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1.  Influence of Nonenzymatic Posttranslational Modifications on Constitution, Oligomerization and Receptor Binding of S100A12 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113418.
This study examined the effect of methylglyoxal (MGO)-derived nonenzymatic posttranslational modifications (nePTMs) on the binding affinity of S100A12 to its natural receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE). Binding of MGO-modified S100A12 to RAGE decreased significantly with increasing MGO concentration and incubation time. Ca2+-induced S100A12 hexamerization was impaired only at higher MGO concentrations indicating that the loss of affinity is not predominantly caused by disturbance of ligand oligomerization. nePTM mapping showed carboxyethylation of lysine (CEL) and the N-terminus without preferential modification sites. Besides, hydroimidazolone, hemiaminals, argpyrimidine, and tetrahydropyrimidine rapidly formed at R21. Even at the highest modification rate, hexamerization of synthesized CEL-S100A12 was unaffected and RAGE-binding only slightly impaired. Thus, nePTMs at R21 seem to be the major cause of MGO-induced impairment of S100A12 oligomerization and RAGE binding.
PMCID: PMC4245128  PMID: 25426955
2.  Correction: HIV-1 Fusion Is Blocked through Binding of GB Virus C E2D Peptides to the HIV-1 gp41 Disulfide Loop 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):10.1371/annotation/b46459e1-73ff-4b75-8f24-264cbcf4a5a9.
PMCID: PMC3891527
3.  Identification of a Novel TGF-β-Binding Site in the Zona Pellucida C-terminal (ZP-C) Domain of TGF-β-Receptor-3 (TGFR-3) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67214.
The zona pellucida (ZP) domain is present in extracellular proteins such as the zona pellucida proteins and tectorins and participates in the formation of polymeric protein networks. However, the ZP domain also occurs in the cytokine signaling co-receptor transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) receptor type 3 (TGFR-3, also known as betaglycan) where it contributes to cytokine ligand recognition. Currently it is unclear how the ZP domain architecture enables this dual functionality. Here, we identify a novel major TGF-β-binding site in the FG loop of the C-terminal subdomain of the murine TGFR-3 ZP domain (ZP-C) using protein crystallography, limited proteolysis experiments, surface plasmon resonance measurements and synthetic peptides. In the murine 2.7 Å crystal structure that we are presenting here, the FG-loop is disordered, however, well-ordered in a recently reported homologous rat ZP-C structure. Surprisingly, the adjacent external hydrophobic patch (EHP) segment is registered differently in the rat and murine structures suggesting that this segment only loosely associates with the remaining ZP-C fold. Such a flexible and temporarily-modulated association of the EHP segment with the ZP domain has been proposed to control the polymerization of ZP domain-containing proteins. Our findings suggest that this flexibility also extends to the ZP domain of TGFR-3 and might facilitate co-receptor ligand interaction and presentation via the adjacent FG-loop. This hints that a similar C-terminal region of the ZP domain architecture possibly regulates both the polymerization of extracellular matrix proteins and cytokine ligand recognition of TGFR-3.
PMCID: PMC3695229  PMID: 23826237
4.  HIV-1 Fusion Is Blocked through Binding of GB Virus C E2D Peptides to the HIV-1 gp41 Disulfide Loop 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54452.
A strategy for antiviral drug discovery is the elucidation and imitation of viral interference mechanisms. HIV-1 patients benefit from a coinfection with GB Virus C (GBV-C), since HIV-positive individuals with long-term GBV-C viraemia show better survival rates than HIV-1 patients without persisting GBV-C. A direct influence of GBV-C on HIV-1 replication has been shown in coinfection experiments. GBV-C is a human non-pathogenic member of the flaviviridae family that can replicate in T and B cells. Therefore, GBV-C shares partly the same ecological niche with HIV-1. In earlier work we have demonstrated that recombinant glycoprotein E2 of GBV-C and peptides derived from the E2 N-terminus interfere with HIV entry. In this study we investigated the underlying mechanism. Performing a virus-cell fusion assay and temperature-arrested HIV-infection kinetics, we provide evidence that the HIV-inhibitory E2 peptides interfere with late HIV-1 entry steps after the engagement of gp120 with CD4 receptor and coreceptor. Binding and competition experiments revealed that the N-terminal E2 peptides bind to the disulfide loop region of HIV-1 transmembrane protein gp41. In conjunction with computational analyses, we identified sequence similarities between the N-termini of GBV-C E2 and the HIV-1 glycoprotein gp120. This similarity appears to enable the GBV-C E2 N-terminus to interact with the HIV-1 gp41 disulfide loop, a crucial domain involved in the gp120-gp41 interface. Furthermore, the results of the present study provide initial proof of concept that peptides targeted to the gp41 disulfide loop are able to inhibit HIV fusion and should inspire the development of this new class of HIV-1 entry inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3551756  PMID: 23349893
5.  Mimicking Protein–Protein Interactions through Peptide–Peptide Interactions: HIV-1 gp120 and CXCR4 
We have recently designed a soluble synthetic peptide that functionally mimics the HIV-1 coreceptor CXCR4, which is a chemokine receptor that belongs to the family of seven-transmembrane GPCRs. This CXCR4 mimetic peptide, termed CX4-M1, presents the three extracellular loops (ECLs) of the receptor. In binding assays involving recombinant proteins, as well as in cellular infection assays, CX4-M1 was found to selectively recognize gp120 from HIV-1 strains that use CXCR4 for cell entry (X4 tropic HIV-1). Furthermore, anti-HIV-1 antibodies modulate this interaction in a molecular mechanism related to that of their impact on the gp120–CXCR4 interaction. We could now show that the selectivity of CX4-M1 pertains not only to gp120 from X4 tropic HIV-1, but also to synthetic peptides presenting the V3 loops of these gp120 proteins. The V3 loop is thought to be an essential part of the coreceptor binding site of gp120 that contacts the second ECL of the coreceptor. We were able to experimentally confirm this notion in binding assays using substitution analogs of CX4-M1 and the V3 loop peptides, respectively, as well as in cellular infection assays. These results indicate that interactions of the HIV-1 Env with coreceptors can be mimicked by synthetic peptides, which may be useful to explore these interactions at the molecular level in more detail.
PMCID: PMC3760305  PMID: 24027570
peptide; protein–protein interaction; HIV-1; gp120; coreceptor; CXCR4; V3 loop
6.  Structural Basis for Species Selectivity in the HIV-1 gp120-CD4 Interaction: Restoring Affinity to gp120 in Murine CD4 Mimetic Peptides 
Advances in Bioinformatics  2012;2011:736593.
The first step of HIV-1 infection involves interaction between the viral glycoprotein gp120 and the human cellular receptor CD4. Inhibition of the gp120-CD4 interaction represents an attractive strategy to block HIV-1 infection. In an attempt to explore the known lack of affinity of murine CD4 to gp120, we have investigated peptides presenting the putative gp120-binding site of murine CD4 (mCD4). Molecular modeling indicates that mCD4 protein cannot bind gp120 due to steric clashes, while the larger conformational flexibility of mCD4 peptides allows an interaction. This finding is confirmed by experimental binding assays, which also evidenced specificity of the peptide-gp120 interaction. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate that the mCD4-peptide stably interacts with gp120 via an intermolecular β-sheet, while an important salt-bridge formed by a C-terminal lysine is lost. Fixation of the C-terminus by introducing a disulfide bridge between the N- and C-termini of the peptide significantly enhanced the affinity to gp120.
PMCID: PMC3270550  PMID: 22312332
7.  Differential Downregulation of ACE2 by the Spike Proteins of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and Human Coronavirus NL63 ▿  
Journal of Virology  2009;84(2):1198-1205.
The human coronaviruses (CoVs) severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV and NL63 employ angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) for cell entry. It was shown that recombinant SARS-CoV spike protein (SARS-S) downregulates ACE2 expression and thereby promotes lung injury. Whether NL63-S exerts a similar activity is yet unknown. We found that recombinant SARS-S bound to ACE2 and induced ACE2 shedding with higher efficiency than NL63-S. Shedding most likely accounted for the previously observed ACE2 downregulation but was dispensable for viral replication. Finally, SARS-CoV but not NL63 replicated efficiently in ACE2-positive Vero cells and reduced ACE2 expression, indicating robust receptor interference in the context of SARS-CoV but not NL63 infection.
PMCID: PMC2798380  PMID: 19864379
8.  Abrogation of Viral Interleukin-6 (vIL-6)-Induced Signaling by Intracellular Retention and Neutralization of vIL-6 with an Anti-vIL-6 Single-Chain Antibody Selected by Phage Display 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(17):8510-8520.
Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) encodes several putative oncogenes, which are homologues to cellular host genes known to function in cell cycle regulation, control of apoptosis, and cytokine signaling. Viral interleukin (vIL-6) is believed to play an important role in the pathogenesis of Kaposi's sarcoma as well as primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. Therefore, vIL-6 is a promising target for novel therapies directed against HHV-8-associated diseases. By phage display screening of human synthetic antibody libraries, we have selected a specific recombinant antibody, called monoclonal anti-vIL-6 (MAV), binding to vIL-6. The epitope recognized by MAV was localized on the top of the D helix of the vIL-6 protein, which is a part of receptor binding site III. Consequently, MAV specifically inhibits vIL-6-mediated growth of the primary effusion lymphoma-derived cell line BCBL-1 and blocks STAT3 phosphorylation in the human hepatoma cell line HepG2. Since it was previously found that vIL-6 can also induce signals from within the cell, presumably within the endoplasmic reticulum, we fused the recombinant antibody MAV with the endoplasmic retention sequence KDEL (MAV-KDEL). As a result, COS-7 cells expressing MAV-KDEL and synthesizing vIL-6 ceased to secrete the cytokine. Moreover, we observed that vIL-6 that was bound to MAV-KDEL and retained in the endoplasmic reticulum did not induce STAT3 phosphorylation in HepG2 cells. We conclude that the activity of the intracellularly retained vIL-6 protein is neutralized by MAV-KDEL. Our results might represent a novel therapeutic strategy to neutralize virally encoded growth factors or oncogenes.
PMCID: PMC1563863  PMID: 16912301
9.  Forced Dimerization of gp130 Leads to Constitutive STAT3 Activation, Cytokine-independent Growth, and Blockade of Differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2006;17(7):2986-2995.
The mode of activation of glycoprotein 130 kDa (gp130) and the transmission of the activation status through the plasma membrane are incompletely understood. In particular, the molecular function of the three juxtamembrane fibronectin III-like domains of gp130 in signal transmission remains unclear. To ask whether forced dimerization of gp130 is sufficient for receptor activation, we replaced the entire extracellular portion of gp130 with the c-jun leucine zipper region in the chimeric receptor protein L-gp130. On expression in cells, L-gp130 stimulates ligand-independent signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 phosphorylation. gp130 activation could be abrogated by the addition of a competing peptide comprising the leucine zipper region of c-fos. When stably expressed in the interleukin-3–dependent Ba/F3 murine pre-B-cells, these cells showed constitutive STAT3 activation and cytokine-independent growth over several months. Because gp130 stimulation completely suppressed differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells in vitro, we also stably expressed L-gp130 in these cells, which completely blocked their differentiation in the absence of cytokine stimulation and was consistent with high constitutive expression levels of the stem cell factor OCT-4. Thus, L-gp130 can be used in vitro and in vivo to mimic constitutive and ligand-independent activation of gp130 and STAT3, the latter of which is frequently observed in neoplastic diseases.
PMCID: PMC1483035  PMID: 16624864

Results 1-9 (9)