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1.  Alternative Splice Variants in TIM Barrel Proteins from Human Genome Correlate with the Structural and Evolutionary Modularity of this Versatile Protein Fold 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70582.
After the surprisingly low number of genes identified in the human genome, alternative splicing emerged as a major mechanism to generate protein diversity in higher eukaryotes. However, it is still not known if its prevalence along the genome evolution has contributed to the overall functional protein diversity or if it simply reflects splicing noise. The (βα)8 barrel or TIM barrel is one of the most frequent, versatile, and ancient fold encountered among enzymes. Here, we analyze the structural modifications present in TIM barrel proteins from the human genome product of alternative splicing events. We found that 87% of all splicing events involved deletions; most of these events resulted in protein fragments that corresponded to the (βα)2, (βα)4, (βα)5, (βα)6, and (βα)7 subdomains of TIM barrels. Because approximately 7% of all the splicing events involved internal β-strand substitutions, we decided, based on the genomic data, to design β-strand and α-helix substitutions in a well-studied TIM barrel enzyme. The biochemical characterization of one of the chimeric variants suggests that some of the splice variants in the human genome with β-strand substitutions may be evolving novel functions via either the oligomeric state or substrate specificity. We provide results of how the splice variants represent subdomains that correlate with the independently folding and evolving structural units previously reported. This work is the first to observe a link between the structural features of the barrel and a recurrent genetic mechanism. Our results suggest that it is reasonable to expect that a sizeable fraction of splice variants found in the human genome represent structurally viable functional proteins. Our data provide additional support for the hypothesis of the origin of the TIM barrel fold through the assembly of smaller subdomains. We suggest a model of how nature explores new proteins through alternative splicing as a mechanism to diversify the proteins encoded in the human genome.
PMCID: PMC3741200  PMID: 23950966
2.  Enhancement of the Alcoholytic Activity of α-Amylase AmyA from Thermotoga maritima MSB8 (DSM 3109) by Site-Directed Mutagenesis▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(16):5168-5177.
AmyA, an α-amylase from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima, is able to hydrolyze internal α-1,4-glycosidic bonds in various α-glucans at 85°C as the optimal temperature. Like other glycoside hydrolases, AmyA also catalyzes transglycosylation reactions, particularly when oligosaccharides are used as substrates. It was found that when methanol or butanol was used as the nucleophile instead of water, AmyA was able to catalyze alcoholysis reactions. This capability has been evaluated in the past for some α-amylases, with the finding that only the saccharifying fungal amylases from Aspergillus niger and from Aspergillus oryzae present measurable alcoholysis activity (R. I. Santamaria, G. Del Rio, G. Saab, M. E. Rodriguez, X. Soberon, and A. Lopez, FEBS Lett. 452:346-350, 1999). In the present work, we found that AmyA generates larger quantities of alkyl glycosides than any amylase reported so far. In order to increase the alcoholytic activity observed in AmyA, several residues were identified and mutated based on previous analogous positions in amylases, defining the polarity and geometry of the active site. Replacement of residue His222 by glutamine generated an increase in the alkyl glucoside yield as a consequence of a higher alcoholysis/hydrolysis ratio. The same change in specificity was observed for the mutants H222E and H222D, but instability of these mutants toward alcohols decreased the yield of alkyl glucoside.
PMCID: PMC2519283  PMID: 18552192
3.  The effect of amino acid deletions and substitutions in the longest loop of GFP 
The effect of single and multiple amino acid substitutions in the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from Aequorea victoria has been extensively explored, yielding several proteins of diverse spectral properties. However, the role of amino acid deletions in this protein -as with most proteins- is still unknown, due to the technical difficulties involved in generating combinatorial in-phase amino acid deletions on a target region.
In this study, the region I129-L142 of superglo GFP (sgGFP), corresponding to the longest loop of the protein and located far away from the central chromophore, was subjected to a random amino acid deletion approach, employing an in-house recently developed mutagenesis method termed Codon-Based Random Deletion (COBARDE). Only two mutants out of 16384 possible variant proteins retained fluorescence: sgGFP-Δ I129 and sgGFP-Δ D130. Interestingly, both mutants were thermosensitive and at 30°C sgGFP-Δ D130 was more fluorescent than the parent protein. In contrast with deletions, substitutions of single amino acids from residues F131 to L142 were well tolerated. The substitution analysis revealed a particular importance of residues F131, G135, I137, L138, H140 and L142 for the stability of the protein.
The behavior of GFP variants with both amino acid deletions and substitutions demonstrate that this loop is playing an important structural role in GFP folding. Some of the amino acids which tolerated any substitution but no deletion are simply acting as "spacers" to localize important residues in the protein structure.
PMCID: PMC1919350  PMID: 17594481
4.  Combinatorial codon-based amino acid substitutions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(20):e158.
Twenty Fmoc-protected trinucleotide phosphoramidites representing a complete set of codons for the natural amino acids were chemically synthesized for the first time. A pool of these reagents was incorporated into oligonucleotides at substoichiometric levels to generate two libraries of variants that randomly carry either few or many codon replacements on a region encoding nine amino acids of the bacterial enzyme TEM-1 β-lactamase. Assembly of the libraries was performed in a completely automated mode through a simple modification of ordinary protocols. This technology eliminates codon redundancy, stop codons and enables complete exploration of sequence space for single, double and triple mutations throughout a protein region spanning several residues. Sequence analysis of many non-selected clones revealed a good incorporation of the trinucleotides, producing combinations of mutations quite different from those obtained using conventional degenerate oligonucleotides. Ceftazidime-selection experiments yielded several never before reported variants containing novel amino acid combinations in the β-lactamase omega loop region.
PMCID: PMC534637  PMID: 15537836
5.  Protein evolution by codon-based random deletions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(17):e136.
A method to delete in-phase codons throughout a defined target region of a gene has been developed. This approach, named the codon-based random deletion (COBARDE) method, is able to delete complete codons in a random and combinatorial mode. Robustness, automation and fine-tuning of the mutagenesis rate are essential characteristics of the method, which is based on the assembly of oligonucleotides and on the use of two transient orthogonal protecting groups during the chemical synthesis. The performance of the method for protein function evolution was demonstrated by changing the substrate specificity of TEM-1 β-lactamase. Functional ceftazidime-resistant β-lactamase variants containing several deleted residues inside the catalytically important omega-loop region were found. The results show that the COBARDE method is a useful new molecular tool to access previously unexplorable sequence space.
PMCID: PMC521680  PMID: 15459282
6.  Novel ceftazidime-resistance β-lactamases generated by a codon-based mutagenesis method and selection 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(16):e84.
Four known and nine new ceftazidime-resistance β-lactamases were generated by a novel, contaminating codon-based mutagenesis approach. In this method, wild-type codons are spiked with a set of mutant codons during oligonucleotide synthesis, generating random combinatorial libraries of primers that contain few codon replacements per variant. Mutant codons are assembled by tandem addition of a diluted mixture of five Fmoc-dimer amidites to the growing oligo and a mixture of four DMTr-monomer amidites to generate 20 trinucleotides that encode a set of 18 amino acids. Wild-type codons are assembled with conventional chemistry and the whole process takes place in only one synthesis column, making its automation feasible. The random and binomial behavior of this approach was tested in the polylinker region of plasmid pUC19 by the synthesis of three oligonucleotide libraries mutagenized at different rates and cloned as mutagenic cassettes. Additionally, the method was biologically assessed by mutating six contiguous codons that encode amino acids 237–243 (ABL numbering) of the TEMpUC19 β-lactamase, which is functionally equivalent to the clinically important TEM-1 β-lactamase. The best ceftazidime-recognizing variant was a triple mutant, R164H:E240K: R241A, displaying a 333-fold higher resistance than the wild-type enzyme.
PMCID: PMC134257  PMID: 12177312
7.  Orthogonal combinatorial mutagenesis: a codon-level combinatorial mutagenesis method useful for low multiplicity and amino acid-scanning protocols 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(3):e9.
We describe here a method to generate combinatorial libraries of oligonucleotides mutated at the codon-level, with control of the mutagenesis rate so as to create predictable binomial distributions of mutants. The method allows enrichment of the libraries with single, double or larger multiplicity of amino acid replacements by appropriate choice of the mutagenesis rate, depending on the concentration of synthetic precursors. The method makes use of two sets of deoxynucleoside-phosphoramidites bearing orthogonal protecting groups [4,4′-dimethoxytrityl (DMT) and 9-fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (Fmoc)] in the 5′ hydroxyl. These phosphoramidites are divergently combined during automated synthesis in such a way that wild-type codons are assembled with commercial DMT-deoxynucleoside-methyl-phosphoramidites while mutant codons are assembled with Fmoc-deoxynucleoside-methyl-phosphoramidites in an NNG/C fashion in a single synthesis column. This method is easily automated and suitable for low mutagenesis rates and large windows, such as those required for directed evolution and alanine scanning. Through the assembly of three oligonucleotide libraries at different mutagenesis rates, followed by cloning at the polylinker region of plasmid pUC18 and sequencing of 129 clones, we concluded that the method performs essentially as intended.
PMCID: PMC30410  PMID: 11160911

Results 1-7 (7)