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1.  Mammalian translation elongation factor eEF1A2: X-ray structure and new features of GDP/GTP exchange mechanism in higher eukaryotes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(20):12939-12948.
Eukaryotic elongation factor eEF1A transits between the GTP- and GDP-bound conformations during the ribosomal polypeptide chain elongation. eEF1A*GTP establishes a complex with the aminoacyl-tRNA in the A site of the 80S ribosome. Correct codon–anticodon recognition triggers GTP hydrolysis, with subsequent dissociation of eEF1A*GDP from the ribosome. The structures of both the ‘GTP’- and ‘GDP’-bound conformations of eEF1A are unknown. Thus, the eEF1A-related ribosomal mechanisms were anticipated only by analogy with the bacterial homolog EF-Tu. Here, we report the first crystal structure of the mammalian eEF1A2*GDP complex which indicates major differences in the organization of the nucleotide-binding domain and intramolecular movements of eEF1A compared to EF-Tu. Our results explain the nucleotide exchange mechanism in the mammalian eEF1A and suggest that the first step of eEF1A*GDP dissociation from the 80S ribosome is the rotation of the nucleotide-binding domain observed after GTP hydrolysis.
PMCID: PMC4227793  PMID: 25326326
2.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of a hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HCT) from Coffea canephora involved in chlorogenic acid biosynthesis 
A hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase involved in chlorogenic acid biosynthesis in C. canephora was crystallized using the vapour-diffusion method. A diffraction data set was collected to 3.0 Å resolution on the microfocus beamline (ID23-2) at ESRF and a structure solution was obtained using molecular replacement.
Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are a group of soluble phenolic compounds that are produced by a variety of plants, including Coffea canephora (robusta coffee). The last step in CGA biosynthesis is generally catalysed by a specific hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HQT), but it can also be catalysed by the more widely distributed hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HCT). Here, the cloning and overexpression of HCT from C. canephora in Escherichia coli as well as its purification and crystallization are presented. Crystals were obtained by the sitting-drop technique at 293 K and X-ray diffraction data were collected on the microfocus beamline ID23-2 at the ESRF. The HCT crystals diffracted to better than 3.0 Å resolution, belonged to space group P42212 with unit-cell parameters a = b = 116.1, c = 158.9 Å and contained two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The structure was solved by molecular replacement and is currently under refinement. Such structural data are needed to decipher the molecular basis of the substrate specifities of this key enzyme, which belongs to the large plant acyl-CoA-dependent BAHD acyltransferase superfamily.
PMCID: PMC3388932  PMID: 22750875
Coffea canephora; phenylpropanoid-biosynthesis pathway; chlorogenic acids; plant acyl-CoA-dependent acyltransferase superfamily; hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase; molecular replacement
3.  The use of a mini-κ goniometer head in macromolecular crystallography diffraction experiments 
Hardware and software solutions for MX data-collection strategies using the EMBL/ESRF miniaturized multi-axis goniometer head are presented.
Most macromolecular crystallography (MX) diffraction experiments at synchrotrons use a single-axis goniometer. This markedly contrasts with small-molecule crystallography, in which the majority of the diffraction data are collected using multi-axis goniometers. A novel miniaturized κ-gonio­meter head, the MK3, has been developed to allow macromolecular crystals to be aligned. It is available on the majority of the structural biology beamlines at the ESRF, as well as elsewhere. In addition, the Strategy for the Alignment of Crystals (STAC) software package has been developed to facilitate the use of the MK3 and other similar devices. Use of the MK3 and STAC is streamlined by their incorporation into online analysis tools such as EDNA. The current use of STAC and MK3 on the MX beamlines at the ESRF is discussed. It is shown that the alignment of macromolecular crystals can result in improved diffraction data quality compared with data obtained from randomly aligned crystals.
PMCID: PMC3689527  PMID: 23793150
kappa goniometer; crystal alignment; data-collection strategies
4.  Automatic processing of macromolecular crystallography X-ray diffraction data at the ESRF 
Journal of Applied Crystallography  2013;46(Pt 3):804-810.
A system for the automatic reduction of single- and multi-position macromolecular crystallography data is presented.
The development of automated high-intensity macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamlines at synchrotron facilities has resulted in a remarkable increase in sample throughput. Developments in X-ray detector technology now mean that complete X-ray diffraction datasets can be collected in less than one minute. Such high-speed collection, and the volumes of data that it produces, often make it difficult for even the most experienced users to cope with the deluge. However, the careful reduction of data during experimental sessions is often necessary for the success of a particular project or as an aid in decision making for subsequent experiments. Automated data reduction pipelines provide a fast and reliable alternative to user-initiated processing at the beamline. In order to provide such a pipeline for the MX user community of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), a system for the rapid automatic processing of MX diffraction data from single and multiple positions on a single or multiple crystals has been developed. Standard integration and data analysis programs have been incorporated into the ESRF data collection, storage and computing environment, with the final results stored and displayed in an intuitive manner in the ISPyB (information system for protein crystallography beamlines) database, from which they are also available for download. In some cases, experimental phase information can be automatically determined from the processed data. Here, the system is described in detail.
PMCID: PMC3654316  PMID: 23682196
automation; data processing; macromolecular crystallography; computer programs
5.  Decoupling of Sleep-Dependent Cortical and Hippocampal Interactions in a Neurodevelopmental Model of Schizophrenia 
Neuron  2012;76(3):526-533.
Rhythmic neural network activity patterns are defining features of sleep, but interdependencies between limbic and cortical oscillations at different frequencies and their functional roles have not been fully resolved. This is particularly important given evidence linking abnormal sleep architecture and memory consolidation in psychiatric diseases. Using EEG, local field potential (LFP), and unit recordings in rats, we show that anteroposterior propagation of neocortical slow-waves coordinates timing of hippocampal ripples and prefrontal cortical spindles during NREM sleep. This coordination is selectively disrupted in a rat neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia: fragmented NREM sleep and impaired slow-wave propagation in the model culminate in deficient ripple-spindle coordination and disrupted spike timing, potentially as a consequence of interneuronal abnormalities reflected by reduced parvalbumin expression. These data further define the interrelationships among slow-wave, spindle, and ripple events, indicating that sleep disturbances may be associated with state-dependent decoupling of hippocampal and cortical circuits in psychiatric diseases.
► Abnormal neurodevelopment leads to fragmented NREM sleep in the MAM-E17 model ► Delta wave and spindle abnormalities match patterns of altered parvalbumin expression ► Spindle phase-locked units in frontal cortex fire during CA1 ripples in normal NREM ► Mistimed limbic-cortical oscillations during fragmented NREM may impair cognition
A restless pillow makes a ruffled mind? Investigating sleep architecture and associated neural network activity in an animal model of schizophrenia, Phillips et al. propose a new sleep-dependent mechanism for cognitive deficits in neuropsychiatric disease.
PMCID: PMC3898840  PMID: 23141065
6.  The use of workflows in the design and implementation of complex experiments in macromolecular crystallography 
A powerful and easy-to-use workflow environment has been developed at the ESRF for combining experiment control with online data analysis on synchrotron beamlines. This tool provides the possibility of automating complex experiments without the need for expertise in instrumentation control and programming, but rather by accessing defined beamline services.
The automation of beam delivery, sample handling and data analysis, together with increasing photon flux, diminishing focal spot size and the appearance of fast-readout detectors on synchrotron beamlines, have changed the way that many macromolecular crystallography experiments are planned and executed. Screening for the best diffracting crystal, or even the best diffracting part of a selected crystal, has been enabled by the development of microfocus beams, precise goniometers and fast-readout detectors that all require rapid feedback from the initial processing of images in order to be effective. All of these advances require the coupling of data feedback to the experimental control system and depend on immediate online data-analysis results during the experiment. To facilitate this, a Data Analysis WorkBench (DAWB) for the flexible creation of complex automated protocols has been developed. Here, example workflows designed and implemented using DAWB are presented for enhanced multi-step crystal characterizations, experiments involving crystal re­orientation with kappa goniometers, crystal-burning experiments for empirically determining the radiation sensitivity of a crystal system and the application of mesh scans to find the best location of a crystal to obtain the highest diffraction quality. Beamline users interact with the prepared workflows through a specific brick within the beamline-control GUI MXCuBE.
PMCID: PMC3413211  PMID: 22868763
workflows; automation; data processing; macromolecular crystallography; experimental protocols; characterization; reorientation; radiation damage
7.  Structural basis of HIV-1 tethering to membranes by the Bst2/tetherin ectodomain 
Cell host & microbe  2010;7(4):314-323.
The restriction factor Bst2/tetherin contains two membrane anchors which are employed to retain some enveloped viruses including HIV-1 tethered to the plasma membrane in the absence of virus encoded antagonists. The 2.77 Å crystal structure of the extracellular core presented here reveals a parallel 90 Å long disulfide linked coiled-coil domain while the complete extracellular domain forms an extended 170 Å long rod-like structure based on small angle X-ray scattering data. Mutagenesis analyses indicate that both the coiled-coil and the N-terminal region are required for retention of HIV-1, suggesting that the elongated structure can function as a molecular ruler to bridge long distances. The structure reveals substantial irregularities and instabilities throughout the coiled-coil, which contribute to its low stability in the absence of disulfide bonds. We propose that the irregular coiled-coil provides conformational flexibility and ensures that Bst2/tetherin anchoring in the plasma and the newly formed virus membrane do not interfere with budding.
PMCID: PMC2859121  PMID: 20399176
8.  Translation calibration of inverse-kappa goniometers in macromolecular crystallography 
A rapid, easy-to-perform translation calibration procedure has been developed for use with the EMBL/ESRF mini-κ goniometer head and for other inverse-kappa goniometers designed for macromolecular crystallography. Regular calibration ensures the precision of experiments that rely on many degrees of freedom in crystal reorientation.
Precise and convenient crystal reorientation is of experimental importance in macromolecular crystallography (MX). The development of multi-axis goniometers, such as the ESRF/EMBL mini-κ, necessitates the corresponding development of calibration procedures that can be used for the setup, maintenance and troubleshooting of such devices. While traditional multi-axis goniometers require all rotation axes to intersect the unique point of the sample position, recently developed miniaturized instruments for sample reorientation in MX are not as restricted. However, the samples must always be re-centred following a change in orientation. To overcome this inconvenience and allow the use of multi-axis goniometers without the fundamental restriction of having all axes intersecting in the same point, an automatic translation correction protocol has been developed for such instruments. It requires precise information about the direction and location of the rotation axes. To measure and supply this information, a general, easy-to-perform translation calibration (TC) procedure has also been developed. The TC procedure is routinely performed on most MX beamlines at the ESRF and some results are presented for reference.
PMCID: PMC3082334  PMID: 21487180
kappa goniometer; macromolecular crystallography; reorientation; calibration
9.  MxCuBE: a synchrotron beamline control environment customized for macromolecular crystallography experiments 
Journal of Synchrotron Radiation  2010;17(Pt 5):700-707.
MxCuBE is a beamline control environment optimized for the needs of macromolecular crystallography. This paper describes the design of the software and the features that MxCuBE currently provides.
The design and features of a beamline control software system for macromolecular crystallography (MX) experiments developed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) are described. This system, MxCuBE, allows users to easily and simply interact with beamline hardware components and provides automated routines for common tasks in the operation of a synchrotron beamline dedicated to experiments in MX. Additional functionality is provided through intuitive interfaces that enable the assessment of the diffraction characteristics of samples, experiment planning, automatic data collection and the on-line collection and analysis of X-ray emission spectra. The software can be run in a tandem client-server mode that allows for remote control and relevant experimental parameters and results are automatically logged in a relational database, ISPyB. MxCuBE is modular, flexible and extensible and is currently deployed on eight macromolecular crystallography beamlines at the ESRF. Additionally, the software is installed at MAX-lab beamline I911-3 and at BESSY beamline BL14.1.
PMCID: PMC3025540  PMID: 20724792
automation; macromolecular crystallography; synchrotron beamline control; graphical user interface
10.  A decade of user operation on the macromolecular crystallography MAD beamline ID14-4 at the ESRF 
Journal of Synchrotron Radiation  2009;16(Pt 6):803-812.
The improvement of the X-ray beam quality achieved on ID14-4 by the installation of new X-ray optical elements is described.
ID14-4 at the ESRF is the first tunable undulator-based macromolecular crystallography beamline that can celebrate a decade of user service. During this time ID14-4 has not only been instrumental in the determination of the structures of biologically important molecules but has also contributed significantly to the development of various instruments, novel data collection schemes and pioneering radiation damage studies on biological samples. Here, the evolution of ID14-4 over the last decade is presented, and some of the major improvements that were carried out in order to maintain its status as one of the most productive macromolecular crystallography beamlines are highlighted. The experimental hutch has been upgraded to accommodate a high-precision diffractometer, a sample changer and a large CCD detector. More recently, the optical hutch has been refurbished in order to improve the X-ray beam quality on ID14-4 and to incorporate the most modern and robust optical elements used at other ESRF beamlines. These new optical elements will be described and their effect on beam stability discussed. These studies may be useful in the design, construction and maintenance of future X-ray beamlines for macromolecular crystallography and indeed other applications, such as those planned for the ESRF upgrade.
PMCID: PMC2765085  PMID: 19844017
macromolecular crystallography; X-ray beam quality; beamline diagnostics; beamline automation
11.  Cloning, expression, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the first two Ig domains from human Roundabout 1 (Robo1) 
Robo1 is a large transmembrane receptor expressed on the axon growth cone. Activation of Robo1 by Slit proteins results in axon repulsion from the midline. Here, the purification and crystallization conditions of first two Ig domains of Robo1 are reported.
Activation of Roundabout 1 (Robo1) by Slit proteins results in axon repulsion from the midline. Robo1 is a large transmembrane receptor expressed on the axon growth cone and the minimal Robo1-binding region required for Slit activation has been mapped to the N-terminal Ig1–2 domains. The cDNA encoding the first two Ig domains of Robo1 has been cloned and the protein has been expressed in HEK293 EBNA-1 mammalian cells. Here, the purification and crystallization conditions of this Robo1 construct are reported. The crystals are orthorhombic, space group P21212, with unit-cell parameters a = 38.8, b = 69.4, c = 103.3 Å and one molecule in the asymmetric unit. X-ray diffraction data have been collected to 2.8 Å resolution on beamline ID29 at the ESRF.
PMCID: PMC2335160  PMID: 17671369
Roundabout; Slit; mammalian expression
12.  Structure and functional relevance of the Slit2 homodimerization domain 
EMBO Reports  2009;10(7):736-741.
Slit proteins are secreted ligands that interact with the Roundabout (Robo) receptors to provide important guidance cues in neuronal and vascular development. Slit–Robo signalling is mediated by an interaction between the second Slit domain and the first Robo domain, as well as being dependent on heparan sulphate. In an effort to understand the role of the other Slit domains in signalling, we determined the crystal structure of the fourth Slit2 domain (D4) and examined the effects of various Slit2 constructs on chick retinal ganglion cell axons. Slit2 D4 forms a homodimer using the conserved residues on its concave face, and can also bind to heparan sulphate. We observed that Slit2 D4 frequently results in growth cones with collapsed lamellipodia and that this effect can be inhibited by exogenously added heparan sulphate. Our results show that Slit2 D4–heparan sulphate binding contributes to a Slit–Robo signalling mechanism more intricate than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC2693880  PMID: 19498462
neurons; guidance cues; signalling
13.  Cloning, expression, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of the XMT and DXMT N-methyltransferases from Coffea canephora (robusta) 
The genes encoding XMT and DXMT, the enzymes from Coffea canephora (robusta) that catalyse the three independent N-methyl transfer reactions in the caffeine-biosynthesis pathway, have been cloned and the proteins have been expressed in Escherichia coli. Both proteins have been crystallized in the presence of the demethylated cofactor S-adenosyl-l-cysteine (SAH) and substrate (xanthosine for XMT and theobromine for DXMT).
Caffeine is a secondary metabolite produced by a variety of plants including Coffea canephora (robusta) and there is growing evidence that caffeine is part of a chemical defence strategy protecting young leaves and seeds from potential predators. The genes encoding XMT and DXMT, the enzymes from Coffea canephora (robusta) that catalyse the three independent N-methyl transfer reactions in the caffeine-biosynthesis pathway, have been cloned and the proteins have been expressed in Escherichia coli. Both proteins have been crystallized in the presence of the demethylated cofactor S-adenosyl-l-cysteine (SAH) and substrate (xanthosine for XMT and theobromine for DXMT). The crystals are orthorhombic, with space group P212121 for XMT and C2221 for DXMT. X-ray diffraction to 2.8 Å for XMT and to 2.5 Å for DXMT have been collected on beamline ID23-1 at the ESRF.
PMCID: PMC2330209  PMID: 17401201
caffeine; SAM; N-methyltransferases

Results 1-13 (13)