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1.  Structural Insights into Bacillus thuringiensis Cry, Cyt and Parasporin Toxins 
Toxins  2014;6(9):2732-2770.
Since the first X-ray structure of Cry3Aa was revealed in 1991, numerous structures of B. thuringiensis toxins have been determined and published. In recent years, functional studies on the mode of action and resistance mechanism have been proposed, which notably promoted the developments of biological insecticides and insect-resistant transgenic crops. With the exploration of known pore-forming toxins (PFTs) structures, similarities between PFTs and B. thuringiensis toxins have provided great insights into receptor binding interactions and conformational changes from water-soluble to membrane pore-forming state of B. thuringiensis toxins. This review mainly focuses on the latest discoveries of the toxin working mechanism, with the emphasis on structural related progress. Based on the structural features, B. thuringiensis Cry, Cyt and parasporin toxins could be divided into three categories: three-domain type α-PFTs, Cyt toxin type β-PFTs and aerolysin type β-PFTs. Structures from each group are elucidated and discussed in relation to the latest data, respectively.
PMCID: PMC4179158  PMID: 25229189
Bacillus thuringiensis; Cry toxin; Cyt toxin; parasporin; pore-forming toxins
2.  Structure of the Archaeoglobus fulgidus orphan ORF AF1382 determined by sulfur SAD from a moderately diffracting crystal 
The crystal structure of the 11.14 kDa orphan ORF 1382 from Archaeoglobus fulgidus (AF1382) has been determined by sulfur SAD phasing using data collected from a moderately diffracting crystal and 1.9 Å synchrotron X-rays.
The crystal structure of the 11.14 kDa orphan ORF 1382 from Archaeoglobus fulgidus (AF1382) has been determined by sulfur SAD phasing using a moderately diffracting crystal and 1.9 Å wavelength synchrotron X-rays. AF1382 was selected as a structural genomics target by the Southeast Collaboratory for Structural Genomics (SECSG) since sequence analyses showed that it did not belong to the Pfam-A database and thus could represent a novel fold. The structure was determined by exploiting longer wavelength X-rays and data redundancy to increase the anomalous signal in the data. AF1382 is a 95-­residue protein containing five S atoms associated with four methionine residues and a single cysteine residue that yields a calculated Bijvoet ratio (ΔF anom/F) of 1.39% for 1.9 Å wavelength X-rays. Coupled with an average Bijvoet redundancy of 25 (two 360° data sets), this produced an excellent electron-density map that allowed 69 of the 95 residues to be automatically fitted. The S-SAD model was then manually completed and refined (R = 23.2%, R free = 26.8%) to 2.3 Å resolution (PDB entry 3o3k). High-resolution data were subsequently collected from a better diffracting crystal using 0.97 Å wavelength synchrotron X-rays and the S-SAD model was refined (R = 17.9%, R free = 21.4%) to 1.85 Å resolution (PDB entry 3ov8). AF1382 has a winged-helix–turn–helix structure common to many DNA-binding proteins and most closely resembles the N-terminal domain (residues 1–82) of the Rio2 kinase from A. fulgidus, which has been shown to bind DNA, and a number of MarR-family transcriptional regulators, suggesting a similar DNA-binding function for AF1382. The analysis also points out the advantage gained from carrying out data reduction and structure determination on-site while the crystal is still available for further data collection.
PMCID: PMC3489105  PMID: 22948926
AF1382; orphan ORFs; sulfur SAD; Archaeoglobus fulgidus
3.  Structural View of a Non Pfam Singleton and Crystal Packing Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31673.
Comparative genomic analysis has revealed that in each genome a large number of open reading frames have no homologues in other species. Such singleton genes have attracted the attention of biochemists and structural biologists as a potential untapped source of new folds. Cthe_2751 is a 15.8 kDa singleton from an anaerobic, hyperthermophile Clostridium thermocellum. To gain insights into the architecture of the protein and obtain clues about its function, we decided to solve the structure of Cthe_2751.
The protein crystallized in 4 different space groups that diffracted X-rays to 2.37 Å (P3121), 2.17 Å (P212121), 3.01 Å (P4122), and 2.03 Å (C2221) resolution, respectively. Crystal packing analysis revealed that the 3-D packing of Cthe_2751 dimers in P4122 and C2221 is similar with only a rotational difference of 2.69° around the C axes. A new method developed to quantify the differences in packing of dimers in crystals from different space groups corroborated the findings of crystal packing analysis. Cthe_2751 is an all α-helical protein with a central hydrophobic core providing thermal stability via π:cation and π: π interactions. A ProFunc analysis retrieved a very low match with a splicing endonuclease, suggesting a role for the protein in the processing of nucleic acids.
Non-Pfam singleton Cthe_2751 folds into a known all α-helical fold. The structure has increased sequence coverage of non-Pfam proteins such that more protein sequences can be amenable to modelling. Our work on crystal packing analysis provides a new method to analyze dimers of the protein crystallized in different space groups. The utility of such an analysis can be expanded to oligomeric structures of other proteins, especially receptors and signaling molecules, many of which are known to function as oligomers.
PMCID: PMC3282739  PMID: 22363703
4.  A multi-dataset data-collection strategy produces better diffraction data 
Theoretical analysis and experimental validation prove that a multi-dataset data-collection strategy produces better diffraction data. The readiness test is a simple and sensitive method for X-ray data-collection system evaluation and a benchmark.
A multi-dataset (MDS) data-collection strategy is proposed and analyzed for macromolecular crystal diffraction data acquisition. The theoretical analysis indicated that the MDS strategy can reduce the standard deviation (background noise) of diffraction data compared with the commonly used single-dataset strategy for a fixed X-ray dose. In order to validate the hypothesis experimentally, a data-quality evaluation process, termed a readiness test of the X-ray data-collection system, was developed. The anomalous signals of sulfur atoms in zinc-free insulin crystals were used as the probe to differentiate the quality of data collected using different data-collection strategies. The data-collection results using home-laboratory-based rotating-anode X-ray and synchrotron X-ray systems indicate that the diffraction data collected with the MDS strategy contain more accurate anomalous signals from sulfur atoms than the data collected with a regular data-collection strategy. In addition, the MDS strategy offered more advantages with respect to radiation-damage-sensitive crystals and better usage of rotating-anode as well as synchrotron X-rays.
PMCID: PMC3211246  PMID: 22011470
multi-dataset data-collection strategy; readiness test
5.  SurR regulates hydrogen production in Pyrococcus furiosus by a sulfur-dependent redox switch 
Molecular microbiology  2010;77(5):1111-1122.
We present structural and biochemical evidence for a redox switch in the archaeal transcriptional regulator SurR of Pyrococcus furiosus, a hyperthermophilic anaerobe. P. furiosus produces H2 during fermentation, but undergoes a metabolic shift to produce H2S when elemental sulfur (S0) becomes available. Changes in gene expression occur within minutes of S0 addition, and the majority of these S0-responsive genes are regulatory targets of SurR, a key regulator involved in primary S0 response. SurR was shown in vitro to have dual functionality, activating transcription of some of these genes, notably the hydrogenase operons, and repressing others, including a gene encoding sulfur reductase. This work demonstrates via biochemical and structural evidence that the activity of SurR is modulated by cysteine residues in a CxxC motif that constitute a redox switch. Oxidation of the switch with S0 inhibits sequence-specific DNA binding by SurR, leading to deactivation of genes related to H2 production and derepression of genes involved in S0 metabolism.
PMCID: PMC2975895  PMID: 20598080
SurR; Pyrococcus furiosus; regulatory transcription factor; elemental sulfur response; hydrogen production; redox switch
6.  Structure of D-AKAP2:PKA RI complex: Insights into AKAP specificity and selectivity 
A-kinase anchoring proteins (AKAPs) regulate cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) signaling in space and time. Dual-specific AKAP 2 (D-AKAP2) binds to the dimerization/docking (D/D) domain of both RI and RII regulatory subunits of PKA with high affinity. Here, we have determined the structures of the RIα D/D domain alone and in complex with D-AKAP2. The D/D domain presents an extensive surface for binding through a well-formed N-termina helix and this surface restricts the diversity of AKAPs that can interact. The structures also underscore the importance of a redox-sensitive disulfide in affecting AKAP binding. An unexpected shift in the helical register of D-AKAP2 compared to the RIIα:D-AKAP2 complex structure makes the mode of binding to RIα novel. Finally, the comparison allows us to deduce a molecular explanation for the sequence and spatial determinants of AKAP specificity.
PMCID: PMC3090270  PMID: 20159461
7.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic data for the augmenter of liver regeneration 
A new cellular growth factor termed augmenter of liver regeneration (ALR) has been crystallized, ALR has been shown to have a proliferative effect on liver cells while at the same time producing an immunosuppressive effect on liver-resident natural killer cells and liver-resident mononuclear leukocytes. In addition, ALR appears to play an important role in the synthesis and stabilization of mitochondrial gene transcripts in, actively regenerating cells. ALR crystals diffract to beyond 2Å resolution and belong to space group P21212, with a = 125.1, b = 108.1 and c = 38.5Å. Based on four molecules per asymmetric unit, the Matthews coefficient is calculated to be 2.16Å3Da−1 which corresponds to a solvent content of 43 %.
PMCID: PMC2962559  PMID: 15299939
8.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of the non-Pfam protein AF1514 from Archeoglobus fulgidus DSM 4304 
A non-Pfam protein, AF1514, from A. fulgidus has been crystallized.
A 10.5 kDa non-Pfam hypothetical protein, AF1514, from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Archeoglobus fulgidus has been overexpressed in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystals diffracted X-rays to 2.09 Å resolution and a data set was collected at 100 K using Cu Kα radiation from a rotating-anode X-ray source. The crystals belong to space group P41212 or P43212, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 49.27, c = 106.61 Å. The calculated Matthews coefficient was 3.16 Å3 Da−1, suggesting the presence of one molecule in the asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC2374175  PMID: 18259057
non-Pfam proteins; reductive methylation
9.  Structure of the minimized α/β-hydrolase fold protein from Thermus thermophilus HB8 
Acta Crystallographica Section F  2007;63(Pt 12):993-997.
The crystal structure of the minimized α/β-hydrolase fold protein encoded by the gene TTHA1544 from T. thermophilus HB8 has been determined at 2.0 Å resolution.
The gene encoding TTHA1544 is a singleton found in the Thermus thermophilus HB8 genome and encodes a 131-amino-acid protein. The crystal structure of TTHA1544 has been determined at 2.0 Å resolution by the single-wavelength anomalous dispersion method in order to elucidate its function. There are two molecules in the asymmetric unit. Each molecule consists of four α-helices and six β-strands, with the β-strands composing a central β-sheet. A structural homology search revealed that the overall structure of TTHA1544 resembles the α/β-hydrolase fold, although TTHA1544 lacks the catalytic residues of a hydrolase. These results suggest that TTHA1544 represents the minimized α/β-hydrolase fold and that an additional component would be required for its activity.
PMCID: PMC2344104  PMID: 18084077
T. thermophilus HB8; TTHA1544; α/β-hydrolase fold; singleton
10.  Expression, purification and characterization of the secreted luciferase of the copepod Metridia longa from Sf9 insect cells 
Metridia luciferase is a secreted luciferase from a marine copepod and uses coelenterazine as a substrate to produce a blue bioluminescence (λmax = 480 nm). This luciferase has been successfully applied as a bioluminescent reporter in mammalian cells. The main advantage of secreted luciferase as a reporter is the capability of measuring intracellular events without destroying the cells or tissues and this property is well suited for development of high throughput screening technologies. However because Metridia luciferase is a Cys-rich protein, E. coli expression systems produce an incorrectly folded protein, hindering its biochemical characterization and application for development of in vitro bioluminescent assays. Here we report the successful expression of Metridia luciferase with its signal peptide for secretion, in insect (Sf9) cells using the baculovirus expression system. Functionally active luciferase secreted by insect cells into the culture media has been efficiently purified with a yield of high purity protein of 2–3 mg/L. This Metridia luciferase expressed in the insect cell system is a monomeric protein showing 3.5-fold greater bioluminescence activity than luciferase expressed and purified from E. coli. The near coincidence of the experimental mass of Metridia luciferase purified from insect cells with that calculated from amino acid sequence, indicates that luciferase does not undergo posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation or glycosylation and also, the cleavage site of the signal peptide for secretion is at VQA-KS, as predicted from sequence analysis.
PMCID: PMC2577724  PMID: 18595733
11.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of molybdenum-cofactor biosynthesis protein C from Thermus thermophilus  
The molybdenum-cofactor biosynthesis protein C from T. thermophilus has been crystallized in two different space groups, P21 and R32; the crystals diffracted to 1.9 and 1.75 Å resolution, respectively.
The Gram-negative aerobic eubacterium Thermus thermophilus is an extremely important thermophilic microorganism that was originally isolated from a thermal vent environment in Japan. The molybdenum cofactor in this organism is considered to be an essential component required by enzymes that catalyze diverse key reactions in the global metabolism of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. The molybdenum-cofactor biosynthesis protein C derived from T. thermophilus was crystallized in two different space groups. Crystals obtained using the first crystallization condition belong to the monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 64.81, b = 109.84, c = 115.19 Å, β = 104.9°; the crystal diffracted to a resolution of 1.9 Å. The other crystal form belonged to space group R32, with unit-cell parameters a = b = 106.57, c = 59.25 Å, and diffracted to 1.75 Å resolution. Preliminary calculations reveal that the asymmetric unit contains 12 monomers and one monomer for the crystals belonging to space group P21 and R32, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2330104  PMID: 17183168
thermophilic microorganisms; Thermus thermophilus; molybdenum-cofactor biosynthesis; MoaC
12.  Intragenic suppressors of temperature-sensitive rne mutations lead to the dissociation of RNase E activity on mRNA and tRNA substrates in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(16):5306-5318.
RNase E of Escherichia coli is an essential endoribonuclease that is involved in many aspects of RNA metabolism. Point mutations in the S1 RNA-binding domain of RNase E (rne-1 and rne-3071) lead to temperature-sensitive growth along with defects in 5S rRNA processing, mRNA decay and tRNA maturation. However, it is not clear whether RNase E acts similarly on all kinds of RNA substrates. Here we report the isolation and characterization of three independent intragenic second-site suppressors of the rne-1 and rne-3071 alleles that demonstrate for the first time the dissociation of the in vivo activity of RNase E on mRNA versus tRNA and rRNA substrates. Specifically, tRNA maturation and 9S rRNA processing were restored to wild-type levels in each of the three suppressor mutants (rne-1/172, rne-1/186 and rne-1/187), while mRNA decay and autoregulation of RNase E protein levels remained as defective as in the rne-1 single mutant. Each single amino acid substitution (Gly→Ala at amino acid 172; Phe → Cys at amino acid 186 and Arg → Leu at amino acid 187) mapped within the 5′ sensor region of the RNase E protein. Molecular models of RNase E suggest how suppression may occur.
PMCID: PMC2532720  PMID: 18689439
13.  Structure of the hypothetical protein PF0899 from Pyrococcus furiosus at 1.85 Å resolution 
Acta Crystallographica Section F  2007;63(Pt 7):549-552.
The crystal structure of the hypothetical protein PF0899 from P. furiosus has been determined to 1.85 Å resolution.
The hypothetical protein PF0899 is a 95-residue peptide from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus that represents a gene family with six members. P. furiosus ORF PF0899 has been cloned, expressed and crystallized and its structure has been determined by the Southeast Collaboratory for Structural Genomics ( The structure was solved using the SCA2Structure pipeline from multiple data sets and has been refined to 1.85 Å against the highest resolution data set collected (a presumed gold derivative), with a crystallographic R factor of 21.0% and R free of 24.0%. The refined structure shows some structural similarity to a wedge-shaped domain observed in the structure of the major capsid protein from bacteriophage HK97, suggesting that PF0899 may be a structural protein.
PMCID: PMC2335137  PMID: 17620707
structural genomics; SECSG; Pfu-871755; PF0899; high-throughput structure
14.  The First Agmatine/Cadaverine Aminopropyl Transferase: Biochemical and Structural Characterization of an Enzyme Involved in Polyamine Biosynthesis in the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(16):6057-6067.
We report here the characterization of the first agmatine/cadaverine aminopropyl transferase (ACAPT), the enzyme responsible for polyamine biosynthesis from an archaeon. The gene PF0127 encoding ACAPT in the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli, and the recombinant protein was purified to homogeneity. P. furiosus ACAPT is a homodimer of 65 kDa. The broad substrate specificity of the enzyme toward the amine acceptors is unique, as agmatine, 1,3-diaminopropane, putrescine, cadaverine, and sym-nor-spermidine all serve as substrates. While maximal catalytic activity was observed with cadaverine, agmatine was the preferred substrate on the basis of the kcat/Km value. P. furiosus ACAPT is thermoactive and thermostable with an apparent melting temperature of 108°C that increases to 112°C in the presence of cadaverine. Limited proteolysis indicated that the only proteolytic cleavage site is localized in the C-terminal region and that the C-terminal peptide is not necessary for the integrity of the active site. The crystal structure of the enzyme determined to 1.8-Å resolution confirmed its dimeric nature and provided insight into the proteolytic analyses as well as into mechanisms of thermal stability. Analysis of the polyamine content of P. furiosus showed that spermidine, cadaverine, and sym-nor-spermidine are the major components, with small amounts of sym-nor-spermine and N-(3-aminopropyl)cadaverine (APC). This is the first report in Archaea of an unusual polyamine APC that is proposed to play a role in stress adaptation.
PMCID: PMC1952034  PMID: 17545282
15.  (NZ)CH...O Contacts assist crystallization of a ParB-like nuclease 
The major bottleneck for determination of 3 D structures of proteins using X-rays is the production of diffraction quality crystals. Often proteins are subjected to chemical modification to improve the chances of crystallization
Here, we report the successful crystallization of a nuclease employing a reductive methylation protocol. The key to crystallization was the successful introduction of 44 new cohesive (NZ) CH...O contacts (3.2 – 3.7 Å) by the addition of 2 methyl groups to the side chain amine nitrogen (NZ) of 9 lysine residues of the nuclease. The new contacts dramatically altered the crystallization properties of the protein, resulting in crystals that diffracted to 1.2 Å resolution. Analytical ultracentrifugation analysis and thermodynamics results revealed a more compact protein structure with better solvent exclusion of buried Trp residues in the folded state of the methylated protein, assisting crystallization.
In this study, introduction of novel cohesive (NZ)CH...O contacts by reductive methylation resulted in the crystallization of a protein that had previously resisted crystallization in spite of extensive purification and crystallization space screening. Introduction of (NZ)CH...O contacts could provide a solution to crystallization problems for a broad range of protein targets.
PMCID: PMC1940005  PMID: 17617922
16.  Isolation, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of a methanol-induced corrinoid protein from Moorella thermoacetica  
Strongly diffracting crystals of a methanol-induced corrinoid protein from M. thermoacetica have been obtained.
A corrinoid protein was induced and overexpressed in methanol-grown cells of the thermophilic anaerobic bacterium Moorella thermoacetica. The protein was purified from cytosolic extracts. After screening for crystallization conditions and optimization, crystals were obtained that diffracted strongly on a rotating-anode X-ray source. A diffraction data set was collected and processed including reflections to 1.9 Å resolution. Reflections were indexed in a primitive orthorhombic cell with unit-cell parameters a = 55.69, b = 62.74, c = 34.54 Å. N-­terminal amino-acid sequencing indicates that the crystals contain a C-­terminal fragment of the protein.
PMCID: PMC1952305  PMID: 16511090
corrinoid; methyltransferases

Results 1-16 (16)