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1.  Neisseria meningitidis Type IV Pili Composed of Sequence Invariable Pilins Are Masked by Multisite Glycosylation 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(9):e1005162.
The ability of pathogens to cause disease depends on their aptitude to escape the immune system. Type IV pili are extracellular filamentous virulence factors composed of pilin monomers and frequently expressed by bacterial pathogens. As such they are major targets for the host immune system. In the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, strains expressing class I pilins contain a genetic recombination system that promotes variation of the pilin sequence and is thought to aid immune escape. However, numerous hypervirulent clinical isolates express class II pilins that lack this property. This raises the question of how they evade immunity targeting type IV pili. As glycosylation is a possible source of antigenic variation it was investigated using top-down mass spectrometry to provide the highest molecular precision on the modified proteins. Unlike class I pilins that carry a single glycan, we found that class II pilins display up to 5 glycosylation sites per monomer on the pilus surface. Swapping of pilin class and genetic background shows that the pilin primary structure determines multisite glycosylation while the genetic background determines the nature of the glycans. Absence of glycosylation in class II pilins affects pilus biogenesis or enhances pilus-dependent aggregation in a strain specific fashion highlighting the extensive functional impact of multisite glycosylation. Finally, molecular modeling shows that glycans cover the surface of class II pilins and strongly decrease antibody access to the polypeptide chain. This strongly supports a model where strains expressing class II pilins evade the immune system by changing their sugar structure rather than pilin primary structure. Overall these results show that sequence invariable class II pilins are cloaked in glycans with extensive functional and immunological consequences.
Author Summary
During infection pathogens and their host engage in a series of measures and counter-measures to promote their own survival: pathogens express virulence factors, the immune system targets these surface structures and pathogens modify them to evade detection. Like numerous bacterial pathogens, Neisseria meningitidis express type IV pili, long filamentous adhesive structures composed of pilins. Intriguingly the amino acid sequences of pilins from most hypervirulent strains do not vary, raising the question of how they evade the immune system. This study shows that the pilus structure is completely coated with sugars thus limiting access of antibodies to the pilin polypeptide chain. We propose that multisite glycosylation and thus variation in the type of sugar mediates immune evasion in these strains.
PMCID: PMC4569582  PMID: 26367394
3.  Solid-State NMR Structure Determination from Diagonal-Compensated, Sparsely Nonuniform-Sampled 4D Proton–Proton Restraints 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2014;136(31):11002-11010.
We report acquisition of diagonal-compensated protein structural restraints from four-dimensional solid-state NMR spectra on extensively deuterated and 1H back-exchanged proteins. To achieve this, we use homonuclear 1H–1H correlations with diagonal suppression and nonuniform sampling (NUS). Suppression of the diagonal allows the accurate identification of cross-peaks which are otherwise obscured by the strong autocorrelation or whose intensity is biased due to partial overlap with the diagonal. The approach results in unambiguous spectral interpretation and relatively few but reliable restraints for structure calculation. In addition, the diagonal suppression produces a spectrum with low dynamic range for which ultrasparse NUS data sets can be readily reconstructed, allowing straightforward application of NUS with only 2% sampling density with the advantage of more heavily sampling time-domain regions of high signal intensity. The method is demonstrated here for two proteins, α-spectrin SH3 microcrystals and hydrophobin functional amyloids. For the case of SH3, suppression of the diagonal results in facilitated identification of unambiguous restraints and improvement of the quality of the calculated structural ensemble compared to nondiagonal-suppressed 4D spectra. For the only partly assigned hydrophobin rodlets, the structure is yet unknown. Applied to this protein of biological significance with large inhomogeneous broadening, the method allows identification of unambiguous crosspeaks that are otherwise obscured by the diagonal.
PMCID: PMC4132958  PMID: 24988008
4.  Improved reliability, accuracy and quality in automated NMR structure calculation with ARIA 
Journal of Biomolecular Nmr  2015;62(4):425-438.
In biological NMR, assignment of NOE cross-peaks and calculation of atomic conformations are critical steps in the determination of reliable high-resolution structures. ARIA is an automated approach that performs NOE assignment and structure calculation in a concomitant manner in an iterative procedure. The log-harmonic shape for distance restraint potential and the Bayesian weighting of distance restraints, recently introduced in ARIA, were shown to significantly improve the quality and the accuracy of determined structures. In this paper, we propose two modifications of the ARIA protocol: (1) the softening of the force field together with adapted hydrogen radii, which is meaningful in the context of the log-harmonic potential with Bayesian weighting, (2) a procedure that automatically adjusts the violation tolerance used in the selection of active restraints, based on the fitting of the structure to the input data sets. The new ARIA protocols were fine-tuned on a set of eight protein targets from the CASD–NMR initiative. As a result, the convergence problems previously observed for some targets was resolved and the obtained structures exhibited better quality. In addition, the new ARIA protocols were applied for the structure calculation of ten new CASD–NMR targets in a blind fashion, i.e. without knowing the actual solution. Even though optimisation of parameters and pre-filtering of unrefined NOE peak lists were necessary for half of the targets, ARIA consistently and reliably determined very precise and highly accurate structures for all cases. In the context of integrative structural biology, an increasing number of experimental methods are used that produce distance data for the determination of 3D structures of macromolecules, stressing the importance of methods that successfully make use of ambiguous and noisy distance data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10858-015-9928-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4569677  PMID: 25861734
Nuclear magnetic resonance; Automated NOE assignment ; Structure determination; ARIA; CASD–NMR
5.  An algorithm to enumerate all possible protein conformations verifying a set of distance constraints 
BMC Bioinformatics  2015;16(1):23.
The determination of protein structures satisfying distance constraints is an important problem in structural biology. Whereas the most common method currently employed is simulated annealing, there have been other methods previously proposed in the literature. Most of them, however, are designed to find one solution only.
In order to explore exhaustively the feasible conformational space, we propose here an interval Branch-and-Prune algorithm (iBP) to solve the Distance Geometry Problem (DGP) associated to protein structure determination. This algorithm is based on a discretization of the problem obtained by recursively constructing a search space having the structure of a tree, and by verifying whether the generated atomic positions are feasible or not by making use of pruning devices. The pruning devices used here are directly related to features of protein conformations.
We described the new algorithm iBP to generate protein conformations satisfying distance constraints, that would potentially allows a systematic exploration of the conformational space. The algorithm iBP has been applied on three α-helical peptides.
PMCID: PMC4384350  PMID: 25627244
Distance geometry; Branch-and-prune algorithm; Molecular conformation; Protein structure; Nuclear magnetic resonance
6.  A software framework for analysing solid-state MAS NMR data 
Journal of Biomolecular Nmr  2011;51(4):437-447.
Solid-state magic-angle-spinning (MAS) NMR of proteins has undergone many rapid methodological developments in recent years, enabling detailed studies of protein structure, function and dynamics. Software development, however, has not kept pace with these advances and data analysis is mostly performed using tools developed for solution NMR which do not directly address solid-state specific issues. Here we present additions to the CcpNmr Analysis software package which enable easier identification of spinning side bands, straightforward analysis of double quantum spectra, automatic consideration of non-uniform labelling schemes, as well as extension of other existing features to the needs of solid-state MAS data. To underpin this, we have updated and extended the CCPN data model and experiment descriptions to include transfer types and nomenclature appropriate for solid-state NMR experiments, as well as a set of experiment prototypes covering the experiments commonly employed by solid-sate MAS protein NMR spectroscopists. This work not only improves solid-state MAS NMR data analysis but provides a platform for anyone who uses the CCPN data model for programming, data transfer, or data archival involving solid-state MAS NMR data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10858-011-9569-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3222832  PMID: 21953355
Solid-state MAS NMR; CCPN; Experiment nomenclature; Software; Data model
7.  Solid-state NMR and SAXS studies provide a structural basis for the activation of αB-crystallin oligomers 
The small heat shock protein αB-crystallin (αB) contributes to cellular protection against stress. For decades, high-resolution structural studies on oligomeric αB have been confounded by its polydisperse nature. Here, we present a structural basis of oligomer assembly and activation of the chaperone using solid-state NMR and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). The basic building block is a curved dimer, with an angle of ~121° between the planes of the β-sandwich formed by α-crystallin domains. The highly conserved IXI motif covers a substrate binding site at pH 7.5. We observe a pH-dependent modulation of the interaction of the IXI motif with β4 and β8, consistent with a pH-dependent regulation of the chaperone function. N-terminal region residues Ser59-Trp60-Phe61 are involved in intermolecular interaction with β3. Intermolecular restraints from NMR and volumetric restraints from SAXS were combined to calculate a model of a 24-subunit αB oligomer with tetrahedral symmetry.
PMCID: PMC2957905  PMID: 20802487
8.  Structural Insights into Serine-rich Fimbriae from Gram-positive Bacteria* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;285(42):32446-32457.
The serine-rich repeat family of fimbriae play important roles in the pathogenesis of streptococci and staphylococci. Despite recent attention, their finer structural details and precise adhesion mechanisms have yet to be determined. Fap1 (Fimbriae-associated protein 1) is the major structural subunit of serine-rich repeat fimbriae from Streptococcus parasanguinis and plays an essential role in fimbrial biogenesis, adhesion, and the early stages of dental plaque formation. Combining multidisciplinary, high resolution structural studies with biological assays, we provide new structural insight into adhesion by Fap1. We propose a model in which the serine-rich repeats of Fap1 subunits form an extended structure that projects the N-terminal globular domains away from the bacterial surface for adhesion to the salivary pellicle. We also uncover a novel pH-dependent conformational change that modulates adhesion and likely plays a role in survival in acidic environments.
PMCID: PMC2952246  PMID: 20584910
Adhesion; Bacteria; Crystal Structure; NMR; X-ray Scattering; Gram-positive; Staphylococci; Streptococci; Biofilm Formation; Fimbriae
9.  Simultaneous use of solution, solid-state NMR and X-ray crystallography to study the conformational landscape of the Crh protein during oligomerization and crystallization 
We explore, using the Crh protein dimer as a model, how information from solution NMR, solid-state NMR and X-ray crystallography can be combined using structural bioinformatics methods, in order to get insights into the transition from solution to crystal. Using solid-state NMR chemical shifts, we filtered intra-monomer NMR distance restraints in order to keep only the restraints valid in the solid state. These filtered restraints were added to solid-state NMR restraints recorded on the dimer state to sample the conformational landscape explored during the oligomerization process. The use of non-crystallographic symmetries then permitted the extraction of converged conformers subsets. Ensembles of NMR and crystallographic conformers calculated independently display similar variability in monomer orientation, which supports a funnel shape for the conformational space explored during the solution-crystal transition. Insights into alternative conformations possibly sampled during oligomerization were obtained by analyzing the relative orientation of the two monomers, according to the restraint precision. Molecular dynamics simulations of Crh confirmed the tendencies observed in NMR conformers, as a paradoxical increase of the distance between the two β1a strands, when the structure gets closer to the crystallographic structure, and the role of water bridges in this context.
PMCID: PMC3170007  PMID: 21918624
structural bioinformatics; NMR structure calculation; ARIA; non-crystallographic symmetry; crystallographic ensemble refinement; molecular dynamics simulation
11.  Graphical analysis of NMR structural quality and interactive contact map of NOE assignments in ARIA 
The Ambiguous Restraints for Iterative Assignment (ARIA) approach is widely used for NMR structure determination. It is based on simultaneously calculating structures and assigning NOE through an iterative protocol. The final solution consists of a set of conformers and a list of most probable assignments for the input NOE peak list.
ARIA was extended with a series of graphical tools to facilitate a detailed analysis of the intermediate and final results of the ARIA protocol. These additional features provide (i) an interactive contact map, serving as a tool for the analysis of assignments, and (ii) graphical representations of structure quality scores and restraint statistics. The interactive contact map between residues can be clicked to obtain information about the restraints and their contributions. Profiles of quality scores are plotted along the protein sequence, and contact maps provide information of the agreement with the data on a residue pair level.
The graphical tools and outputs described here significantly extend the validation and analysis possibilities of NOE assignments given by ARIA as well as the analysis of the quality of the final structure ensemble. These tools are included in the latest version of ARIA, which is available at . The Web site also contains an installation guide, a user manual and example calculations.
PMCID: PMC2432060  PMID: 18533992

Results 1-11 (11)