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author:("carlos, Karl")
1.  Expression, purification and crystallization of the ectodomain of the envelope glycoprotein E2 from Bovine viral diarrhoea virus  
The cloning, expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of the ectodomain of BVDV E2 are described.
Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) is an economically important animal pathogen which is closely related to Hepatitis C virus. Of the structural proteins, the envelope glycoprotein E2 of BVDV is the major antigen which induces neutralizing antibodies; thus, BVDV E2 is considered as an ideal target for use in subunit vaccines. Here, the expression, purification of wild-type and mutant forms of the ectodomain of BVDV E2 and subsequent crystallization and data collection of two crystal forms grown at low and neutral pH are reported. Native and multiple-wavelength anomalous dispersion (MAD) data sets have been collected and structure determination is in progress.
PMCID: PMC3539699  PMID: 23295482
Pestivirus; BVDV; envelope glycoprotein E2
2.  FLRT Structure: Balancing Repulsion and Cell Adhesion in Cortical and Vascular Development 
Neuron  2014;84(2):370-385.
FLRTs are broadly expressed proteins with the unique property of acting as homophilic cell adhesion molecules and as heterophilic repulsive ligands of Unc5/Netrin receptors. How these functions direct cell behavior and the molecular mechanisms involved remain largely unclear. Here we use X-ray crystallography to reveal the distinct structural bases for FLRT-mediated cell adhesion and repulsion in neurons. We apply this knowledge to elucidate FLRT functions during cortical development. We show that FLRTs regulate both the radial migration of pyramidal neurons, as well as their tangential spread. Mechanistically, radial migration is controlled by repulsive FLRT2-Unc5D interactions, while spatial organization in the tangential axis involves adhesive FLRT-FLRT interactions. Further, we show that the fundamental mechanisms of FLRT adhesion and repulsion are conserved between neurons and vascular endothelial cells. Our results reveal FLRTs as powerful guidance factors with structurally encoded repulsive and adhesive surfaces.
•Distinct FLRT surfaces mediate homophilic adhesion and Unc5-dependent repulsion•Neurons expressing Unc5 and FLRT integrate adhesive and repulsive FLRT signals•FLRTs direct radial migration and tangential spread of cortical neurons•FLRT3 controls retinal vascularization
Cortical development depends on a balance of adhesive and repulsive interactions between cells. Seiradake et al. show how FLRT proteins fine-tune adhesion and repulsion between cells migrating through the neocortex. Vascular cells are also guided by FLRT using structurally conserved mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4210639  PMID: 25374360
3.  Pushing the limits of sulfur SAD phasing: de novo structure solution of the N-terminal domain of the ectodomain of HCV E1 
The sulfur SAD phasing method was successfully used to determine the structure of the N-terminal domain of HCV E1 from low-resolution diffracting crystals by combining data from 32 crystals.
Single-wavelength anomalous dispersion of S atoms (S-SAD) is an elegant phasing method to determine crystal structures that does not require heavy-atom incorporation or selenomethionine derivatization. Nevertheless, this technique has been limited by the paucity of the signal at the usual X-ray wavelengths, requiring very accurate measurement of the anomalous differences. Here, the data collection and structure solution of the N-terminal domain of the ectodomain of HCV E1 from crystals that diffracted very weakly is reported. By combining the data from 32 crystals, it was possible to solve the sulfur substructure and calculate initial maps at 7 Å resolution, and after density modication and phase extension using a higher resolution native data set to 3.5 Å resolution model building was achievable.
PMCID: PMC4118829  PMID: 25084338
sulfur SAD; HCV; envelope glycoprotein E1
4.  Drastic changes in conformational dynamics of the antiterminator M2-1 regulate transcription efficiency in Pneumovirinae 
eLife  2014;3:e02674.
The M2-1 protein of human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is a zinc-binding transcription antiterminator which is highly conserved among pneumoviruses. We report the structure of tetrameric HMPV M2-1. Each protomer features a N-terminal zinc finger domain and an α-helical tetramerization motif forming a rigid unit, followed by a flexible linker and an α-helical core domain. The tetramer is asymmetric, three of the protomers exhibiting a closed conformation, and one an open conformation. Molecular dynamics simulations and SAXS demonstrate a dynamic equilibrium between open and closed conformations in solution. Structures of adenosine monophosphate- and DNA- bound M2-1 establish the role of the zinc finger domain in base-specific recognition of RNA. Binding to ‘gene end’ RNA sequences stabilized the closed conformation of M2-1 leading to a drastic shift in the conformational landscape of M2-1. We propose a model for recognition of gene end signals and discuss the implications of these findings for transcriptional regulation in pneumoviruses.
eLife digest
To produce a protein from a gene, the gene must first be transcribed to make a molecule of RNA. In general, the enzyme building the RNA molecule stops building when it reaches the end of a gene and encounters a termination signal. When a virus replicates, however, it needs to transcribe all the genes in its genome, so it relies on antiterminator proteins to make the enzyme building the RNA ignore the termination signal. Therefore, medicines that stop antiterminators working could stop viral infections spreading.
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) can cause severe respiratory infections in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. A protein called M2-1 that is found inside HMPV must be present for the virus to infect humans, and it was recently shown that this protein plays a role in antitermination in a virus closely related to HMPV.
Using a range of techniques, including X-ray crystallography and molecular dynamics simulations, Leyrat et al. worked out the structure of M2-1 in HMPV, and showed that it can flip between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ forms. The open structure presents surfaces that could be targeted by antiviral drugs. When M2-1 binds to RNA, the closed structure is stabilized as a result of the RNA binding to two separate sites on the protein.
Leyrat et al. suggest that similar antiterminator proteins in related viruses—including respiratory syncytial virus, Marburg and Ebola—could also bind in this way. Leyrat et al. also propose a model describing how M2-1 can recognize the end of a gene, which could help with the development of new antiviral treatments.
PMCID: PMC4051120  PMID: 24842877
human metapneumovirus; virus transcription; RNA polymerase; structural virology; viruses; other
5.  Structural Insights into the Inhibition of Wnt Signaling by Cancer Antigen 5T4/Wnt-Activated Inhibitory Factor 1 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2014;22(4):612-620.
The tumor antigen 5T4/WAIF1 (Wnt-activated inhibitory factor 1; also known as Trophoblast glycoprotein TPBG) is a cell surface protein targeted in multiple cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Recently, it has been shown that 5T4/WAIF1 inhibits Wnt/β-catenin signaling, a signaling system central to many developmental and pathological processes. Wnt/β-catenin signaling is controlled by multiple inhibitors and activators. Here, we report crystal structures for the extracellular domain of 5T4/WAIF1 at 1.8 Å resolution. They reveal a highly glycosylated, rigid core, comprising eight leucine-rich repeats (LRRs), which serves as a platform to present evolutionarily conserved surface residues in the N-terminal LRR1. Structural and cell-based analyses, coupled with previously reported in vivo data, suggest that Tyr325 plus the LRR1 surface centered on a second exposed aromatic residue, Phe97, are essential for inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. These results provide a structural basis for the development of 5T4/WAIF1-targeted therapies that preserve or block 5T4/WAIF1-mediated inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
Graphical Abstract
•High-resolution crystal structures of human cancer antigen 5T4/WAIF1•Crystal structures of 5T4/WAIF1 reveal the LRR core decorated with loops and glycans•LRRs provide a platform for evolutionarily conserved residues•Lys76, Phe97, and Tyr325 of 5T4/WAIF1 are essential for inhibition of Wnt signaling
The cell surface protein 5T4/WAIF1 is the target in multiple cancer immunotherapy clinical trials, although its mechanism of action is still obscure. Zhao et al. examine the structure and function of the extracellular domain of 5T4/WAIF1 and uncover key residues essential for the inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
PMCID: PMC3988984  PMID: 24582434
6.  Structurally encoded intraclass differences in EphA clusters drive distinct cell responses 
The functional outcomes of ephrin binding to Eph receptors (Ephs) range from cell repulsion to adhesion. Here we used cell collapse and stripe assays to show contrasting effects of human ephrinA5 binding to EphA2 and EphA4. Despite equivalent ligand-binding affinities EphA4 triggered greater cell collapse, while EphA2-expressing cells adhered better to ephrinA5-coated surfaces. Chimeric receptors showed the ectodomain is a major determinant of cell response. We report crystal structures of EphA4 ectodomain alone and in complexes with ephrinB3 and ephrinA5. These revealed closed clusters with a dimeric or circular arrangement in the crystal lattice, contrasting with extended arrays previously observed for EphA2 ectodomain. Localization microscopy-based analyses showed ligand-stimulated EphA4 induces smaller clusters than EphA2. Mutant Ephs link these characteristics to interactions observed in the crystal lattices, suggesting a mechanism by which distinctive ectodomain surfaces determine clustering, and thereby signalling, properties.
PMCID: PMC3941021  PMID: 23812375
cell adhesion; cell repulsion; receptor clustering; receptor cis interaction; Eph–ephrin crystal structures; Eph ectodomain
7.  Structure and Self-Assembly of the Calcium Binding Matrix Protein of Human Metapneumovirus 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2014;22(1):136-148.
The matrix protein (M) of paramyxoviruses plays a key role in determining virion morphology by directing viral assembly and budding. Here, we report the crystal structure of the human metapneumovirus M at 2.8 Å resolution in its native dimeric state. The structure reveals the presence of a high-affinity Ca2+ binding site. Molecular dynamics simulations (MDS) predict a secondary lower-affinity site that correlates well with data from fluorescence-based thermal shift assays. By combining small-angle X-ray scattering with MDS and ensemble analysis, we captured the structure and dynamics of M in solution. Our analysis reveals a large positively charged patch on the protein surface that is involved in membrane interaction. Structural analysis of DOPC-induced polymerization of M into helical filaments using electron microscopy leads to a model of M self-assembly. The conservation of the Ca2+ binding sites suggests a role for calcium in the replication and morphogenesis of pneumoviruses.
•M is a calcium binding protein•Calcium stabilizes the structure of M•M forms an obligate dimer in solution•M self-assembles in the presence of lipids•The Paramyxoviruses and the Filoviruses have a common ancestor
The matrix protein (M) of paramyxoviruses plays a key role in determining virion morphology by directing viral assembly and budding. Leyrat et al. show that M forms an obligate dimer stabilized by calcium ion binding and suggest a role for Ca2+ in the replication and morphogenesis of some paramyxoviruses.
PMCID: PMC3887258  PMID: 24316400
8.  Crystal Structure of Venezuelan Hemorrhagic Fever Virus Fusion Glycoprotein Reveals a Class 1 Postfusion Architecture with Extensive Glycosylation 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(23):13070-13075.
Guanarito virus (GTOV) is an emergent and deadly pathogen. We present the crystal structure of the glycosylated GTOV fusion glycoprotein to 4.1-Å resolution in the postfusion conformation. Our structure reveals a classical six-helix bundle and presents direct verification that New World arenaviruses exhibit class I viral membrane fusion machinery. The structure provides visualization of an N-linked glycocalyx coat, and consideration of glycan dynamics reveals extensive coverage of the underlying protein surface, following virus-host membrane fusion.
PMCID: PMC3838125  PMID: 24049182
9.  Solution and Crystallographic Structures of the Central Region of the Phosphoprotein from Human Metapneumovirus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80371.
Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) of the family Paramyxoviridae is a major cause of respiratory illness worldwide. Phosphoproteins (P) from Paramyxoviridae are essential co-factors of the viral RNA polymerase that form tetramers and possess long intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs). We located the central region of HMPV P (Pced) which is involved in tetramerization using disorder analysis and modeled its 3D structure ab initio using Rosetta fold-and-dock. We characterized the solution-structure of Pced using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and carried out direct fitting to the scattering data to filter out incorrect models. Molecular dynamics simulations (MDS) and ensemble optimization were employed to select correct models and capture the dynamic character of Pced. Our analysis revealed that oligomerization involves a compact central core located between residues 169-194 (Pcore), that is surrounded by flexible regions with α-helical propensity. We crystallized this fragment and solved its structure at 3.1 Å resolution by molecular replacement, using the folded core from our SAXS-validated ab initio model. The RMSD between modeled and experimental tetramers is as low as 0.9 Å, demonstrating the accuracy of the approach. A comparison of the structure of HMPV P to existing mononegavirales Pced structures suggests that Pced evolved under weak selective pressure. Finally, we discuss the advantages of using SAXS in combination with ab initio modeling and MDS to solve the structure of small, homo-oligomeric protein complexes.
PMCID: PMC3817118  PMID: 24224051
10.  An extracellular steric seeding mechanism for Eph-ephrin signalling platform assembly 
Erythropoetin-producing hepatoma (Eph) receptors are cell surface protein tyrosine kinases mediating cell-cell communication. Upon activation they form signalling clusters. We report crystal structures of the full ectodomain of human EphA2 (eEphA2), alone and in complex with the receptor-binding domain of the ligand ephrinA5 (ephrinA5RBD). Unliganded eEphA2 forms linear arrays of staggered parallel receptors involving two patches of residues conserved across A-class Ephs. eEphA2-ephrinA5RBD forms a more elaborate assembly, whose interfaces include the same conserved regions on eEphA2, but re-arranged to accommodate ephrinA5RBD. Cell surface expression of mutant EphA2s demonstrated that these interfaces are critical for localization at cell-cell contacts and activation-dependent degradation. Our results suggest a ‘nucleation’ mechanism whereby a limited number of ligand-receptor interactions seed an arrangement of receptors which can propagate into extended signalling arrays.
PMCID: PMC3672960  PMID: 20228801
11.  Bacteriophage P23-77 Capsid Protein Structures Reveal the Archetype of an Ancient Branch from a Major Virus Lineage 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2013;21(5):718-726.
It has proved difficult to classify viruses unless they are closely related since their rapid evolution hinders detection of remote evolutionary relationships in their genetic sequences. However, structure varies more slowly than sequence, allowing deeper evolutionary relationships to be detected. Bacteriophage P23-77 is an example of a newly identified viral lineage, with members inhabiting extreme environments. We have solved multiple crystal structures of the major capsid proteins VP16 and VP17 of bacteriophage P23-77. They fit the 14 Å resolution cryo-electron microscopy reconstruction of the entire virus exquisitely well, allowing us to propose a model for both the capsid architecture and viral assembly, quite different from previously published models. The structures of the capsid proteins and their mode of association to form the viral capsid suggest that the P23-77-like and adeno-PRD1 lineages of viruses share an extremely ancient common ancestor.
•High-resolution structures of the two major capsid proteins of bacteriophage P23-77•P23-77 capsid proteins exhibit a conserved single β-barrel core fold•P23-77 is an ancient relative of the double β-barrel lineage of viruses•Capsid model illustrates that P23-77 uses a novel method of organization
Rissanen et al. propose a model for the architecture and assembly of bacteriophage P23-77 quite different from those previously published. The capsid proteins and their mode of association to form the virus particle suggest that P23-77 share a common evolutionary origin with the PRD1/Adenovirus lineage.
PMCID: PMC3919167  PMID: 23623731
12.  Structural Basis of Fibrillar Collagen Trimerization and Related Genetic Disorders 
Nature structural & molecular biology  2012;19(10):1031-1036.
The C-propeptides of fibrillar procollagens play crucial roles in tissue growth and repair by controlling both the intracellular assembly of procollagen molecules and the extracellular assembly of collagen fibrils. Mutations in the C-propeptides are associated with several, often lethal, genetic disorders affecting bone, cartilage, blood vessels and skin. Here we report the first crystal structure of a C-propeptide domain, from human procollagen III. It reveals an exquisite structural mechanism of chain recognition during intracellular trimerization of the procollagen molecule. It also gives insights into why some types of collagen consist of three identical polypeptide chains while others do not. Finally, the data show striking correlations between the sites of numerous disease-related mutations in different C-propeptide domains and the degree of phenotype severity. The results have broad implications for understanding genetic disorders of connective tissues and designing new therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3465578  PMID: 23001006
13.  Structure of a Pestivirus Envelope Glycoprotein E2 Clarifies Its Role in Cell Entry 
Cell Reports  2013;3(1):30-35.
Enveloped viruses have developed various adroit mechanisms to invade their host cells. This process requires one or more viral envelope glycoprotein to achieve cell attachment and membrane fusion. Members of the Flaviviridae such as flaviviruses possess only one envelope glycoprotein, E, whereas pestiviruses and hepacivirus encode two glycoproteins, E1 and E2. Although E2 is involved in cell attachment, it has been unclear which protein is responsible for membrane fusion. We report the crystal structures of the homodimeric glycoprotein E2 from the pestivirus bovine viral diarrhea virus 1 (BVDV1) at both neutral and low pH. Unexpectedly, BVDV1 E2 does not have a class II fusion protein fold, and at low pH the N-terminal domain is disordered, similarly to the intermediate postfusion state of E2 from sindbis virus, an alphavirus. Our results suggest that the pestivirus and possibly the hepacivirus fusion machinery are unlike any previously observed.
Graphical Abstract
► Structure of the major antigenically dominant protein of BVDV ► The overall fold of BVDV E2 shows no similarity to the class II fusion proteins ► At low pH, BVDV E2 N-terminal domain is disordered ► Entry mechanism of BVDV is probably applicable to hepatitis C virus
Stuart and colleagues have determined the atomic structure of the ectodomain of bovine viral diarrhea virus E2 glycoprotein, the major, antigenically dominant protein on the virus surface. The structure was expected to resemble the fusion molecules found on the surface of viruses such as dengue virus, but it is unlike anything previously seen. E2 itself is not, in fact, the fusion protein but binds the cell receptor and directs fusion via a pH-dependent conformational switch.
PMCID: PMC3607223  PMID: 23273918
14.  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.
PMCID: PMC3447403  PMID: 22993091
WbdD; crystal dehydration
15.  Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of the major capsid proteins VP16 and VP17 of bacteriophage P23-77 
The major capsid proteins VP16 and VP17 of bacteriophage P23-77 have been crystallized using both recombinant and purified virus and preliminary diffraction analyses have been performed.
Members of the diverse double-β-barrel lineage of viruses are identified by the conserved structure of their major coat protein. New members of this lineage have been discovered based on structural analysis and we are interested in identifying relatives that utilize unusual versions of the double-β-barrel fold. One candidate for such studies is P23-77, an icosahedral dsDNA bacteriophage that infects the extremophile Thermus thermophilus. P23-77 has two major coat proteins, namely VP16 and VP17, of a size consistent with a single-β-barrel core fold. These previously unstudied proteins have now been successfully expressed as recombinant proteins, purified and crystallized using hanging-drop and sitting-drop vapour-diffusion methods. Crystals of coat proteins VP16 and VP17 have been obtained as well as of a putative complex. In addition, virus-derived material has been crystallized. Diffraction data have been collected to beyond 3 Å resolution for five crystal types and structure determinations are in progress.
PMCID: PMC3374517  PMID: 22691792
bacteriophages; capsid proteins
16.  Structural basis for cell surface patterning through NetrinG–NGL interactions 
The EMBO Journal  2011;30(21):4479-4488.
Structural basis for cell surface patterning through NetrinG–NGL interactions
NetrinGs and NetrinG-ligands (NGLs) control neuronal circuit development, and their dysregulation is associated with autism and schizophrenia. The first structures of NetrinG-NGL complexes and structure-based functional assays show that binding affinity governs the cell surface compartmentalization of NGLs.
Brain wiring depends on cells making highly localized and selective connections through surface protein–protein interactions, including those between NetrinGs and NetrinG ligands (NGLs). The NetrinGs are members of the structurally uncharacterized netrin family. We present a comprehensive crystallographic analysis comprising NetrinG1–NGL1 and NetrinG2–NGL2 complexes, unliganded NetrinG2 and NGL3. Cognate NetrinG–NGL interactions depend on three specificity-conferring NetrinG loops, clasped tightly by matching NGL surfaces. We engineered these NGL surfaces to implant custom-made affinities for NetrinG1 and NetrinG2. In a cellular patterning assay, we demonstrate that NetrinG-binding selectivity can direct the sorting of a mixed population of NGLs into discrete cell surface subdomains. These results provide a molecular model for selectivity-based patterning in a neuronal recognition system, dysregulation of which is associated with severe neuropsychological disorders.
PMCID: PMC3230378  PMID: 21946559
brain patterning; crystal structure; protein engineering; schizophrenia; synaptic adhesion
17.  Structural basis for substrate discrimination and integrin binding by autotaxin 
Autotaxin (ATX) or ecto-nucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase-2 (ENPP2) is a secreted lysophospholipase D that generates the lipid mediator lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), a mitogen and chemo-attractant for many cell types. ATX-LPA signaling has roles in various pathologies including tumour progression and inflammation. However, the molecular basis of substrate recognition and catalysis, and the mechanism of interaction with target cells, has been elusive. Here we present the crystal structure of ATX, alone and in complex with a small-molecule inhibitor. We identify a hydrophobic lipid-binding pocket and map key residues required for catalysis and selection between nucleotide and phospholipid substrates. We show that ATX interacts with cell-surface integrins via its N-terminal somatomedin-B-like domains, using an atypical mechanism. Our results define determinants of substrate discrimination by the ENPP family, suggest how ATX promotes localized LPA signaling, and enable new approaches to target ATX with small-molecule therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3064516  PMID: 21240271
18.  Structures of an alanine racemase from Bacillus anthracis (BA0252) in the presence and absence of (R)-1-aminoethylphosphonic acid (l-Ala-P) 
Structures of BA0252, an alanine racemase from B. anthracis, in the presence and absence of the inhibitor (R)-1-aminoethylphosphonic acid (l-Ala-P) and determined by X-ray crystallography to resolutions of 2.1 and 1.47 Å, respectively, are described.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, has been targeted by the Oxford Protein Production Facility to validate high-throughput protocols within the Structural Proteomics in Europe project. As part of this work, the structures of an alanine racemase (BA0252) in the presence and absence of the inhibitor (R)-1-aminoethylphosphonic acid (l-Ala-P) have determined by X-ray crystallo­graphy to resolutions of 2.1 and 1.47 Å, respectively. Difficulties in crystallizing this protein were overcome by the use of reductive methylation. Alanine racemase has attracted much interest as a possible target for anti-anthrax drugs: not only is d-alanine a vital component of the bacterial cell wall, but recent studies also indicate that alanine racemase, which is accessible in the exosporium, plays a key role in inhibition of germination in B. anthracis. These structures confirm the binding mode of l-Ala-P but suggest an unexpected mechanism of inhibition of alanine racemase by this compound and could provide a basis for the design of improved alanine racemase inhibitors with potential as anti-anthrax therapies.
PMCID: PMC2376406  PMID: 18453697
d-alanine; l-alanine; germination; inhibition; pyridoxal 5′-phosphate; reductive methylation
19.  Structural insights into hedgehog ligand sequestration by the human hedgehog-interacting protein HIP 
Hedgehog (Hh) morphogens play fundamental roles in development whilst dysregulation of Hh signaling leads to disease. Multiple cell surface receptors are responsible for transducing and/or regulating Hh signals. Among these, the hedgehog-interacting protein (HIP) is a highly conserved, vertebrate-specific, inhibitor of Hh signaling. We have solved a series of crystal structures for the human HIP ectodomain and Desert Hh in isolation, as well as Sonic and Desert Hh-HIP complexes, with and without calcium. The interaction determinants, confirmed by biophysical studies and mutagenesis, reveal novel and distinct functions for Hh zinc- and calcium-binding sites; functions which appear common to all vertebrate Hhs. Zinc makes a key contribution to the Hh-HIP interface while calcium prevents electrostatic repulsion between the two proteins, thus playing a major modulatory role. This interplay of several metal-binding sites suggests a tuneable mechanism for regulation of Hh signaling.
PMCID: PMC2709225  PMID: 19561611
20.  Semi-automated microseeding of nanolitre crystallization experiments 
A procedure for microseeding into nanolitre crystallization drops is described with selected successful examples.
A simple semi-automated microseeding procedure for nanolitre crystallization experiments is described. Firstly, a microseed stock solution is made from microcrystals using a Teflon bead. A dilution series of this microseed stock is then prepared and dispensed as 100 nl droplets into 96-well crystallization plates, facilitating the incorporation of seeding into high-throughput crystallization pipelines. This basic microseeding procedure has been modified to include additive-screening and cross-seeding methods. Five examples in which these techniques have been used successfully are described.
PMCID: PMC2373990  PMID: 18097093
crystallization; crystal optimization; microseeding; additives
21.  Equine Rhinitis A Virus and Its Low pH Empty Particle: Clues Towards an Aphthovirus Entry Mechanism? 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(10):e1000620.
Equine rhinitis A virus (ERAV) is closely related to foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), belonging to the genus Aphthovirus of the Picornaviridae. How picornaviruses introduce their RNA genome into the cytoplasm of the host cell to initiate replication is unclear since they have no lipid envelope to facilitate fusion with cellular membranes. It has been thought that the dissociation of the FMDV particle into pentameric subunits at acidic pH is the mechanism for genome release during cell entry, but this raises the problem of how transfer across the endosome membrane of the genome might be facilitated. In contrast, most other picornaviruses form ‘altered’ particle intermediates (not reported for aphthoviruses) thought to induce membrane pores through which the genome can be transferred. Here we show that ERAV, like FMDV, dissociates into pentamers at mildly acidic pH but demonstrate that dissociation is preceded by the transient formation of empty 80S particles which have released their genome and may represent novel biologically relevant intermediates in the aphthovirus cell entry process. The crystal structures of the native ERAV virus and a low pH form have been determined via highly efficient crystallization and data collection strategies, required due to low virus yields. ERAV is closely similar to FMDV for VP2, VP3 and part of VP4 but VP1 diverges, to give a particle with a pitted surface, as seen in cardioviruses. The low pH particle has internal structure consistent with it representing a pre-dissociation cell entry intermediate. These results suggest a unified mechanism of picornavirus cell entry.
Author Summary
Picornaviruses are small animal viruses comprising an RNA genome protected by a roughly spherical protein shell with icosahedral symmetry. How the RNA is introduced into the cytoplasm of the host cell to initiate replication is unclear since they have no lipid envelope to facilitate fusion with cellular membranes. Instead, they become internalized into endocytic vesicles whence the viral genome must be delivered through the vesicle membrane, into the cytoplasm. In some picornaviruses (enteroviruses), genome delivery is proposed to be coordinated by an intact particle inducing pore formation in the membrane through which the genome can be transferred directly without exposure to the hostile vesicle environment. In contrast, other picornaviruses (aphthoviruses e.g. ERAV, FMDV) present a dilemma by appearing to simply fall apart in acidified vesicles. Here we show that acid treatment results in the formation of an intact but transient aphthovirus empty particle from which the genome has been released. We have determined the crystal structures of the ERAV particle at native and acidic pH. The acid induced structure is consistent with a destabilized particle en-route to disassembly. We propose that the entry process for this group of viruses involves externalisation of the RNA from a novel capsid intermediate and unifies in principle the entry process for all picornaviruses.
PMCID: PMC2752993  PMID: 19816570
22.  Structure of Signal-regulatory Protein α 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(39):26613-26619.
Signal-regulatory protein α (SIRPα) is a myeloid membrane receptor that interacts with the membrane protein CD47, a marker of self. We have solved the structure of the complete extracellular portion of SIRPα, comprising three immunoglobulin superfamily domains, by x-ray crystallography to 2.5 Å resolution. These data, together with previous data on the N-terminal domain and its ligand CD47 (possessing a single immunoglobulin superfamily domain), show that the CD47-SIRPα interaction will span a distance of around 14 nm between interacting cells, comparable with that of an immunological synapse. The N-terminal (V-set) domain mediates binding to CD47, and the two others are found to be constant (C1-set) domains. C1-set domains are restricted to proteins involved in vertebrate antigen recognition: T cell antigen receptors, immunoglobulins, major histocompatibility complex antigens, tapasin, and β2-microglobulin. The domains of SIRPα (domains 2 and 3) are structurally more similar to C1-set domains than any cell surface protein not involved in antigen recognition. This strengthens the suggestion from sequence analysis that SIRP is evolutionarily closely related to antigen recognition proteins.
PMCID: PMC2785349  PMID: 19628875
23.  Humidity control as a strategy for lattice optimization applied to crystals of HLA-A*1101 complexed with variant peptides from dengue virus 
Crystals of an MHC class I molecule bound to naturally occurring peptide variants from the dengue virus NS3 protein contained high levels of solvent and required optimization of cryoprotectant and dehydration protocols for each complex to yield well ordered diffraction, a process facilitated by the use of a free-mounting system.
T-cell recognition of the antigenic peptides presented by MHC class I molecules normally triggers protective immune responses, but can result in immune enhancement of disease. Cross-reactive T-cell responses may underlie immunopathology in dengue haemorrhagic fever. To analyze these effects at the molecular level, the functional MHC class I molecule HLA-A*1101 was crystallized bound to six naturally occurring peptide variants from the dengue virus NS3 protein. The crystals contained high levels of solvent and required optimization of the cryoprotectant and dehydration protocols for each complex to yield well ordered diffraction, a process that was facilitated by the use of a free-mounting system.
PMCID: PMC2334998  PMID: 17565177
MHC class I; free-mounting system; crystal dehydration
24.  Structure and binding kinetics of three different human CD1d–α-galactosylceramide–specific T cell receptors 
Invariant human TCR Vα24-Jα18+/Vβ11+ NKT cells (iNKT) are restricted by CD1d–α-glycosylceramides. We analyzed crystal structures and binding characteristics for an iNKT TCR plus two CD1d–α-GalCer–specific Vβ11+ TCRs that use different TCR Vα chains. The results were similar to those previously reported for MHC–peptide-specific TCRs, illustrating the versatility of the TCR platform. Docking TCR and CD1d–α-GalCer structures provided plausible insights into their interaction. The model supports a diagonal orientation of TCR on CD1d and suggests that complementarity determining region (CDR)3α, CDR3β, and CDR1β interact with ligands presented by CD1d, whereas CDR2β binds to the CD1d α1 helix. This docking provides an explanation for the dominant usage of Vβ11 and Vβ8.2 chains by human and mouse iNKT cells, respectively, for recognition of CD1d–α-GalCer.
PMCID: PMC2118257  PMID: 16520393
25.  T Cell Cross-Reactivity and Conformational Changes during TCR Engagement 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2004;200(11):1455-1466.
All thymically selected T cells are inherently cross-reactive, yet many data indicate a fine specificity in antigen recognition, which enables virus escape from immune control by mutation in infections such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To address this paradox, we analyzed the fine specificity of T cells recognizing a human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A2–restricted, strongly immunodominant, HIV gag epitope (SLFNTVATL). The majority of 171 variant peptides tested bound HLA-A2, but only one third were recognized. Surprisingly, one recognized variant (SLYNTVATL) showed marked differences in structure when bound to HLA-A2. T cell receptor (TCR) recognition of variants of these two peptides implied that they adopted the same conformation in the TCR–peptide–major histocompatibility complex (MHC) complex. However, the on-rate kinetics of TCR binding were identical, implying that conformational changes at the TCR–peptide–MHC binding interface occur after an initial permissive antigen contact. These findings have implications for the rational design of vaccines targeting viruses with unstable genomes.
PMCID: PMC2211951  PMID: 15583017
HIV; CTL; HLA-A2; binding conformation; fine specificity

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