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1.  High-resolution crystal structure of spin labelled (T21R1) azurin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a challenging structural benchmark for in silico spin labelling algorithms 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6807-14-16
PMCID: PMC4055355  PMID: 24884565
2.  Quantification of free cysteines in membrane and soluble proteins using a fluorescent dye and thermal unfolding 
Nature protocols  2013;8(11):10.1038/nprot.2013.128.
Cysteine is an extremely useful site for selective attachment of labels to proteins for many applications, including the study of protein structure in solution by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), fluorescence spectroscopy and medical imaging. The demand for quantitative data for these applications means that it is important to determine the extent of the cysteine labeling. The efficiency of labeling is sensitive to the 3D context of cysteine within the protein. Where the label or modification is not directly measurable by optical or magnetic spectroscopy, for example, in cysteine modification to dehydroalanine, assessing labeling efficiency is difficult. We describe a simple assay for determining the efficiency of modification of cysteine residues, which is based on an approach previously used to determine membrane protein stability. The assay involves a reaction between the thermally unfolded protein and a thiol-specific coumarin fluorophore that is only fluorescent upon conjugation with thiols. Monitoring fluorescence during thermal denaturation of the protein in the presence of the dye identifies the temperature at which the maximum fluorescence occurs; this temperature differs among proteins. Comparison of the fluorescence intensity at the identified temperature between modified, unmodified (positive control) and cysteine-less protein (negative control) allows for the quantification of free cysteine. We have quantified both site-directed spin labeling and dehydroalanine formation. The method relies on a commonly available fluorescence 96-well plate reader, which rapidly screens numerous samples within 1.5 h and uses <100 μg of material. The approach is robust for both soluble and detergent-solubilized membrane proteins.
doi:10.1038/nprot.2013.128
PMCID: PMC3836627  PMID: 24091556
3.  Structure of WbdD: a bifunctional kinase and methyltransferase that regulates the chain length of the O antigen in Escherichia coli O9a 
Molecular Microbiology  2012;86(3):730-742.
Summary
The Escherichia coli serotype O9a O-antigen polysaccharide (O-PS) is a model for glycan biosynthesis and export by the ATP-binding cassette transporter-dependent pathway. The polymannose O9a O-PS is synthesized as a polyprenol-linked glycan by mannosyltransferase enzymes located at the cytoplasmic membrane. The chain length of the O9a O-PS is tightly regulated by the WbdD enzyme. WbdD first phosphorylates the terminal non-reducing mannose of the O-PS and then methylates the phosphate, stopping polymerization. The 2.2 Å resolution structure of WbdD reveals a bacterial methyltransferase domain joined to a eukaryotic kinase domain. The kinase domain is again fused to an extended C-terminal coiled-coil domain reminiscent of eukaryotic DMPK (Myotonic Dystrophy Protein Kinase) family kinases such as Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK). WbdD phosphorylates 2-α-d-mannosyl-d-mannose (2α-MB), a short mimic of the O9a polymer. Mutagenesis identifies those residues important in catalysis and substrate recognition and the in vivo phenotypes of these mutants are used to dissect the termination reaction. We have determined the structures of co-complexes of WbdD with two known eukaryotic protein kinase inhibitors. Although these are potent inhibitors in vitro, they do not show any in vivo activity. The structures reveal new insight into O-PS chain-length regulation in this important model system.
doi:10.1111/mmi.12014
PMCID: PMC3482155  PMID: 22970759
4.  Structure of WbdD: a bifunctional kinase and methyltransferase that regulates the chain length of the O antigen in Escherichia coli O9a 
Molecular microbiology  2012;86(3):730-742.
Summary
The Escherichia coli serotype O9a O-antigen polysaccharide (O-PS) is a model for glycan biosynthesis and export by the ATP-binding cassette transporter-dependent pathway. The polymannose O9a O-PS is synthesized as a polyprenol-linked glycan by mannosyltransferase enzymes located at the cytoplasmic membrane. The chain length of the O9a O-PS is tightly regulated by the WbdD enzyme. WbdD first phosphorylates the terminal non-reducing mannose of the O-PS and then methylates the phosphate, stopping polymerization. The 2.2 Å resolution structure of WbdD reveals a bacterial methyltransferase domain joined to a eukaryotic kinase domain. The kinase domain is again fused to an extended C-terminal coiled-coil domain reminiscent of eukaryotic DMPK (Myotonic Dystrophy Protein Kinase) family kinases such as Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK). WbdD phosphorylates 2-α-d-mannosyl-d-mannose (2α-MB), a short mimic of the O9a polymer. Mutagenesis identifies those residues important in catalysis and substrate recognition and the in vivo phenotypes of these mutants are used to dissect the termination reaction. We have determined the structures of co-complexes of WbdD with two known eukaryotic protein kinase inhibitors. Although these are potent inhibitors in vitro, they do not show any in vivo activity. The structures reveal new insight into O-PS chain-length regulation in this important model system.
doi:10.1111/mmi.12014
PMCID: PMC3482155  PMID: 22970759
5.  Crystallization, dehydration and experimental phasing of WbdD, a bifunctional kinase and methyltransferase from Escherichia coli O9a 
The optimization of WbdD crystals using a novel dehydration protocol and experimental phasing at 3.5 Å resolution by cross-crystal averaging followed by molecular replacement of electron density into a non-isomorphous 3.0 Å resolution native data set are reported.
WbdD is a bifunctional kinase/methyltransferase that is responsible for regulation of lipopolysaccharide O antigen polysaccharide chain length in Escherichia coli serotype O9a. Solving the crystal structure of this protein proved to be a challenge because the available crystals belonging to space group I23 only diffracted to low resolution (>95% of the crystals diffracted to resolution lower than 4 Å and most only to 8 Å) and were non-isomorphous, with changes in unit-cell dimensions of greater than 10%. Data from a serendipitously found single native crystal that diffracted to 3.0 Å resolution were non-isomorphous with a lower (3.5 Å) resolution selenomethionine data set. Here, a strategy for improving poor (3.5 Å resolution) initial phases by density modification and cross-crystal averaging with an additional 4.2 Å resolution data set to build a crude model of WbdD is desribed. Using this crude model as a mask to cut out the 3.5 Å resolution electron density yielded a successful molecular-replacement solution of the 3.0 Å resolution data set. The resulting map was used to build a complete model of WbdD. The hydration status of individual crystals appears to underpin the variable diffraction quality of WbdD crystals. After the initial structure had been solved, methods to control the hydration status of WbdD were developed and it was thus possible to routinely obtain high-resolution diffraction (to better than 2.5 Å resolution). This novel and facile crystal-dehydration protocol may be useful for similar challenging situations.
doi:10.1107/S0907444912029599
PMCID: PMC3447403  PMID: 22993091
WbdD; crystal dehydration
7.  MtsslWizard: In Silico Spin-Labeling and Generation of Distance Distributions in PyMOL 
Applied Magnetic Resonance  2012;42(3):377-391.
MtsslWizard is a computer program, which operates as a plugin for the PyMOL molecular graphics system. MtsslWizard estimates distances between spin labels on proteins quickly with user-configurable options through a simple graphical interface. In default mode, the program searches for ensembles of possible MTSSL conformations that do not clash with a static model of the protein. Once conformations are assigned, distance distributions between two or more ensembles are calculated, displayed, and can be exported to other software. The program’s use is evaluated in a number of challenging test cases and its strengths and weaknesses evaluated. The benefits of the program are its accuracy and simplicity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00723-012-0314-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00723-012-0314-0
PMCID: PMC3296949  PMID: 22448103
8.  Structural Basis of Substrate Binding in WsaF, a Rhamnosyltransferase from Geobacillus stearothermophilus 
Journal of Molecular Biology  2010;397(2):436-447.
Carbohydrate polymers are medically and industrially important. The S-layer of many Gram-positive organisms comprises protein and carbohydrate polymers and forms an almost paracrystalline array on the cell surface. Not only is this array important for the bacteria but it has potential application in the manufacture of commercially important polysaccharides and glycoconjugates as well. The S-layer glycoprotein glycan from Geobacillus stearothermophilus NRS 2004/3a is mainly composed of repeating units of three rhamnose sugars linked by α-1,3-, α-1,2-, and β-1,2-linkages. The formation of the β-1,2-linkage is catalysed by the enzyme WsaF. The rational use of this system is hampered by the fact that WsaF and other enzymes in the pathway share very little homology to other enzymes. We report the structural and biochemical characterisation of WsaF, the first such rhamnosyltransferase to be characterised. Structural work was aided by the surface entropy reduction method. The enzyme has two domains, the N-terminal domain, which binds the acceptor (the growing rhamnan chain), and the C-terminal domain, which binds the substrate (dTDP-β-l-rhamnose). The structure of WsaF bound to dTDP and dTDP-β-l-rhamnose coupled to biochemical analysis identifies the residues that underlie catalysis and substrate recognition. We have constructed and tested by site-directed mutagenesis a model for acceptor recognition.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2010.01.035
PMCID: PMC3898925  PMID: 20097205
SeMet, selenomethionine; SER, surface entropy reduction; ITC, isothermal titration calorimetry; crystal structure; Geobacillus stearothermophilus; rhamnosyltransferase; S-layer protein glycosylation
9.  Crystal Structures of Wzb of Escherichia coli and CpsB of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Representatives of Two Families of Tyrosine Phosphatases that Regulate Capsule Assembly 
Journal of Molecular Biology  2009;392(3):678-688.
Many Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria utilize polysaccharide surface layers called capsules to evade the immune system; consequently, the synthesis and export of the capsule are a potential therapeutic target. In Escherichia coli K-30, the integral membrane tyrosine autokinase Wzc and the cognate phosphatase Wzb have been shown to be key for both synthesis and assembly of capsular polysaccharides. In the Gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, the CpsCD complex is analogous to Wzc and the phosphatase CpsB is the corresponding cognate phosphatase. The phosphatases are known to dephosphorylate their corresponding autokinases, yet despite their functional equivalence, they share no sequence homology. We present the structure of Wzb in complex with phosphate and high-resolution structures of apo-CpsB and a phosphate-complexed CpsB. We show that both proteins are active toward Wzc and thereby demonstrate that CpsB is not specific for CpsCD. CpsB is a novel enzyme and represents the first solved structure of a tyrosine phosphatase from a Gram-positive bacterium. Wzb and CpsB have completely different structures, suggesting that they must operate by very different mechanisms. Although the mechanism of Wzb can be inferred from previous studies, CpsB appears to have a tyrosine phosphatase mechanism not observed before. We propose a chemical mechanism for CpsB based on site-directed mutagenesis and structural data.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2009.07.026
PMCID: PMC2777267  PMID: 19616007
CPS, capsular polysaccharide; PHP, polymerase and histidinol phosphatase; pNPP, para-nitrophenylphosphate; enzyme mechanism; kinase; phosphatase; pathogenic bacteria; capsule
10.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of the bacterial capsule assembly-regulating tyrosine phosphatases Wzb of Escherichia coli and Cps4B of Streptococcus pneumoniae  
The crystallization is reported of two bacterial tyrosine phosphatases which belong to different enzyme families despite their ability to catalyse identical reactions.
Bacterial tyrosine kinases and their cognate phosphatases are key players in the regulation of capsule assembly and thus are important virulence determinants of these bacteria. Examples of the kinase/phosphatase pairing are found in Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli (Wzc and Wzb) and in Gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae (CpsCD and CpsB). Although Wzb and Cps4B are both predicted to dephosphorylate the C-terminal tyrosine cluster of their cognate tyrosine kinase, they appear on the basis of protein sequence to belong to quite different enzyme classes. Recombinant purified proteins Cps4B of S. pneumoniae TIGR4 and Wzb of E. coli K-30 have been crystallized. Wzb crystals belonged to space-group family P3x21 and diffracted to 2.7 Å resolution. Crystal form I of Cps4B belonged to space-group family P4x212 and diffracted to 2.8 Å resolution; crystal form II belonged to space group P212121 and diffracted to 1.9 Å resolution.
doi:10.1107/S1744309109023914
PMCID: PMC2720329  PMID: 19652335
Wzb; Cps4B; kinases; phosphatases
11.  mtsslSuite: In silico spin labelling, trilateration and distance-constrained rigid body docking in PyMOL 
Molecular Physics  2013;111(18-19):2757-2766.
Nanometer distance measurements based on electron paramagnetic resonance methods in combination with site-directed spin labelling are powerful tools for the structural analysis of macromolecules. The software package mtsslSuite provides scientists with a set of tools for the translation of experimental distance distributions into structural information. The package is based on the previously published mtsslWizard software for in silico spin labelling. The mtsslSuite includes a new version of MtsslWizard that has improved performance and now includes additional types of spin labels. Moreover, it contains applications for the trilateration of paramagnetic centres in biomolecules and for rigid-body docking of subdomains of macromolecular complexes. The mtsslSuite is tested on a number of challenging test cases and its strengths and weaknesses are evaluated.
doi:10.1080/00268976.2013.809804
PMCID: PMC4056886  PMID: 24954955
DEER; PELDOR; triangulation; EPR; FRET; docking

Results 1-11 (11)