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1.  Molecular Basis for Unidirectional Scaffold Switching of Human Plk4 in Centriole Biogenesis 
Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4) is a key regulator of centriole duplication, an event critical for the maintenance of genomic integrity. Here we showed that Plk4 relocalizes from the inner Cep192 ring to the outer Cep152 ring as newly recruited Cep152 assembles around the Cep192-encircled daughter centriole. Crystal structure analyses revealed that Cep192 - and Cep152-derived peptides bind the cryptic polo box (CPB) of Plk4 in opposite orientations and in a mutually exclusive manner. The Cep152-peptide bound to the CPB markedly better than the Cep192-peptide and effectively snatched the CPB away from a preformed CPB–Cep192-peptide complex. A cancer-associated Cep152 mutation impairing the Plk4 interaction induced defects in procentriole assembly and chromosome segregation. Thus, Plk4 is intricately regulated in time and space through ordered interactions with two distinct scaffolds, Cep192 and Cep152, and a failure in this process may lead to human cancer.
PMCID: PMC4125498  PMID: 24997597
2.  The TRAPP Complex: Insights into its Architecture and Function 
Traffic (Copenhagen, Denmark)  2008;9(12):2032-2042.
Vesicle-mediated transport is a process carried out by virtually every cell and is required for the proper targeting and secretion of proteins. As such, there are numerous players involved to ensure that the proteins are properly localized. Overall, transport requires vesicle budding, recognition of the vesicle by the target membrane and fusion of the vesicle with the target membrane resulting in delivery of its contents. The initial interaction between the vesicle and the target membrane has been referred to as tethering. Because this is the first contact between the two membranes, tethering is critical to ensuring that specificity is achieved. It is therefore not surprising that there are numerous ‘tethering factors’ involved ranging from multisubunit complexes, coiled-coil proteins and Rab guanosine triphosphatases. Of the multisubunit tethering complexes, one of the best studied at the molecular level is the evolutionarily conserved TRAPP complex. There are two forms of this complex: TRAPP I and TRAPP II. In yeast, these complexes function in a number of processes including endoplasmic reticulum-to-Golgi transport (TRAPP I) and an ill-defined step at the trans Golgi (TRAPP II). Because the complex was first reported in 1998 (1), there has been a decade of studies that have clarified some aspects of its function but have also raised further questions. In this review, we will discuss recent advances in our understanding of yeast and mammalian TRAPP at the structural and functional levels and its role in disease while trying to resolve some apparent discrepancies and highlighting areas for future study.
PMCID: PMC3417770  PMID: 18801063
endoplasmic reticulum; Golgi; guanine nucleotide exchange factor; sedlin; TRAPP; vesicle tethering complex
3.  Crosstalk between cGAS DNA sensor and Beclin-1 autophagy protein shapes innate anti-microbial immune responses 
Cell host & microbe  2014;15(2):228-238.
Robust immune responses are essential for eliminating pathogens, but must be metered to avoid prolonged immune activation and potential host damage. Upon recognition of microbial DNA, the cytosolic DNA sensor cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP) synthetase, or cGAS, produces the second messenger cGAMP to initiate the STING pathway and subsequent interferon (IFN) production. We report that the direct interaction between cGAS and the Beclin-1 autophagy protein not only suppresses cGAMP synthesis to halt IFN production upon double stranded (ds)DNA stimulation or herpes simplex virus-1 infection, but also enhances autophagy-mediated degradation of cytosolic pathogen DNAs to prevent excessive cGAS activation and persistent immune stimulation. Specifically, this interaction releases Rubicon, a negative autophagy regulator, from the Beclin-1 complex, activating phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase class III activity and thereby inducing autophagy to remove cytosolic pathogen DNAs. Thus, the cGAS-Beclin-1 interaction shapes innate immune responses by regulating both cGAMP production and autophagy, resulting in well-balanced anti-microbial immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3950946  PMID: 24528868
4.  Molecular Basis for SMC Rod Formation and Its Dissolution upon DNA Binding 
Molecular Cell  2015;57(2):290-303.
SMC condensin complexes are central modulators of chromosome superstructure in all branches of life. Their SMC subunits form a long intramolecular coiled coil, which connects a constitutive “hinge” dimerization domain with an ATP-regulated “head” dimerization module. Here, we address the structural arrangement of the long coiled coils in SMC complexes. We unequivocally show that prokaryotic Smc-ScpAB, eukaryotic condensin, and possibly also cohesin form rod-like structures, with their coiled coils being closely juxtaposed and accurately anchored to the hinge. Upon ATP-induced binding of DNA to the hinge, however, Smc switches to a more open configuration. Our data suggest that a long-distance structural transition is transmitted from the Smc head domains to regulate Smc-ScpAB’s association with DNA. These findings uncover a conserved architectural theme in SMC complexes, provide a mechanistic basis for Smc’s dynamic engagement with chromosomes, and offer a molecular explanation for defects in Cornelia de Lange syndrome.
Graphical Abstract
•Prokaryotic Smc-ScpAB complexes form rod-like structures•Binding of ATP and DNA induces a rod-to-ring transition in prokaryotic condensin•The condensin hinge is rigidly anchored to its coiled coil•The rod-like conformation is a conserved feature of SMC protein dimers
Soh et al. show that the rod-like conformation is a conserved architectural scheme of SMC complexes. Upon ATP-induced binding to DNA, the juxtaposed coiled coils of prokaryotic Smc-ScpAB adopt an open conformation to expose a DNA binding site at the inner surface of the hinge domain.
PMCID: PMC4306524  PMID: 25557547
5.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus K7 Modulates Rubicon-Mediated Inhibition of Autophagosome Maturation 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(22):12499-12503.
Autophagy is an important innate safeguard mechanism for protecting an organism against invasion by pathogens. We have previously discovered that Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) evades this host defense through tight suppression of autophagy by targeting multiple steps of autophagy signal transduction. Here, we report that KSHV K7 protein interacts with Rubicon autophagy protein and inhibits the autophagosome maturation step by blocking Vps34 enzymatic activity, further highlighting how KSHV deregulates autophagy-mediated host immunity for its life cycle.
PMCID: PMC3807930  PMID: 24027317
6.  VipD of Legionella pneumophila Targets Activated Rab5 and Rab22 to Interfere with Endosomal Trafficking in Macrophages 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(12):e1003082.
Upon phagocytosis, Legionella pneumophila translocates numerous effector proteins into host cells to perturb cellular metabolism and immunity, ultimately establishing intracellular survival and growth. VipD of L. pneumophila belongs to a family of bacterial effectors that contain the N-terminal lipase domain and the C-terminal domain with an unknown function. We report the crystal structure of VipD and show that its C-terminal domain robustly interferes with endosomal trafficking through tight and selective interactions with Rab5 and Rab22. This domain, which is not significantly similar to any known protein structure, potently interacts with the GTP-bound active form of the two Rabs by recognizing a hydrophobic triad conserved in Rabs. These interactions prevent Rab5 and Rab22 from binding to downstream effectors Rabaptin-5, Rabenosyn-5 and EEA1, consequently blocking endosomal trafficking and subsequent lysosomal degradation of endocytic materials in macrophage cells. Together, this work reveals endosomal trafficking as a target of L. pneumophila and delineates the underlying molecular mechanism.
Author Summary
Legionella pneumophila is a pathogen bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease accompanied by severe pneumonia. Surprisingly, this pathogen invades and replicates inside macrophages, whose major function is to detect and destroy invading microorganisms. How L. pneumophila can be “immune” to this primary immune cell has been a focus of intensive research. Upon being engulfed by a macrophage cell, L. pneumophila translocates hundreds of bacterial proteins into this host cell. These proteins, called bacterial effectors, are thought to manipulate normal host cellular processes. However, which host molecules and how they are targeted by the bacterial effectors are largely unknown. In this study, we determined the three-dimensional structure of L. pneumophila effector protein VipD, whose function in macrophage was unknown. Ensuing analyses revealed that VipD selectively and tightly binds two host signaling proteins Rab5 and Rab22, which are key regulators of early endosomal vesicle trafficking. These interactions prevent the activated form of Rab5 and Rab22 from binding their downstream signaling proteins, resulting in the blockade of endosomal trafficking in macrophages. The presented work shows that L. pneumophila targets endosomal Rab proteins and delineates the underlying molecular mechanism, providing a new insight into the pathogen's strategies to dysregulate normal intracellular processes.
PMCID: PMC3521694  PMID: 23271971
7.  Experimental phasing using zinc anomalous scattering 
The surface of proteins can be charged with zinc ions and the anomalous signals from these zinc ions can be used for structure determination of proteins.
Zinc is a suitable metal for anomalous dispersion phasing methods in protein crystallography. Structure determination using zinc anomalous scattering has been almost exclusively limited to proteins with intrinsically bound zinc(s). Here, it is reported that multiple zinc ions can easily be charged onto the surface of proteins with no intrinsic zinc-binding site by using zinc-containing solutions. Zn derivatization of protein surfaces appears to be a largely unnoticed but promising method of protein structure determination.
PMCID: PMC3489106  PMID: 22948927
zinc anomalous scattering; phasing; Zn derivatization
8.  Evidence that inhibition of BAX activation by BCL-2 involves its tight and preferential interaction with the BH3 domain of BAX 
Cell Research  2010;21(4):627-641.
Interactions between the BCL-2 family proteins determine the cell's fate to live or die. How they interact with each other to regulate apoptosis remains as an unsettled central issue. So far, the antiapoptotic BCL-2 proteins are thought to interact with BAX weakly, but the physiological significance of this interaction has been vague. Herein, we show that recombinant BCL-2 and BCL-w interact potently with a BCL-2 homology (BH) 3 domain-containing peptide derived from BAX, exhibiting the dissociation constants of 15 and 23 nM, respectively. To clarify the basis for this strong interaction, we determined the three-dimensional structure of a complex of BCL-2 with a BAX peptide spanning its BH3 domain. It revealed that their interactions extended beyond the canonical BH3 domain and involved three nonconserved charged residues of BAX. A novel BAX variant, containing the alanine substitution of these three residues, had greatly impaired affinity for BCL-2 and BCL-w, but was otherwise indistinguishable from wild-type BAX. Critically, the apoptotic activity of the BAX variant could not be restrained by BCL-2 and BCL-w, pointing that the observed tight interactions are critical for regulating BAX activation. We also comprehensively quantified the binding affinities between the three BCL-2 subfamily proteins. Collectively, the data show that due to the high affinity of BAX for BCL-2, BCL-w and A1, and of BAK for BCL-XL, MCL-1 and A1, only a subset of BH3-only proteins, commonly including BIM, BID and PUMA, could be expected to free BAX or BAK from the antiapoptotic BCL-2 proteins to elicit apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3343310  PMID: 21060336
apoptosis; BAX; BCL-2; BCL-w; structure
9.  5′-Triphosphate-RNA-independent activation of RIG-I via RNA aptamer with enhanced antiviral activity 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(6):2724-2733.
RIG-I is a cytosolic receptor for non-self RNA that mediates immune responses against viral infections through IFNα/β production. In an attempt to identify novel tools that modulate IFNα/β production, we used SELEX technology to screen RNA aptamers that specifically target RIG-I protein. Most of the selected RIG-I aptamers contained polyU motifs in the second half regions that played critical roles in the activation of RIG-I-mediated IFNβ production. Unlike other known ligands, RIG-I aptamer bound and activated RIG-I in a 5′-triphosphate-independent manner. The helicase and RD domain of RIG-I were used for aptamer binding, but intact RIG-I protein was required to exert aptamer-mediated signaling activation. Furthermore, replication of NDV, VSV and influenza virus in infected host cells was efficiently blocked by pre- or post-treatment with RIG-I aptamer. Based on these data, we propose that RIG-I aptamer has strong potential to be an antiviral agent that specifically boosts the RIG-I-dependent signaling cascade.
PMCID: PMC3315321  PMID: 22127865
10.  Downregulation of Autophagy by Bcl-2 Promotes MCF7 Breast Cancer Cell Growth Independent of Its Inhibition of Apoptosis 
Cell death and differentiation  2010;18(3):452-464.
The anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein, which confers oncogenic transformation and drug resistance in most human cancers, including breast cancer, has recently been shown to effectively counteract autophagy by directly targeting Beclin1, an essential autophagy mediator and tumor suppressor. However, it remains unknown whether autophagy inhibition contributes to Bcl-2-mediated oncogenesis. Here, by using a loss-of-function mutagenesis study, we show that Bcl-2-mediated antagonism of autophagy plays a critical role in enhancing the tumorigenic properties of MCF7 breast cancer cells independent of its anti-apoptosis activity. A Bcl-2 mutant defective in apoptosis inhibition but competent for autophagy suppression promotes MCF7 breast cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo as efficiently as wild-type Bcl-2. The growth-promoting activity of this Bcl-2 mutant is strongly correlated with its suppression of Beclin1-dependent autophagy, leading to sustained p62 expression and increased DNA damage in xenograft tumors, which may directly contribute to tumorigenesis. Thus, the anti-autophagic property of Bcl-2 is a key feature of Bcl-2-mediated oncogenesis and may in some contexts, serve as an attractive target for breast and other cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC3017654  PMID: 20885445
Bcl-2; autophagy; apoptosis; MCF7; Tumorigenesis
11.  Regulation of Drosophila Vasa In Vivo through Paralogous Cullin-RING E3 Ligase Specificity Receptors▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(7):1769-1782.
In Drosophila species, molecular asymmetries guiding embryonic development are established maternally. Vasa, a DEAD-box RNA helicase, accumulates in the posterior pole plasm, where it is required for embryonic germ cell specification. Maintenance of Vasa at the posterior pole requires the deubiquitinating enzyme Fat facets, which protects Vasa from degradation. Here, we found that Gustavus (Gus) and Fsn, two ubiquitin Cullin-RING E3 ligase specificity receptors, bind to the same motif on Vasa through their paralogous B30.2/SPRY domains. Both Gus and Fsn accumulate in the pole plasm in a Vasa-dependent manner. Posterior Vasa accumulation is precocious in Fsn mutant oocytes; Fsn overexpression reduces ovarian Vasa levels, and embryos from Fsn-overexpressing females form fewer primordial germ cells (PGCs); thus, Fsn destabilizes Vasa. In contrast, endogenous Gus may promote Vasa activity in the pole plasm, as gus females produce embryos with fewer PGCs, and posterior accumulation of Vas is delayed in gus mutant oocytes that also lack one copy of cullin-5. We propose that Fsn- and Gus-containing E3 ligase complexes contribute to establishing a fine-tuned steady state of Vasa ubiquitination that influences the kinetics of posterior Vasa deployment.
PMCID: PMC2838069  PMID: 20123973
12.  Structural and Biochemical Bases for the Inhibition of Autophagy and Apoptosis by Viral BCL-2 of Murine γ-Herpesvirus 68 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(2):e25.
All gammaherpesviruses express homologues of antiapoptotic B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) to counter the clearance of infected cells by host antiviral defense machineries. To gain insights into the action mechanisms of these viral BCL-2 proteins, we carried out structural and biochemical analyses on the interactions of M11, a viral BCL-2 of murine γ-herpesvirus 68, with a fragment of proautophagic Beclin1 and BCL-2 homology 3 (BH3) domain-containing peptides derived from an array of proapoptotic BCL-2 family proteins. Mainly through hydrophobic interactions, M11 bound the BH3-like domain of Beclin1 with a dissociation constant of 40 nanomole, a markedly tighter affinity compared to the 1.7 micromolar binding affinity between cellular BCL-2 and Beclin1. Consistently, M11 inhibited autophagy more efficiently than BCL-2 in NIH3T3 cells. M11 also interacted tightly with a BH3 domain peptide of BAK and those of the upstream BH3-only proteins BIM, BID, BMF, PUMA, and Noxa, but weakly with that of BAX. These results collectively suggest that M11 potently inhibits Beclin1 in addition to broadly neutralizing the proapoptotic BCL-2 family in a similar but distinctive way from cellular BCL-2, and that the Beclin1-mediated autophagy may be a main target of the virus.
Author Summary
In higher animals, defective or surplus cells are removed by a process known as apoptosis. On the other hand, defective or damaged cellular components are removed by a process known as autophagy. These two destructive processes are indispensable for the survival and development of an organism. While apoptosis is known as a central host defense mechanism that removes virus-infected cells, the role of autophagy against viral infection has recently emerged. Many viruses express an armory of viral proteins that counteract cell death–mediated innate immune control. One such protein is a homologue of the cellular BCL-2 protein that suppresses apoptosis through inhibitory binding to apoptosis-promoting proteins. Murine γ-herpesvirus 68 also encodes a viral BCL-2, known as M11. In this study, we quantitatively measured the binding affinity of M11 for its potential cellular targets, including ten different proapoptotic proteins and the proautophagic protein Beclin1. We found that M11 neutralizes the proapoptotic proteins broadly rather than selectively to suppress apoptosis. Surprisingly, M11 bound to Beclin1 with the highest affinity, which correlated with its strong antiautophagic activity in cells. These data suggest that M11 suppresses not only apoptosis but also autophagy potently, which ultimately contributes to the viral chronic infection.
PMCID: PMC2222952  PMID: 18248095

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