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1.  Structural basis of GM-CSF and IL-2 sequestration by the viral decoy receptor GIF 
Nature Communications  2016;7:13228.
Subversion of the host immune system by viruses is often mediated by molecular decoys that sequester host proteins pivotal to mounting effective immune responses. The widespread mammalian pathogen parapox Orf virus deploys GIF, a member of the poxvirus immune evasion superfamily, to antagonize GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor) and IL-2 (interleukin-2), two pleiotropic cytokines of the mammalian immune system. However, structural and mechanistic insights into the unprecedented functional duality of GIF have remained elusive. Here we reveal that GIF employs a dimeric binding platform that sequesters two copies of its target cytokines with high affinity and slow dissociation kinetics to yield distinct complexes featuring mutually exclusive interaction footprints. We illustrate how GIF serves as a competitive decoy receptor by leveraging binding hotspots underlying the cognate receptor interactions of GM-CSF and IL-2, without sharing any structural similarity with the cytokine receptors. Our findings contribute to the tracing of novel molecular mimicry mechanisms employed by pathogenic viruses.
Viruses often subvert the host immune system using molecular decoys to prevent an effective immune response. Here, the authors examine the structural details of the viral decoy receptor GIF and its antagnosim of GM-CSF and IL-2.
PMCID: PMC5103067  PMID: 27819269
2.  Structural basis of IL-23 antagonism by an Alphabody protein scaffold 
Nature Communications  2014;5:5237.
Protein scaffolds can provide a promising alternative to antibodies for various biomedical and biotechnological applications, including therapeutics. Here we describe the design and development of the Alphabody, a protein scaffold featuring a single-chain antiparallel triple-helix coiled-coil fold. We report affinity-matured Alphabodies with favourable physicochemical properties that can specifically neutralize human interleukin (IL)-23, a pivotal therapeutic target in autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. The crystal structure of human IL-23 in complex with an affinity-matured Alphabody reveals how the variable interhelical groove of the scaffold uniquely targets a large epitope on the p19 subunit of IL-23 to harness fully the hydrophobic and hydrogen-bonding potential of tryptophan and tyrosine residues contributed by p19 and the Alphabody, respectively. Thus, Alphabodies are suitable for targeting protein–protein interfaces of therapeutic importance and can be tailored to interrogate desired design and binding-mode principles via efficient selection and affinity-maturation strategies.
Protein scaffolds can serve as alternatives to antibodies in a range of applications. Here, the authors report the design and development of Alphabody™, a protein scaffold featuring a single-chain antiparallel triple-helix coiled-coil fold that the authors use to develop Alphabodies that can neutralize human IL-23 with high specificity and affinity.
PMCID: PMC4220489  PMID: 25354530
3.  The bacterial antitoxin HipB establishes a ternary complex with operator DNA and phosphorylated toxin HipA to regulate bacterial persistence 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(15):10134-10147.
Nearly all bacteria exhibit a type of phenotypic growth described as persistence that is thought to underlie antibiotic tolerance and recalcitrant chronic infections. The chromosomally encoded high-persistence (Hip) toxin–antitoxin proteins HipASO and HipBSO from Shewanella oneidensis, a proteobacterium with unusual respiratory capacities, constitute a type II toxin–antitoxin protein module. Here we show that phosphorylated HipASO can engage in an unexpected ternary complex with HipBSO and double-stranded operator DNA that is distinct from the prototypical counterpart complex from Escherichia coli. The structure of HipBSO in complex with operator DNA reveals a flexible C-terminus that is sequestered by HipASO in the ternary complex, indicative of its role in binding HipASO to abolish its function in persistence. The structure of HipASO in complex with a non-hydrolyzable ATP analogue shows that HipASO autophosphorylation is coupled to an unusual conformational change of its phosphorylation loop. However, HipASO is unable to phosphorylate the translation factor Elongation factor Tu, contrary to previous reports, but in agreement with more recent findings. Our studies suggest that the phosphorylation state of HipA is an important factor in persistence and that the structural and mechanistic diversity of HipAB modules as regulatory factors in bacterial persistence is broader than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC4150777  PMID: 25056321
4.  Crystallization of an atypical short-chain dehydrogenase from Vibrio vulnificus lacking the conserved catalytic tetrad 
An atypical short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase from Vibrio vulnificus was expressed, purified and cocrystallized with NADPH by the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion method. X-ray diffraction data were collected to 1.80 Å.
Short-chain dehydrogenases/reductases (SDRs) are a rapidly expanding superfamily of enzymes that are found in all kingdoms of life. Hallmarked by a highly conserved Asn-Ser-Tyr-Lys catalytic tetrad, SDRs have a broad substrate spectrum and play diverse roles in key metabolic processes. Locus tag VVA1599 in Vibrio vulnificus encodes a short-chain dehydrogenase (hereafter referred to as SDRvv) which lacks the signature catalytic tetrad of SDR members. Structure-based protein sequence alignments have suggested that SDRvv may harbour a unique binding site for its nicotinamide cofactor. To date, structural studies of SDRs with altered catalytic centres are underrepresented in the scientific literature, thus limiting understanding of their spectrum of substrate and cofactor preferences. Here, the expression, purification and crystallization of recombinant SDRvv are presented. Two well diffracting crystal forms could be obtained by cocrystallization in the presence of the reduced form of the phosphorylated nicotinamide cofactor NADPH. The collected data were of sufficient quality for successful structure determination by molecular replacement and subsequent refinement. This work sets the stage for deriving the identity of the natural substrate of SDRvv and the structure–function landscape of typical and atypical SDRs.
PMCID: PMC3388918  PMID: 22750861
short-chain dehydrogenases/reductases; Vibrio vulnificus
5.  Inducible production of recombinant human Flt3 ectodomain variants in mammalian cells and preliminary crystallographic analysis of Flt3 ligand–receptor complexes 
The preparative purification and crystallization of Flt3 receptor–ligand complexes are described.
The extracellular complex between the haematopoietic receptor Flt3 and its cytokine ligand (FL) is the cornerstone of signalling cascades that are central to early haematopoiesis and the immune system. Here, efficient protocols for the production of two ectodomain variants of human Flt3 receptor, Flt3D1–D5 and Flt3D1–D4, for structural studies are reported based on tetracycline-inducible stable cell lines in HEK293S cells deficient in N-acetylglycosaminyltransferase I (GnTI−/−) that can secrete the target proteins with limited and homogeneous N-­linked glycosylation to milligram amounts. The ensuing preparative purification of Flt3 receptor–ligand complexes yielded monodisperse complex prep­arations that were amenable to crystallization. Crystals of the Flt3D1–D4–FL and Flt3D1–D5–FL complexes diffracted to 4.3 and 7.8 Å resolution, respectively, and exhibited variable diffraction quality even within the same crystal. The resulting data led to the successful structure determination of Flt3D1–D4–FL via a combination of molecular-replacement and density-modification protocols exploiting the noncrystallographic symmetry and high solvent content of the crystals.
PMCID: PMC3053156  PMID: 21393836
Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 receptor; Flt3; Flt3 ligand; ectodomains
6.  Extracellular complexes of the hematopoietic human and mouse CSF-1 receptor are driven by common assembly principles 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2011;19(12):1762-1772.
The hematopoietic Colony Stimulating Factor-1 receptor (CSF-1R or FMS) is essential for the development of diverse cell types central to the immune system. Here we report a structural and mechanistic consensus for the assembly of hematopoietic human and mouse CSF-1:CSF-1R complexes. The EM structure of the complete extracellular assembly of the human CSF-1:CSF-1R complex reveals how receptor dimerization by CSF-1 invokes a ternary complex featuring extensive homotypic receptor contacts that contribute 15-fold to the affinity of the complex, and striking structural plasticity at the extremities of the complex. Small-angle X-ray scattering analysis of unliganded hCSF-1R points to large domain rearrangements upon CSF-1 binding, and provides structural evidence for the relevance of receptor predimerization at the cell-surface. Comparative structural and binding studies of human and mouse CSF-1R complexes, including a quantification of the CSF-1/CSF-1R species cross-reactivity, show that bivalent cytokine binding to receptor is a common denominator in complex formation independent of receptor homotypic interactions.
PMCID: PMC3260422  PMID: 22153499
7.  Crystallization and X-ray diffraction studies of inverting trehalose phosphorylase from Thermoanaerobacter sp. 
The inverting trehalose phosphorylase from Thermoanaerobacter sp. was crystallized and its structure was determined by molecular replacement. Its purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis are presented.
Disaccharide phosphorylases are attractive enzymatic platforms for tailor-made sugar synthesis owing to their ability to catalyze both the synthesis and the breakdown of disaccharides. Trehalose phosphorylase from Thermoanaero­bacter sp. (TP) is a glycoside hydrolase family 65 enzyme which catalyzes the reversible breakdown of trehalose [d-glucopyranosyl-α(1,1)α-d-glucopyranose] to β-d-glucose 1-phosphate and d-glucose. Recombinant purified protein was produced in Escherichia coli and crystallized in space group P212121. Crystals of recombinant TP were obtained in their native form and were soaked with glucose, with n-octyl-β-d-glucoside and with trehalose. The crystals presented a number of challenges including an unusually large unit cell, with a c axis measuring 420 Å, and variable diffraction quality. Crystal-dehydration protocols led to improvements in diffraction quality that were often dramatic, typically from 7–8 to 3–4 Å resolution. The structure of recombinant TP was determined by molecular replacement to 2.8 Å resolution, thus establishing a starting point for investigating the structural and mechanistic determinants of the disaccharide phosphorylase activity. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first crystal structure determination of an inverting trehalose phosphorylase.
PMCID: PMC2852340  PMID: 20383018
trehalose phosphorylase; GH65; disaccharide phosphorylases; inverting; crystal dehydration
8.  Crystallization and X-ray diffraction studies of cellobiose phosphorylase from Cellulomonas uda  
Preliminary crystallographic studies of recombinant cellobiose phosphorylase from Cellulomonas uda in complex with reaction substrates and products have led to high-quality diffraction data at high resolution, thus enabling structural studies to dissect the structural and mechanistic determinants of disaccharide phosphorylase activity.
Disaccharide phosphorylases are able to catalyze both the synthesis and the breakdown of disaccharides and have thus emerged as attractive platforms for tailor-made sugar synthesis. Cellobiose phosphorylase from Cellulomonas uda (CPCuda) is an enzyme that belongs to glycoside hydrolase family 94 and catalyzes the reversible breakdown of cellobiose [β-d-glucopyranosyl-(1,4)-d-­glucopyranose] to α-d-glucose-1-phosphate and d-glucose. Crystals of ligand-free recombinant CPCuda and of its complexes with substrates and reaction products yielded complete X-ray diffraction data sets to high resolution using synchrotron radiation but suffered from significant variability in diffraction quality. In at least one case an intriguing space-group transition from a primitive monoclinic to a primitive orthorhombic lattice was observed during data collection. The structure of CPCuda was determined by maximum-likelihood molecular replacement, thus establishing a starting point for an investigation of the structural and mechanistic determinants of disaccharide phosphorylase activity.
PMCID: PMC2833054  PMID: 20208178
cellobiose phosphorylases; GH94; disaccharide phosphorylases; inverting hydrolases
9.  Towards structural studies of the old yellow enzyme homologue SYE4 from Shewanella oneidensis and its complexes at atomic resolution 
Of the four old yellow enzyme homologues found in S. oneidensis, SYE4 is the homologue most implicated in resistance to oxidative stress. SYE4 was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method.
Shewanella oneidensis is an environmentally versatile Gram-negative γ-proteo­bacterium that is endowed with an unusually large proteome of redox proteins. Of the four old yellow enzyme (OYE) homologues found in S. oneidensis, SYE4 is the homologue most implicated in resistance to oxidative stress. SYE4 was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, purified and crystallized using the hanging-drop vapour-diffusion method. The crystals belonged to the ortho­rhombic space group P212121 and were moderately pseudo-merohedrally twinned, emulating a P422 metric symmetry. The native crystals of SYE4 were of exceptional diffraction quality and provided complete data to 1.10 Å resolution using synchrotron radiation, while crystals of the reduced enzyme and of the enzyme in complex with a wide range of ligands typically led to high-quality complete data sets to 1.30–1.60 Å resolution, thus providing a rare opportunity to dissect the structure–function relationships of a good-sized enzyme (40 kDa) at true atomic resolution. Here, the attainment of a number of experimental milestones in the crystallographic studies of SYE4 and its complexes are reported, including isolation of the elusive hydride–Meisenheimer complex.
PMCID: PMC2805545  PMID: 20057079
SYE4; Shewanella oneidensis; old yellow enzyme homologues
10.  Delineation of the Pasteurellaceae-specific GbpA-family of glutathione-binding proteins 
BMC Biochemistry  2011;12:59.
The Gram-negative bacterium Haemophilus influenzae is a glutathione auxotroph and acquires the redox-active tripeptide by import. The dedicated glutathione transporter belongs to the ATP-binding cassette (ABC)-transporter superfamily and displays more than 60% overall sequence identity with the well-studied dipeptide (Dpp) permease of Escherichia coli. The solute binding protein (SBP) that mediates glutathione transport in H. influenzae is a lipoprotein termed GbpA and is 54% identical to E. coli DppA, a well-studied member of family 5 SBP's. The discovery linking GbpA to glutathione import came rather unexpectedly as this import-priming SBP was previously annotated as a heme-binding protein (HbpA), and was thought to mediate heme acquisition. Nonetheless, although many SBP's have been implicated in more than one function, a prominent physiological role for GbpA and its partner permease in heme acquisition appears to be very unlikely. Here, we sought to characterize five representative GbpA homologs in an effort to delineate the novel GbpA-family of glutathione-specific family 5 SBPs and to further clarify their functional role in terms of ligand preferences.
Lipoprotein and non-lipoprotein GbpA homologs were expressed in soluble form and substrate specificity was evaluated via a number of ligand binding assays. A physiologically insignificant affinity for hemin was observed for all five GbpA homologous test proteins. Three out of five test proteins were found to bind glutathione and some of its physiologically relevant derivatives with low- or submicromolar affinity. None of the tested SBP family 5 allocrites interacted with the remaining two GbpA test proteins. Structure-based sequence alignments and phylogenetic analysis show that the two binding-inert GbpA homologs clearly form a separate phylogenetic cluster. To elucidate a structure-function rationale for this phylogenetic differentiation, we determined the crystal structure of one of the GbpA family outliers from H. parasuis. Comparisons thereof with the previously determined structure of GbpA in complex with oxidized glutathione reveals the structural basis for the lack of allocrite binding capacity, thereby explaining the outlier behavior.
Taken together, our studies provide for the first time a collective functional look on a novel, Pasteurellaceae-specific, SBP subfamily of glutathione binding proteins, which we now term GbpA proteins. Our studies strongly implicate GbpA family SBPs in the priming step of ABC-transporter-mediated translocation of useful forms of glutathione across the inner membrane, and rule out a general role for GbpA proteins in heme acquisition.
PMCID: PMC3295651  PMID: 22087650
glutathione; GbpA; HbpA; DppA; solute-binding protein; SBP; ABC transporter
11.  Expression, purification, crystallization and structure determination of two glutathione S-transferase-like proteins from Shewanella oneidensis  
The production and purification of recombinant SoGST3 and SoGST6, two GST-like proteins from S. oneidensis, are reported and preliminary crystallographic studies of crystals of the recombinant enzymes are presented.
Genome analysis of Shewanella oneidensis, a Gram-negative bacterium with an unusual repertoire of respiratory and redox capabilities, revealed the presence of six glutathione S-transferase-like genes (sogst1–sogst6). Glutathione S-­transferases (GSTs; EC are found in all kingdoms of life and are involved in phase II detoxification processes by catalyzing the nucleophilic attack of reduced glutathione on diverse electrophilic substrates, thereby decreasing their reactivity. Structure–function studies of prokaryotic GST-like proteins are surprisingly underrepresented in the scientific literature when compared with eukaryotic GSTs. Here, the production and purification of recombinant SoGST3 (SO_1576) and SoGST6 (SO_4697), two of the six GST-like proteins in S. oneidensis, are reported and preliminary crystallographic studies of crystals of the recombinant enzymes are presented. SoGST3 was crystallized in two different crystal forms in the presence of GSH and DTT that diffracted to high resolution: a primitive trigonal form in space group P31 that exhibited merohedral twinning with a high twin fraction and a primitive monoclinic form in space group P21. SoGST6 yielded primitive orthorhombic crystals in space group P212121 from which diffraction data could be collected to medium resolution after application of cryo-annealing protocols. Crystal structures of both SoGST3 and SoGST6 have been determined based on marginal search models by maximum-likelihood molecular replacement as implemented in the program Phaser.
PMCID: PMC2496851  PMID: 18540073
glutathione S-transferases; Shewanella oneidensis
12.  Related lectins from snowdrop and maize differ in their carbohydrate-binding specificity 
Searches in an EST database from maize revealed the expression of a protein related to the Galanthus nivalis (GNA) agglutinin, referred to as GNAmaize. Heterologous expression of GNAmaize in Pichia pastoris allowed characterisation of the first nucleocytoplasmic GNA homolog from plants. GNAmaize is a tetrameric protein which shares 64% sequence similarity with GNA. Glycan microarray analyses revealed important differences in the specificity. Unlike GNA, which binds strongly to high-mannose N-glycans, the lectin from maize reacts almost exclusively with more complex glycans. Interestingly, GNAmaize prefers complex glycans containing β1-2 GlcNAc residues. The obvious difference in carbohydrate-binding properties is accompanied by a 100-fold reduced anti-HIV activity. Although the sequences of GNA and GNAmaize are clearly related they show only 28% sequence identity. Our results indicate that gene divergence within the family of GNA-related lectins leads to changes in carbohydrate binding specificity, as shown on N-glycan arrays.
PMCID: PMC2681488  PMID: 19167365
Galanthus nivalis agglutinin; glycan array; cytoplasmic homolog; human immunodeficiency virus; agglutination; lectin
13.  Catalytic cycle of human glutathione reductase near 1 Å resolution 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;382(2):371-384.
Efficient enzyme catalysis depends on exquisite details of structure beyond those resolvable in typical medium- and high-resolution crystallographic analyses. Here we report synchrotron-based cryocrystallographic studies of natural substrate complexes of the flavoenzyme human glutathione reductase (GR) at nominal resolutions between 1.1 and 0.95 Å that reveal new aspects of its mechanism. Compression in the active site causes overlapping van der Waals radii and distortion in the nicotinamide ring of the NADPH substrate, which enhances catalysis via stereoelectronic effects. The bound NADPH and redox-active disulfide are positioned optimally on opposite sides of the flavin for a 1,2-addition across a flavin double bond. The new structures extend earlier observations to reveal that the redox-active disulfide loop in GR is an extreme case of sequential peptide bonds systematically deviating from planarity, a net deviation of 53° across 5 residues. But this apparent strain is not a factor in catalysis as it is present in both oxidized and reduced structures. Intriguingly, the flavin bond lengths in oxidized GR are intermediate between those expected for oxidized and reduced flavin, but we present evidence that this may not be due to the protein environment but instead to partial synchrotron reduction of the flavin by the synchrotron beam. Finally, of more general relevance, we present evidence that the structures of synchrotron-reduced disulfide bonds cannot generally be used as reliable models for naturally reduced disulfide bonds.
PMCID: PMC2593804  PMID: 18638483
enzyme mechanism; radiation damage; steric compression; stereoelectronic control; peptide planarity
14.  Crystallization, preliminary crystallographic analysis and phasing of the thiosulfate-binding protein SoxY from Chlorobium limicola f. thiosulfatophilum  
SoxY from C. limicola f. thiosulfatophilum is involved in thiosulfate metabolism. Crystallization, preliminary crystallographic analysis and phasing of this protein are presented.
The 22 kDa SoxYZ protein complex from the green sulfur bacterium Chlorobium limicola f. thiosulfatophilum is a central player in the sulfur-oxidizing (Sox) enzyme system of the organism by activating thiosulfate for oxidation by SoxXA and SoxB. It has been proposed that SoxYZ exists as a heterodimer or heterotetramer, but the properties and role of the individual components of the complex thus far remain unknown. Here, the heterologous expression, purification, and the crystallization of stable tetrameric SoxY are reported. Crystals of SoxY diffract to 2.15 Å resolution and belong to space group C2221, with unit-cell parameters a = 41.22, b = 120.11, c = 95.30 Å. MIRAS data from Pt2+- and Hg2+-derivatized SoxY crystals resulted in an interpretable electron-density map at 3 Å resolution after density modification.
PMCID: PMC2225222  PMID: 17077486
SoxY; thiosulfate; MIRAS
15.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary crystallographic analysis of a stand-alone RAM domain with hydrolytic activity from the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus  
A P. furiosus stand-alone RAM domain with hydrolytic activity has been cloned and expressed in E. coli. The purified protein was crystallized alone and with EPNP and PMSF, producing crystals that yield diffraction data to resolutions of 2.8, 2.2 and 2.8 Å, respectively.
The RAM domain is one of several ligand-binding modules present in prokaryotes that are presumed to regulate the transcription of specific genes. To date, no hydrolytic activity has been reported for such modules. Curiously, a stand-alone RAM domain in Pyrococcus furiosus was isolated during a screen for hydrolytic activity against chromogenic esters. The gene encoding this protein was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli and crystallized after a single purification step. X-ray diffraction data from the crystals were obtained to a resolution of 2.8 Å using a conventional X-ray source. The cocrystallization of the recombinant protein with 1,2-epoxy-3-(4-nitrophenoxy)propane (EPNP) and phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF) produced crystals that yielded data to 2.2 and 2.8 Å, respectively, using synchrotron radiation. Both the untreated and EPNP-treated crystals crystallize isomorphously in space group C2 and contain three dimers in the asymmetric unit. The PMSF-treated crystals also belong to this space group and have almost identical packing density, but show dramatically different unit-cell parameters.
PMCID: PMC1991312  PMID: 16511194
Pyrococcus furiosus; RAM domain; hydrolase; AsnC transcription regulatory protein
16.  Expression, purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic studies of a cold-adapted aspartate carbamoyltransferase from Moritella profunda  
Crystals of the aspartate carbamoyltransferase of the psychrophile M. profunda diffract X-rays to 2.85 Å. Three catalytic and three regulatory subunits are predicted per asymmetric unit.
Aspartate carbamoyltransferase (ATCase) catalyzes the carbamoylation of the α-amino group of l-aspartate by carbamoyl phosphate (CP) to yield N-­carbamoyl-l-aspartate and orthophosphate in the first step of de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis. Apart from its key role in nucleotide metabolism, the enzyme is generally regarded as a model system in the study of proteins exhibiting allosteric behaviour. Here, the successful preparation, crystallization and diffraction data collection of the ATCase from the psychrophilic bacterium Moritella profunda are reported. To date, there is no structural representative of a cold-adapted ATCase. The structure of M. profunda ATCase is thus expected to provide important insights into the molecular basis of allosteric activity at low temperatures. Furthermore, through comparisons with the recently reported structure of an extremely thermostable ATCase from Sulfolobus acidocaldarius, it is hoped to contribute to general principles governing protein adaptation to extreme environments. A complete native data to 2.85 Å resolution showed that the crystal belongs to space group P3221, with unit-cell parameters a = 129.25, b = 129.25, c = 207.23 Å, α = β = 90, γ = 120°, and that it contains three catalytic and three regulatory subunits per asymmetric unit. The three-dimensional structure of the Escherichia coli ATCase was sufficient to solve the structure of the M. profunda ATCase via the molecular-replacement method and to obtain electron density of good quality.
PMCID: PMC1952289  PMID: 16511017
aspartate carbamoyltransferase; psychrophilic enzymes; allosteric regulation; PHASER

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