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1.  High yield expression of catalytically active USP18 (UBP43) using a Trigger Factor fusion system 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:56.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-12-56
PMCID: PMC3478164  PMID: 22916876
2.  Directed PCR-free engineering of highly repetitive DNA sequences 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:87.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-87
PMCID: PMC3187725  PMID: 21943395
3.  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.
doi:10.1083/jcb.200910074
PMCID: PMC2854369  PMID: 20368618
4.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009929
PMCID: PMC2847904  PMID: 20360952
5.  Chaperone-based procedure to increase yields of soluble recombinant proteins produced in E. coli 
BMC Biotechnology  2007;7:32.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-7-32
PMCID: PMC1904446  PMID: 17565681

Results 1-5 (5)