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1.  A comparison of the folding characteristics of free and ribosome-tethered polypeptide chains using limited proteolysis and mass spectrometry 
The kinetics and thermodynamics of protein folding are commonly studied in vitro by denaturing/renaturing intact protein sequences. How these folding mechanisms relate to de novo folding that occurs as the nascent polypeptide emerges from the ribosome is much less well understood. Here, we have employed limited proteolysis followed by mass spectrometry analyses to compare directly free and ribosome-tethered polypeptide chains of the Src-homology 3 (SH3) domain and its unfolded variant, SH3-m10. The disordered variant was found to undergo faster proteolysis than SH3. Furthermore, the trypsin cleavage patterns observed show minor, but significant, differences for the free and ribosome-bound nascent chains, with significantly fewer tryptic peptides detected in the presence of ribosome. The results highlight the utility of limited proteolysis coupled with mass spectrometry for the structural analysis of these complex systems, and pave the way for detailed future analyses by combining this technique with chemical labeling methods (for example, hydrogen-deuterium exchange, photochemical oxidation) to analyze protein folding in real time, including in the presence of additional ribosome-associated factors.
PMCID: PMC4534179  PMID: 25970093
ribosome-nascent chain complexes; limited proteolysis; nanoelectrospray ionisation-mass spectrometry; circular dichroism spectroscopy; Src-homology 3; trypsin digest
2.  Fluorescence-based monitoring of ribosome assembly landscapes 
Ribosomes and functional complexes of them have been analyzed at the atomic level. Far less is known about the dynamic assembly and degradation events that define the half-life of ribosomes and guarantee their quality control.
We developed a system that allows visualization of intact ribosomal subunits and assembly intermediates (i.e. assembly landscapes) by convenient fluorescence-based analysis. To this end, we labeled the early assembly ribosomal proteins L1 and S15 with the fluorescent proteins mAzami green and mCherry, respectively, using chromosomal gene insertion. The reporter strain harbors fluorescently labeled ribosomal subunits that operate wild type-like, as shown by biochemical and growth assays. Using genetic and chemical perturbations by depleting genes encoding the ribosomal proteins L3 and S17, respectively, or using ribosome-targeting antibiotics, we provoked ribosomal subunit assembly defects. These defects were readily identified by fluorometric analysis after sucrose density centrifugation in unprecedented resolution.
This strategy is useful to monitor and characterize subunit specific assembly defects caused by ribosome-targeting drugs that are currently used and to characterize new molecules that affect ribosome assembly and thereby constitute new classes of antibacterial agents.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12867-015-0031-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4344731  PMID: 25884162
Ribosome assembly; Ribosome biogenesis; Fluorescent proteins; Antimicrobials; Knock out; λ-red recombineering; High throughput screening
3.  Validation of a fluorescence-based screening concept to identify ribosome assembly defects in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(12):e100.
While the structure of mature ribosomes is analyzed in atomic detail considerably less is known about their assembly process in living cells. This is mainly due to technical and conceptual hurdles. To analyze ribosome assembly in vivo, we designed and engineered an Escherichiacoli strain—using chromosomal gene knock-in techniques—that harbors large and small ribosomal subunits labeled with the fluorescent proteins EGFP and mCherry, respectively. A thorough characterization of this reporter strain revealed that its growth properties and translation apparatus were wild-type like. Alterations in the ratio of EGFP over mCherry fluorescence are supposed to indicate ribosome assembly defects. To provide proof of principle, subunit specific assembly defects were provoked and could be identified by both manual and fully automated fluorometric in vivo assays. This is to our knowledge the first methodology that directly detects ribosome assembly defects in vivo in a high-throughput compatible format. Screening of knock-out collections and small molecule libraries will allow identification of new ribosome assembly factors and possible inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4081057  PMID: 24792169
4.  High yield expression of catalytically active USP18 (UBP43) using a Trigger Factor fusion system 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:56.
Covalent linkage of the ubiquitin-like protein ISG15 interferes with viral infection and USP18 is the major protease which specifically removes ISG15 from target proteins. Thus, boosting ISG15 modification by protease inhibition of USP18 might represent a new strategy to interfere with viral replication. However, so far no heterologous expression system was available to yield sufficient amounts of catalytically active protein for high-throughput based inhibitor screens.
High-level heterologous expression of USP18 was achieved by applying a chaperone-based fusion system in E. coli. Pure protein was obtained in a single-step on IMAC via a His6-tag. The USP18 fusion protein exhibited enzymatic activity towards cell derived ISG15 conjugated substrates and efficiently hydrolyzed ISG15-AMC. Specificity towards ISG15 was shown by covalent adduct formation with ISG15 vinyl sulfone but not with ubiquitin vinyl sulfone.
The results presented here show that a chaperone fusion system can provide high yields of proteins that are difficult to express. The USP18 protein obtained here is suited to setup high-throughput small molecule inhibitor screens and forms the basis for detailed biochemical and structural characterization.
PMCID: PMC3478164  PMID: 22916876
5.  Directed PCR-free engineering of highly repetitive DNA sequences 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:87.
Highly repetitive nucleotide sequences are commonly found in nature e.g. in telomeres, microsatellite DNA, polyadenine (poly(A)) tails of eukaryotic messenger RNA as well as in several inherited human disorders linked to trinucleotide repeat expansions in the genome. Therefore, studying repetitive sequences is of biological, biotechnological and medical relevance. However, cloning of such repetitive DNA sequences is challenging because specific PCR-based amplification is hampered by the lack of unique primer binding sites resulting in unspecific products.
For the PCR-free generation of repetitive DNA sequences we used antiparallel oligonucleotides flanked by restriction sites of Type IIS endonucleases. The arrangement of recognition sites allowed for stepwise and seamless elongation of repetitive sequences. This facilitated the assembly of repetitive DNA segments and open reading frames encoding polypeptides with periodic amino acid sequences of any desired length. By this strategy we cloned a series of polyglutamine encoding sequences as well as highly repetitive polyadenine tracts. Such repetitive sequences can be used for diverse biotechnological applications. As an example, the polyglutamine sequences were expressed as His6-SUMO fusion proteins in Escherichia coli cells to study their aggregation behavior in vitro. The His6-SUMO moiety enabled affinity purification of the polyglutamine proteins, increased their solubility, and allowed controlled induction of the aggregation process. We successfully purified the fusions proteins and provide an example for their applicability in filter retardation assays.
Our seamless cloning strategy is PCR-free and allows the directed and efficient generation of highly repetitive DNA sequences of defined lengths by simple standard cloning procedures.
PMCID: PMC3187725  PMID: 21943395
6.  A dual function for chaperones SSB–RAC and the NAC nascent polypeptide–associated complex on ribosomes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;189(1):57-68.
In addition to assisting with protein folding, SSB and NAC also regulate ribosome biogenesis (see also companion paper from Albanèse et al. in this issue).
The yeast Hsp70/40 system SSB–RAC (stress 70 B–ribosome-associated complex) binds to ribosomes and contacts nascent polypeptides to assist cotranslational folding. In this study, we demonstrate that nascent polypeptide–associated complex (NAC), another ribosome-tethered system, is functionally connected to SSB–RAC and the cytosolic Hsp70 network. Simultaneous deletions of genes encoding NAC and SSB caused conditional loss of cell viability under protein-folding stress conditions. Furthermore, NAC mutations revealed genetic interaction with a deletion of Sse1, a nucleotide exchange factor regulating the cytosolic Hsp70 network. Cells lacking SSB or Sse1 showed protein aggregation, which is enhanced by additional loss of NAC; however, these mutants differ in their potential client repertoire. Aggregation of ribosomal proteins and biogenesis factors accompanied by a pronounced deficiency in ribosomal particles and translating ribosomes only occurs in ssbΔ and nacΔssbΔ cells, suggesting that SSB and NAC control ribosome biogenesis. Thus, SSB–RAC and NAC assist protein folding and likewise have important functions for regulation of ribosome levels. These findings emphasize the concept that ribosome production is coordinated with the protein-folding capacity of ribosome-associated chaperones.
PMCID: PMC2854369  PMID: 20368618
7.  Extra N-Terminal Residues Have a Profound Effect on the Aggregation Properties of the Potential Yeast Prion Protein Mca1 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9929.
The metacaspase Mca1 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae displays a Q/N-rich region at its N-terminus reminiscent of yeast prion proteins. In this study, we show that the ability of Mca1 to form insoluble aggregates is modulated by a peptide stretch preceding its putative prion-forming domain. Based on its genomic locus, three potential translational start sites of Mca1 can give rise to two slightly different long Mca1 proteins or a short version, Mca1451/453 and Mca1432, respectively, although under normal physiological conditions Mca1432 is the predominant form expressed. All Mca1 variants exhibit the Q/N-rich regions, while only the long variants Mca1451/453 share an extra stretch of 19 amino acids at their N-terminal end. Strikingly, only long versions of Mca1 but not Mca1432 revealed pronounced aggregation in vivo and displayed prion-like properties when fused to the C-terminal domain of Sup35 suggesting that the N-terminal peptide element promotes the conformational switch of Mca1 protein into an insoluble state. Transfer of the 19 N-terminal amino acid stretch of Mca1451 to the N-terminus of firefly luciferase resulted in increased aggregation of luciferase, suggesting a protein destabilizing function of the peptide element. We conclude that the aggregation propensity of the potential yeast prion protein Mca1 in vivo is strongly accelerated by a short peptide segment preceding its Q/N-rich region and we speculate that such a conformational switch might occur in vivo via the usage of alternative translational start sites.
PMCID: PMC2847904  PMID: 20360952
8.  Chaperone-based procedure to increase yields of soluble recombinant proteins produced in E. coli 
BMC Biotechnology  2007;7:32.
The overproduction of recombinant proteins in host cells often leads to their misfolding and aggregation. Previous attempts to increase the solubility of recombinant proteins by co-overproduction of individual chaperones were only partially successful. We now assessed the effects of combined overproduction of the functionally cooperating chaperone network of the E. coli cytosol on the solubility of recombinant proteins.
A two-step procedure was found to show the strongest enhancement of solubility. In a first step, the four chaperone systems GroEL/GroES, DnaK/DnaJ/GrpE, ClpB and the small HSPs IbpA/IbpB, were coordinately co-overproduced with recombinant proteins to optimize de novo folding. In a second step, protein biosynthesis was inhibited to permit chaperone mediated refolding of misfolded and aggregated proteins in vivo. This novel strategy increased the solubility of 70% of 64 different heterologous proteins tested up to 42-fold.
The engineered E. coli strains and the two-step procedure presented here led to a remarkable increase in the solubility of a various recombinant proteins and should be applicable to a wide range of target proteins produced in biotechnology.
PMCID: PMC1904446  PMID: 17565681

Results 1-8 (8)