinal chemistry effort serves as a valuable starting point in the development of safe, transmission-blocking agents for the control of malaria.
PMCID: PMC4024383  PMID: 24531197
Plasmodium falciparum; PfCDPK4; PfCDPK1; Pyrazolopyrimidine; Exflagellation
4.  Potent and selective inhibitors of CDPK1 from T. gondii and C. parvum based on a 5-aminopyrazole-4-carboxamide scaffold 
5-Aminopyrazole-4-carboxamide was used as an alternative scaffold to substitute for the pyrazolopyrimidine of a known “bumped kinase inhibitor” to create selective inhibitors of calcium-dependent protein kinase-1 from both Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum. Compounds with low nanomolar inhibitory potencies against the target enzymes were obtained. The most selective inhibitors also exhibited submicromolar activities in T. gondii cell proliferation assays and were shown to be non-toxic to mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3908674  PMID: 24494061
Toxoplasma gondii; Cryptosporidium parvum; Calcium-dependent protein kinase-1; Enzyme inhibitor; Selectivity
5.  Potent and Selective Inhibitors of CDPK1 from T. gondii and C. parvum Based on a 5-Aminopyrazole-4-carboxamide Scaffold 
5-Aminopyrazole-4-carboxamide was used as an alternative scaffold to substitute for the pyrazolopyrimidine of a known “bumped kinase inhibitor” to create selective inhibitors of calcium-dependent protein kinase-1 from both Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum. Compounds with low nanomolar inhibitory potencies against the target enzymes were obtained. The most selective inhibitors also exhibited submicromolar activities in T. gondii cell proliferation assays and were shown to be nontoxic to mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3908674  PMID: 24494061
Toxoplasma gondii; Cryptosporidium parvum; calcium-dependent protein kinase-1; enzyme inhibitor; selectivity
6.  Sequence Determinants of a Specific Inactive Protein Kinase Conformation 
Chemistry & biology  2013;20(6):806-815.
Only a small percentage of protein kinases have been shown to adopt a distinct inactive ATP-binding site conformation, called the Asp-Phe-Gly-out (DFG-out) conformation. Given the high degree of homology within this enzyme family, we sought to understand the basis of this disparity on a sequence level. First, we identified two residue positions that sensitize mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) to inhibitors that stabilize the DFG-out inactive conformation. After characterizing the structure and dynamics of an inhibitor-sensitive MAPK mutant, we demonstrated the generality of this strategy by sensitizing a kinase (ASK1) not in the MAPK family to several DFG-out stabilizing ligands using the same residue positions. The use of specific inactive conformations may aid the study of noncatalytic roles of protein kinases, such as binding partner interactions and scaffolding effects.
PMCID: PMC3742363  PMID: 23790491
7.  Neospora caninum Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 1 Is an Effective Drug Target for Neosporosis Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92929.
Despite the enormous economic importance of Neospora caninum related veterinary diseases, the number of effective therapeutic agents is relatively small. Development of new therapeutic strategies to combat the economic impact of neosporosis remains an important scientific endeavor. This study demonstrates molecular, structural and phenotypic evidence that N. caninum calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 (NcCDPK1) is a promising molecular target for neosporosis drug development. Recombinant NcCDPK1 was expressed, purified and screened against a select group of bumped kinase inhibitors (BKIs) previously shown to have low IC50s against Toxoplasma gondii CDPK1 and T. gondii tachyzoites. NcCDPK1 was inhibited by low concentrations of BKIs. The three-dimensional structure of NcCDPK1 in complex with BKIs was studied crystallographically. The BKI-NcCDPK1 structures demonstrated the structural basis for potency and selectivity. Calcium-dependent conformational changes in solution as characterized by small-angle X-ray scattering are consistent with previous structures in low Calcium-state but different in the Calcium-bound active state than predicted by X-ray crystallography. BKIs effectively inhibited N. caninum tachyzoite proliferation in vitro. Electron microscopic analysis of N. caninum cells revealed ultra-structural changes in the presence of BKI compound 1294. BKI compound 1294 interfered with an early step in Neospora tachyzoite host cell invasion and egress. Prolonged incubation in the presence of 1294 interfered produced observable interference with viability and replication. Oral dosing of BKI compound 1294 at 50 mg/kg for 5 days in established murine neosporosis resulted in a 10-fold reduced cerebral parasite burden compared to untreated control. Further experiments are needed to determine the PK, optimal dosage, and duration for effective treatment in cattle and dogs, but these data demonstrate proof-of-concept for BKIs, and 1294 specifically, for therapy of bovine and canine neosporosis.
PMCID: PMC3969379  PMID: 24681759
8.  Affinity-Based Probes Based on Type II Kinase Inhibitors 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2012;134(46):19017-19025.
Protein kinases are key components of most mammalian signal transduction networks and are therapeutically relevant drug targets. Efforts to study protein kinase function would benefit from new technologies that are able to profile kinases in complex proteomes. Here, we describe active site-directed probes for profiling kinases in whole cell extracts and live cells. These probes contain general ligands that stabilize a specific inactive conformation of the ATP-binding sites of protein kinases, as well as trifluoromethylphenyl diazirine and alkyne moieties that allow covalent modification and enrichment of kinases, respectively. A diverse group of serine/threonine and tyrosine kinases were identified as specific targets of these probes in whole cell extracts. In addition, a number of kinase targets were selectively labeled in live cells. Our chemical proteomics approach should be valuable for interrogating protein kinase active sites in physiologically relevant environments.
PMCID: PMC3523701  PMID: 23088519
9.  Structure of the prolyl-tRNA synthetase from the eukaryotic pathogen Giardia lamblia  
The structure of Giardia prolyl-tRNA synthetase cocrystallized with proline and ATP shows evidence for half-of-the-sites activity, leading to a corresponding mixture of reaction substrates and product (prolyl-AMP) in the two active sites of the dimer.
The genome of the human intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia contains only a single aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase gene for each amino acid. The Giardia prolyl-tRNA synthetase gene product was originally misidentified as a dual-specificity Pro/Cys enzyme, in part owing to its unexpectedly high off-target activation of cysteine, but is now believed to be a normal representative of the class of archaeal/eukaryotic prolyl-tRNA synthetases. The 2.2 Å resolution crystal structure of the G. lamblia enzyme presented here is thus the first structure determination of a prolyl-tRNA synthetase from a eukaryote. The relative occupancies of substrate (proline) and product (prolyl-AMP) in the active site are consistent with half-of-the-sites reactivity, as is the observed biphasic thermal denaturation curve for the protein in the presence of proline and MgATP. However, no corresponding induced asymmetry is evident in the structure of the protein. No thermal stabilization is observed in the presence of cysteine and ATP. The implied low affinity for the off-target activation product cysteinyl-AMP suggests that translational fidelity in Giardia is aided by the rapid release of misactivated cysteine.
PMCID: PMC3489102  PMID: 22948920
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; protozoa; structural genomics; Giardia lamblia
10.  Benzoylbenzimidazole-based selective inhibitors targeting Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii calcium-dependent protein kinase-1 
Calcium-dependent protein kinase-1 (CDPK1) from Cryptosporidium parvum (CpCDPK1) and Toxoplasma gondii (TgCDPK1) have become attractive targets for discovering selective inhibitors to combat infections caused by these protozoa. We used structure-based design to improve a series of benzoylbenzimidazole-based compounds in terms of solubility, selectivity, and potency against CpCDPK1 and TgCDPK1. The best inhibitors show inhibitory potencies below 50 nM and selectivity well above 200-fold over two human kinases with small gatekeeper residues.
PMCID: PMC3420979  PMID: 22795629
Cryptosporidium parvum; Toxoplasma gondii; calcium-dependent protein kinase 1; enzyme inhibitor; selectivity
11.  Active site profiling reveals coupling between domains in SRC-family kinases 
Nature chemical biology  2012;9(1):43-50.
Protein kinases, key regulators of intracellular signal transduction, have emerged as an important class of drug targets. Chemical proteomic tools that facilitate the functional interrogation of protein kinase active sites are powerful reagents for studying the regulation of this large enzyme family and for performing inhibitor selectivity screens. Here we describe a new crosslinking strategy that enables rapid and quantitative profiling of protein kinase active sites in lysates and live cells. Applying this methodology to the SRC-family kinases (SFKs) SRC and HCK led to the identification of a series of conformation-specific, ATP-competitive inhibitors that display a distinct preference for autoinhibited forms of these kinases. Furthermore, we show that ligands that demonstrate this selectivity are able to modulate the ability of the regulatory domains of SRC and HCK to engage in intermolecular binding interactions. These studies provide insight into the regulation of this important family of tyrosine kinases.
PMCID: PMC3522794  PMID: 23143416
12.  Multiple determinants for selective inhibition of apicomplexan calcium-dependent protein kinase CDPK1 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(6):2803-2810.
Diseases caused by the apicomplexan protozoans Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum are a major health concern. The life cycle of these parasites is regulated by a family of calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) that have no direct homologs in the human host. Fortuitously, CDPK1 from both parasites contains a rare glycine gatekeeper residue adjacent to the ATP-binding pocket. This has allowed creation of a series of C3-substituted pyrazolopyrimidine compounds that are potent inhibitors selective for CDPK1 over a panel of human kinases. Here we demonstrate that selectivity is further enhanced by modification of the scaffold at the C1 position. The explanation for this unexpected result is provided by crystal structures of the inhibitors bound to CDPK1 and the human kinase c-SRC. Furthermore, the insight gained from these studies was applied to transform an alternative ATP-competitive scaffold lacking potency and selectivity for CDPK1 into a low nanomolar inhibitor of this enzyme with no activity against SRC.
PMCID: PMC3336864  PMID: 22369268
13.  Development of Toxoplasma gondii Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 1 (TgCDPK1) Inhibitors with Potent Anti-Toxoplasma Activity 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2012;55(5):2416-2426.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease of prominent health concern that is caused by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Proliferation of T. gondii is dependent on its ability to invade host cells, which is mediated, in part, by calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 (CDPK1). We have developed ATP competitive inhibitors of TgCDPK1 that block invasion of parasites into host cells, preventing their proliferation. The presence of a unique glycine gatekeeper residue in TgCDPK1 permits selective inhibition of the parasite enzyme over human kinases. These potent TgCDPK1 inhibitors do not inhibit the growth of human cell lines and represent promising candidates as toxoplasmosis therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3306180  PMID: 22320388
14.  Some B eq are more equivalent than others 
B eq is a well defined entity that represents one property, mean-square displacement, of the anisotropic atomic displacement parameter tensor from which it is derived. B eq is not, however, the best estimate of the B factor that would result from isotropic model refinement. A new entity B est is proposed to serve this purpose.
Crystallographic structural models for macromolecules have typically included an isotropic displacement parameter B iso for each atom. In cases where the structural model instead includes anisotropic displacement parameters U ij, the derived quantity B eq can be substituted for B iso for many purposes. B eq is not, however, the best predictor of the value B iso that would hypothetically have been obtained by direct refinement of an isotropic model. A new entity B est is proposed that represents an estimate for B iso that minimizes the Kullback–Leibler divergence from a paired anisotropic model. In general B est/B eq < 1, with the difference between the two values becoming larger for atoms that are more anisotropic. Although this difference does not affect direct refinement of either isotropic or anisotropic models, it is relevant to any analysis that compares isotropic and anisotropic models of the same underlying structure. In particular, it may lead to improved selection of multi-group TLS models based on analysis of an initial isotropic refinement.
PMCID: PMC3211245  PMID: 22011466
macromolecular refinement; TLS; anisotropy
15.  Screening a fragment cocktail library using ultrafiltration 
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry  2011;401(5):1589-1595.
Ultrafiltration provides a generic method to discover ligands for protein drug targets with millimolar to micromolar Kd, the typical range of fragment-based drug discovery. This method was tailored to a 96-well format, and cocktails of fragment-sized molecules, with molecular masses between 150 and 300 Da, were screened against medical structural genomics target proteins. The validity of the method was confirmed through competitive binding assays in the presence of ligands known to bind the target proteins.
PMCID: PMC3166647  PMID: 21750879
Ultrafiltration; Screening; Fragment-based drug discovery; Compound library
16.  The double-length tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase from the eukaryote Leishmania major forms an intrinsically asymmetric pseudo-dimer 
Journal of molecular biology  2011;409(2):159-176.
The single tyrosyl tRNA-synthetase (TyrRS) gene in trypanosomatid genomes codes for a protein that is twice the length of TyrRS from virtually all other organisms. Each half of the double-length TyrRS contains a catalytic domain and an anticodon-binding domain, however the two halves retain only 17% sequence identity to each other. The structural and functional consequences of this duplication and divergence are unclear. TyrRS normally forms a homodimer in which the active site of one monomer pairs with the anticodon-binding domain from the other. However, crystal structures of Leishmania major TyrRS show that instead the two halves of a single molecule form a pseudo-dimer resembling the canonical TyrRS dimer. Curiously, the C-terminal copy of the catalytic domain has lost the catalytically important HIGH and KMSKS motifs characteristic of Class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. Thus the pseudo-dimer contains only one functional active site, contributed by the N-terminal half, and only one functional anticodon recognition site, contributed by the C-terminal half. Despite biochemical evidence for negative cooperativity between the two active sites of the usual TyrRS homodimer, previous structures have captured a crystallographically-imposed symmetric state. As the L. major TyrRS pseudo-dimer is inherently asymmetric, conformational variations observed near the active site may be relevant to understanding how the state of a single active site is communicated across the dimer interface. Furthermore, substantial differences between trypanosomal TyrRS and human homologs are promising for the design of inhibitors that selectively target the parasite enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3095712  PMID: 21420975
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase; protozoa; drug target; tropical disease
17.  PROSPERO: online prediction of crystallographic success from experimental results and sequence 
Journal of Applied Crystallography  2012;45(Pt 3):598-602.
The PROSPERO server analyzes sequence and experimental protein characterization results, then uses that analysis to predict crystallization outcome and suggest priorities for futher work on difficult targets. The server allows users to upload data from six types of experiment, to organize those data by sample and project, and to share those data with collaborators.
The growth of diffracting crystals from purified proteins is often a major bottleneck in determining structures of biological and medical interest. The PROSPERO web server,, is intended both to provide a means of organizing the potentially large numbers of experimental characterizations measured from such proteins, and to provide useful guidance for structural biologists who have succeeded in purifying their target protein but have reached an impasse in the difficult and poorly understood process of turning purified protein into well diffracting crystals. These researchers need to decide which of many possible rescue options are worth pursuing, given finite resources. This choice is even more crucial when attempting to solve high-priority but relatively difficult structures of eukaryotic proteins. The site currently uses the HyGX1 predictor, which was trained and validated on protein samples from pathogenic protozoa (eukaryotes) using results from six types of experiment. PROSPERO allows users to store, analyze and display multiple results for each sample, to group samples into projects, and to share results and predictions with collaborators.
PMCID: PMC3359727  PMID: 22675232
protein crystallography; protein characterization; PROSPERO; computer programs
18.  Transmission of malaria to mosquitoes blocked by bumped kinase inhibitors 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(6):2301-2305.
Effective control and eradication of malaria will require new tools to prevent transmission. Current antimalarial therapies targeting the asexual stage of Plasmodium do not prevent transmission of circulating gametocytes from infected humans to mosquitoes. Here, we describe a new class of transmission-blocking compounds, bumped kinase inhibitors (BKIs), which inhibit microgametocyte exflagellation. Oocyst formation and sporozoite production, necessary for transmission to mammals, were inhibited in mosquitoes fed on either BKI-1–treated human blood or mice treated with BKI-1. BKIs are hypothesized to act via inhibition of Plasmodium calcium-dependent protein kinase 4 and predicted to have little activity against mammalian kinases. Our data show that BKIs do not inhibit proliferation of mammalian cell lines and are well tolerated in mice. Used in combination with drugs active against asexual stages of Plasmodium, BKIs could prove an important tool for malaria control and eradication.
PMCID: PMC3366411  PMID: 22565309
19.  Crystal structures of three protozoan homologs of tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase 
Tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS) is an essential enzyme that is recognizably conserved across all forms of life. It is responsible for activating and attaching tryptophan to a cognate tRNATrp molecule for use in protein synthesis. In some eukaryotes this original core function has been supplemented or modified through the addition of extra domains or the expression of variant TrpRS isoforms. The three TrpRS structures from pathogenic protozoa described here represent three illustrations of this malleability in eukaryotes. The Cryptosporidium parvum genome contains a single TrpRS gene, which codes for an N-terminal domain of uncertain function in addition to the conserved core TrpRS domains. Sequence analysis indicates that this extra domain, conserved among several apicomplexans, is related to the editing domain of some AlaRS and ThrRS. The C. parvum enzyme remains fully active in charging tRNATrp after truncation of this extra domain. The crystal structure of the active, truncated enzyme is presented here at 2.4 Å resolution. The Trypanosoma brucei genome contains separate cytosolic and mitochondrial isoforms of TrpRS that have diverged in their respective tRNA recognition domains. The crystal structure of the T. brucei cytosolic isoform is presented here at 2.8 Å resolution. The Entamoeba histolytica genome contains three sequences that appear to be TrpRS homologs. However one of these, whose structure is presented here at 3.0 Å resolution, has lost the active site motifs characteristic of the Class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase catalytic domain while retaining the conserved features of a fully formed tRNATrp recognition domain. The biological function of this variant E. histolytica TrpRS remains unknown, but, on the basis of a completely conserved tRNA recognition region and evidence for ATP but not tryptophan binding, it is tempting to speculate that it may perform an editing function. Together with a previously reported structure of an unusual TrpRS from Giardia, these protozoan structures broaden our perspective on the extent of structural variation found in eukaryotic TrpRS homologs.
PMCID: PMC3066001  PMID: 21255615
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase
20.  Structure Determination of Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 from Leishmania major and Comparative Inhibitor Structure-Activity Relationships with Trypanosoma brucei GSK-3 
Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) is a drug target under intense investigation in pharmaceutical companies and constitutes an attractive piggyback target for eukaryotic pathogens. Two different GSKs are found in trypanosomatids, one about 150 residues shorter than the other. GSK-3 short (GeneDB: Tb927.10.13780) has previously been validated genetically as a drug target in Trypanosoma brucei by RNAi induced growth retardation; and chemically by correlation between enzyme and in vitro growth inhibition. Here, we report investigation of the equivalent GSK-3 short enzymes of L. major (LmjF18.0270) and L. infantum (LinJ18_V3.0270, identical in amino acid sequences to LdonGSK-3 short) and a crystal structure of LmajGSK-3 short at 2 Å resolution. The inhibitor structure-activity relationships (SARs) of L. major and L. infantum are virtually identical, suggesting that inhibitors could be useful for both cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis. Leishmania spp. GSK-3 short has different inhibitor SARs than TbruGSK-3 short, which can be explained mostly by two variant residues in the ATP-binding pocket. Indeed, mutating these residues in the ATP-binding site of LmajGSK-3 short to the TbruGSK-3 short equivalents results in a mutant LmajGSK-3 short enzyme with SAR more similar to that of TbruGSK-3 short. The differences between human GSK-3β (HsGSK-3β) and LmajGSK-3 short SAR suggest that compounds which selectively inhibit LmajGSK-3 short may be found.
PMCID: PMC3045540  PMID: 21195115
Glycogen synthase kinase-3; Leishmania spp.; Trypanosoma brucei; African sleeping sickness; drug development; protein kinase
21.  To B or not to B: a question of resolution? 
A simple rule of thumb based on resolution is not adequate to identify the best treatment of atomic displacements in macromolecular structural models. The choice to use isotropic B factors, anisotropic B factors, TLS models or some combination of the three should be validated through statistical analysis of the model refinement.
In choosing and refining any crystallographic structural model, there is tension between the desire to extract the most detailed information possible and the necessity to describe no more than what is justified by the observed data. A more complex model is not necessarily a better model. Thus, it is important to validate the choice of parameters as well as validating their refined values. One recurring task is to choose the best model for describing the displacement of each atom about its mean position. At atomic resolution one has the option of devoting six model parameters (a ‘thermal ellipsoid’) to describe the displacement of each atom. At medium resolution one typically devotes at most one model parameter per atom to describe the same thing (a ‘B factor’). At very low resolution one cannot justify the use of even one parameter per atom. Furthermore, this aspect of the structure may be described better by an explicit model of bulk displacements, the most common of which is the translation/libration/screw (TLS) formalism, rather than by assigning some number of para­meters to each atom individually. One can sidestep this choice between atomic displacement parameters and TLS descriptions by including both treatments in the same model, but this is not always statistically justifiable. The choice of which treatment is best for a particular structure refinement at a particular resolution can be guided by general considerations of the ratio of model parameters to the number of observations and by specific statistics such as the Hamilton R-­factor ratio test.
PMCID: PMC3322606  PMID: 22505267
atomic displacements; B factors; TLS models; model parameters
22.  Structure of Leishmania major Methionyl-tRNA Synthetase in Complex with Intermediate Products Methionyladenylate and Pyrophosphate 
Biochimie  2010;93(3):570-582.
Leishmania parasites cause two million new cases of leishmaniasis each year with several hundreds of millions people at risk. Due to the paucity and shortcomings of available drugs, we have undertaken the crystal structure determination of a key enzyme from Leishmania major in hopes of creating a platform for the rational design of new therapeutics. Crystals of the catalytic core of methionyl-tRNA synthetase from L. major (LmMetRS) were obtained with the substrates MgATP and methionine present in the crystallization medium. These crystals yielded the 2.0 Å resolution structure of LmMetRS in complex with two products, methionyladenylate and pyrophosphate, along with a Mg2+ ion that bridges them. This is the first class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (aaRS) structure with pyrophosphate bound. The residues of the class I aaRS signature sequence motifs, KISKS and HIGH, make numerous contacts with the pyrophosphate. Substantial differences between the LmMetRS structure and previously reported complexes of E. coli MetRS (EcMetRS) with analogs of the methionyladenylate intermediate product are observed, even though one of these analogs only differs by one atom from the intermediate. The source of these structural differences is attributed to the presence of the product pyrophosphate in LmMetRS. Analysis of the LmMetRS structure in light of the Aquifex aeolicus MetRS-tRNAMet complex shows that major rearrangements of multiple structural elements of enzyme and/or tRNA are required to allow the CCA acceptor triplet to reach the methionyladenylate intermediate in the active site. Comparison with sequences of human cytosolic and mitochondrial MetRS reveals interesting differences near the ATP- and methionine-binding regions of LmMetRS, suggesting that it should be possible to obtain compounds that selectively inhibit the parasite enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3039092  PMID: 21144880
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase; protozoa; drug target; leishmaniasis; trypanosomiasis; enzyme product complex
23.  Selective Inhibitors of Methionyl-tRNA Synthetase Have Potent Activity against Trypanosoma brucei Infection in Mice▿† 
Human African trypanosomiasis continues to be an important public health threat in extensive regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Treatment options for infected patients are unsatisfactory due to toxicity, difficult administration regimes, and poor efficacy of available drugs. The aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases were selected as attractive drug targets due to their essential roles in protein synthesis and cell survival. Comparative sequence analysis disclosed differences between the trypanosome and mammalian methionyl-tRNA synthetases (MetRSs) that suggested opportunities for selective inhibition using drug-like molecules. Experiments using RNA interference on the single MetRS of Trypanosoma brucei demonstrated that this gene product was essential for normal cell growth. Small molecules (diaryl diamines) similar to those shown to have potent activity on prokaryotic MetRS enzymes were synthesized and observed to have inhibitory activity on the T. brucei MetRS (50% inhibitory concentration, <50 nM) and on bloodstream forms of T. brucei cultures (50% effective concentration, as low as 4 nM). Twenty-one compounds had a close correlation between enzyme binding/inhibition and T. brucei growth inhibition, indicating that they were likely to be acting on the intended target. The compounds had minimal effects on mammalian cell growth at 20 μM, demonstrating a wide therapeutic index. The most potent compound was tested in the murine model of trypanosomiasis and demonstrated profound parasite suppression and delayed mortality. A homology model of the T. brucei MetRS based on other MetRS structures was used to model binding of the lead diaryl diamine compounds. Future studies will focus on improving the pharmacological properties of the MetRS inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3088252  PMID: 21282428
24.  Discovery of Potent and Selective Inhibitors of CDPK1 from C. parvum and T. gondii 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2010;1(7):331-335.
The protozoans Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii are parasites of major health concern to humans. Both parasites contain a group of calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) which are found in plants and ciliates but not in humans or fungi. Here, we describe a series of potent inhibitors that target CDPK1 in C. parvum (CpCDPK1) and T. gondii (TgCDPK1). These inhibitors are highly selective for CpCDPK1 and TgCDPK1 over the mammalian kinases SRC and ABL. Furthermore, they are able to block an early stage of C. parvum invasion of HCT-8 host cells, which is similar to their effects on T. gondii invasion of human fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC2992447  PMID: 21116453
Phosphorylation; protozoans; calcium-dependent protein kinases; Cryptosporidium parvum; Toxoplasma gondii; apicomplexan
25.  Discovery of Potent and Selective Inhibitors of Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 1 (CDPK1) from C. parvum and T. gondii 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2010;1(7):331-335.
The protozoans Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii are parasites of major health concern to humans. Both parasites contain a group of calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs), which are found in plants and ciliates but not in humans or fungi. Here we describe a series of potent inhibitors that target CDPK1 in C. parvum (CpCDPK1) and T. gondii (TgCDPK1). These inhibitors are highly selective for CpCDPK1 and TgCDPK1 over the mammalian kinases SRC and ABL. Furthermore, they are able to block an early stage of C. parvum invasion of HCT-8 host cells, which is similar to their effects on T. gondii invasion of human fibroblasts.
PMCID: PMC2992447  PMID: 21116453
Phosphorylation; protozoans; calcium-dependent protein kinases; Cryptosporidium parvum; Toxoplasma gondii; apicomplexan

Results 1-25 (42)