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1.  Assembly and proteolytic processing of mycobacterial ClpP1 and ClpP2 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:61.
Caseinolytic proteases (ClpPs) are barrel-shaped self-compartmentalized peptidases involved in eliminating damaged or short-lived regulatory proteins. The Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) genome contains two genes coding for putative ClpPs, ClpP1 and ClpP2 respectively, that are likely to play a role in the virulence of the bacterium.
We report the first biochemical characterization of ClpP1 and ClpP2 peptidases from MTB. Both proteins were produced and purified in Escherichia coli. Use of fluorogenic model peptides of diverse specificities failed to show peptidase activity with recombinant mycobacterial ClpP1 or ClpP2. However, we found that ClpP1 had a proteolytic activity responsible for its own cleavage after the Arg8 residue and cleavage of ClpP2 after the Ala12 residue. In addition, we showed that the absence of any peptidase activity toward model peptides was not due to an obstruction of the entry pore by the N-terminal flexible extremity of the proteins, nor to an absolute requirement for the ClpX or ClpC ATPase complex. Finally, we also found that removing the putative propeptides of ClpP1 and ClpP2 did not result in cleavage of model peptides.
We have also shown that recombinant ClpP1 and ClpP2 do not assemble in the conventional functional tetradecameric form but in lower order oligomeric species ranging from monomers to heptamers. The concomitant presence of both ClpP1 and ClpP2 did not result in tetradecameric assembly. Deleting the amino-terminal extremity of ClpP1 and ClpP2 (the putative propeptide or entry gate) promoted the assembly in higher order oligomeric species, suggesting that the flexible N-terminal extremity of mycobacterial ClpPs participated in the destabilization of interaction between heptamers.
Despite the conservation of a Ser protease catalytic triad in their primary sequences, mycobacterial ClpP1 and ClpP2 do not have conventional peptidase activity toward peptide models and display an unusual mechanism of self-assembly. Therefore, the mechanism underlying their peptidase and proteolytic activities might differ from that of other ClpP proteolytic complexes.
PMCID: PMC3258218  PMID: 22132756
2.  Towards a Structural Comprehension of Bacterial Type VI Secretion Systems: Characterization of the TssJ-TssM Complex of an Escherichia coli Pathovar 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(11):e1002386.
Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) are trans-envelope machines dedicated to the secretion of virulence factors into eukaryotic or prokaryotic cells, therefore required for pathogenesis and/or for competition towards neighboring bacteria. The T6SS apparatus resembles the injection device of bacteriophage T4, and is anchored to the cell envelope through a membrane complex. This membrane complex is composed of the TssL, TssM and TagL inner membrane anchored proteins and of the TssJ outer membrane lipoprotein. Here, we report the crystal structure of the enteroaggregative Escherichia coli Sci1 TssJ lipoprotein, a two four-stranded β-sheets protein that exhibits a transthyretin fold with an additional α-helical domain and a protruding loop. We showed that TssJ contacts TssM through this loop since a loop depleted mutant failed to interact with TssM in vitro or in vivo. Biophysical analysis of TssM and TssJ-TssM interaction suggest a structural model of the membrane-anchored outer shell of T6SS. Collectively, our results provide an improved understanding of T6SS assembly and encourage structure-aided drug design of novel antimicrobials targeting T6SS.
Author Summary
Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) are specialized secretion machines responsible for the transport of virulence factors. T6SS are versatile as they are able to target both eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. They therefore play an important role in pathogenesis by acting directly on the host, as well as eliminating competing bacteria from the niche. At a molecular level, T6SS are composed of a minimum of 13 proteins called core-components, all required for the activity of the secretion system. These core-components can be divided in two groups: soluble proteins having a common evolution history with bacteriophage T4 subunits, and membrane or membrane-associated proteins required for anchoring the bacteriophage-like structure to the envelope. Here, we report the crystal structure of one of the membrane-associated core component, the TssJ lipoprotein. The structure exhibits a transthyretin fold supplemented with additional structural elements. One of these, a loop connecting two beta-strands, is responsible for the interaction of the TssJ lipoprotein with the C-terminal domain of the inner membrane protein TssM. We propose that these two proteins link the two membranes and form a channel accommodating the bacteriophage-like structure. These results provide important new insights to understand the biogenesis of these secretion apparati.
PMCID: PMC3213119  PMID: 22102820
3.  Crystal Structure and Functional Analysis of the SARS-Coronavirus RNA Cap 2′-O-Methyltransferase nsp10/nsp16 Complex 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1002059.
Cellular and viral S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases are involved in many regulated processes such as metabolism, detoxification, signal transduction, chromatin remodeling, nucleic acid processing, and mRNA capping. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus nsp16 protein is a S-adenosylmethionine-dependent (nucleoside-2′-O)-methyltransferase only active in the presence of its activating partner nsp10. We report the nsp10/nsp16 complex structure at 2.0 Å resolution, which shows nsp10 bound to nsp16 through a ∼930 Å2 surface area in nsp10. Functional assays identify key residues involved in nsp10/nsp16 association, and in RNA binding or catalysis, the latter likely through a SN2-like mechanism. We present two other crystal structures, the inhibitor Sinefungin bound in the S-adenosylmethionine binding pocket and the tighter complex nsp10(Y96F)/nsp16, providing the first structural insight into the regulation of RNA capping enzymes in (+)RNA viruses.
Author Summary
A novel coronavirus emerged in 2003 and was identified as the etiological agent of the deadly disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This coronavirus replicates and transcribes its giant genome using sixteen non-structural proteins (nsp1-16). Viral RNAs are capped to ensure stability, efficient translation, and evading the innate immunity system of the host cell. The nsp16 protein is a RNA cap modifying enzyme only active in the presence of its activating partner nsp10. We have crystallized the nsp10/16 complex and report its crystal structure at atomic resolution. Nsp10 binds to nsp16 through a ∼930 Å2 activation surface area in nsp10, and the resulting complex exhibits RNA cap (nucleoside-2′-O)-methyltransferase activity. We have performed mutational and functional assays to identify key residues involved in catalysis and/or in RNA binding, and in the association of nsp10 to nsp16. We present two additional crystal structures, that of the known inhibitor Sinefungin bound in the SAM binding pocket, and that of a tighter complex made of the mutant nsp10(Y96F) bound to nsp16. Our study provides a basis for antiviral drug design as well as the first structural insight into the regulation of RNA capping enzymes in (+)RNA viruses.
PMCID: PMC3102710  PMID: 21637813
4.  ORF157 from the Archaeal Virus Acidianus Filamentous Virus 1 Defines a New Class of Nuclease▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(10):5025-5031.
Acidianus filamentous virus 1 (AFV1) (Lipothrixviridae) is an enveloped filamentous virus that was characterized from a crenarchaeal host. It infects Acidianus species that thrive in the acidic hot springs (>85°C and pH <3) of Yellowstone National Park, WY. The AFV1 20.8-kb, linear, double-stranded DNA genome encodes 40 putative open reading frames whose sequences generally show little similarity to other genes in the sequence databases. Because three-dimensional structures are more conserved than sequences and hence are more effective at revealing function, we set out to determine protein structures from putative AFV1 open reading frames (ORF). The crystal structure of ORF157 reveals an α+β protein with a novel fold that remotely resembles the nucleotidyltransferase topology. In vitro, AFV1-157 displays a nuclease activity on linear double-stranded DNA. Alanine substitution mutations demonstrated that E86 is essential to catalysis. AFV1-157 represents a novel class of nuclease, but its exact role in vivo remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC2863821  PMID: 20200253

Results 1-4 (4)