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1.  Crystal structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB, the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(6):1925-1934.
The structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB (BsTrmB), the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase, was determined at a resolution of 2.1 Å. This is the first structure of a member of the TrmB family to be determined by X-ray crystallography. It reveals a unique variant of the Rossmann-fold methyltransferase (RFM) structure, with the N-terminal helix folded on the opposite site of the catalytic domain. The architecture of the active site and a computational docking model of BsTrmB in complex with the methyl group donor S-adenosyl-l-methionine and the tRNA substrate provide an explanation for results from mutagenesis studies of an orthologous enzyme from Escherichia coli (EcTrmB). However, unlike EcTrmB, BsTrmB is shown here to be dimeric both in the crystal and in solution. The dimer interface has a hydrophobic core and buries a potassium ion and five water molecules. The evolutionary analysis of the putative interface residues in the TrmB family suggests that homodimerization may be a specific feature of TrmBs from Bacilli, which may represent an early stage of evolution to an obligatory dimer.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkl116
PMCID: PMC1447647  PMID: 16600901
2.  Identification of Lynch syndrome mutations in the MLH1-PMS2 interface that disturb dimerization and mismatch repair 
Human mutation  2010;31(8):975-982.
Missense alterations of the mismatch repair gene MLH1 have been identified in a significant proportion of individuals suspected of having Lynch syndrome, a hereditary syndrome which predisposes for cancer of colon and endometrium. The pathogenicity of many of these alterations, however, is unclear. A number of MLH1 alterations are located in the C-terminal domain (CTD) of MLH1, which is responsible for constitutive dimerization with PMS2. We analyzed which alterations may result in pathogenic effects due to interference with dimerization. We used a structural model of CTD of MLH1-PMS2 heterodimer to select 19 MLH1 alterations located inside and outside two candidate dimerization interfaces in the MLH1-CTD. Three alterations (p.Gln542Leu, p.Leu749Pro, p.Tyr750X) caused decreased co-expression of PMS2, which is unstable in the absence of interaction with MLH1, suggesting that these alterations interfere with dimerization. All three alterations are located within the dimerization interface suggested by our model. They also compromised mismatch repair, suggesting that defects in dimerization abrogate repair and confirming that all three alterations are pathogenic. Additionally, we provided biochemical evidence that four alterations with uncertain pathogenicity (p.Ala586Pro, p.Leu636Pro, p.Thr662Pro, and p.Arg755Trp) are deleterious because of poor expression or poor repair efficiency, and confirm the deleterious effect of eight further alterations.
doi:10.1002/humu.21301
PMCID: PMC2908215  PMID: 20533529
Lynch syndrome; HNPCC; MLH1; PMS2; MutL; missense mutation; dimerization
3.  Structure and Evolutionary Origin of Ca2+-Dependent Herring Type II Antifreeze Protein 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(6):e548.
In order to survive under extremely cold environments, many organisms produce antifreeze proteins (AFPs). AFPs inhibit the growth of ice crystals and protect organisms from freezing damage. Fish AFPs can be classified into five distinct types based on their structures. Here we report the structure of herring AFP (hAFP), a Ca2+-dependent fish type II AFP. It exhibits a fold similar to the C-type (Ca2+-dependent) lectins with unique ice-binding features. The 1.7 Å crystal structure of hAFP with bound Ca2+ and site-directed mutagenesis reveal an ice-binding site consisting of Thr96, Thr98 and Ca2+-coordinating residues Asp94 and Glu99, which initiate hAFP adsorption onto the [10-10] prism plane of the ice lattice. The hAFP-ice interaction is further strengthened by the bound Ca2+ through the coordination with a water molecule of the ice lattice. This Ca2+-coordinated ice-binding mechanism is distinct from previously proposed mechanisms for other AFPs. However, phylogenetic analysis suggests that all type II AFPs evolved from the common ancestor and developed different ice-binding modes. We clarify the evolutionary relationship of type II AFPs to sugar-binding lectins.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000548
PMCID: PMC1891086  PMID: 17579720
4.  Novel protein fold discovered in the PabI family of restriction enzymes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(6):1908-1918.
Although structures of many DNA-binding proteins have been solved, they fall into a limited number of folds. Here, we describe an approach that led to the finding of a novel DNA-binding fold. Based on the behavior of Type II restriction–modification gene complexes as mobile elements, our earlier work identified a restriction enzyme, R.PabI, and its cognate modification enzyme in Pyrococcus abyssi through comparison of closely related genomes. While the modification methyltransferase was easily recognized, R.PabI was predicted to have a novel 3D structure. We expressed cytotoxic R.PabI in a wheat-germ-based cell-free translation system and determined its crystal structure. R.PabI turned out to adopt a novel protein fold. Homodimeric R.PabI has a curved anti-parallel β-sheet that forms a ‘half pipe’. Mutational and in silico DNA-binding analyses have assigned it as the double-strand DNA-binding site. Unlike most restriction enzymes analyzed, R.PabI is able to cleave DNA in the absence of Mg2+. These results demonstrate the value of genome comparison and the wheat-germ-based system in finding a novel DNA-binding motif in mobile DNases and, in general, a novel protein fold in horizontally transferred genes.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkm091
PMCID: PMC1874622  PMID: 17332011
5.  The PD-(D/E)XK superfamily revisited: identification of new members among proteins involved in DNA metabolism and functional predictions for domains of (hitherto) unknown function 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:172.
Background
The PD-(D/E)XK nuclease superfamily, initially identified in type II restriction endonucleases and later in many enzymes involved in DNA recombination and repair, is one of the most challenging targets for protein sequence analysis and structure prediction. Typically, the sequence similarity between these proteins is so low, that most of the relationships between known members of the PD-(D/E)XK superfamily were identified only after the corresponding structures were determined experimentally. Thus, it is tempting to speculate that among the uncharacterized protein families, there are potential nucleases that remain to be discovered, but their identification requires more sensitive tools than traditional PSI-BLAST searches.
Results
The low degree of amino acid conservation hampers the possibility of identification of new members of the PD-(D/E)XK superfamily based solely on sequence comparisons to known members. Therefore, we used a recently developed method HHsearch for sensitive detection of remote similarities between protein families represented as profile Hidden Markov Models enhanced by secondary structure. We carried out a comparison of known families of PD-(D/E)XK nucleases to the database comprising the COG and PFAM profiles corresponding to both functionally characterized as well as uncharacterized protein families to detect significant similarities. The initial candidates for new nucleases were subsequently verified by sequence-structure threading, comparative modeling, and identification of potential active site residues.
Conclusion
In this article, we report identification of the PD-(D/E)XK nuclease domain in numerous proteins implicated in interactions with DNA but with unknown structure and mechanism of action (such as putative recombinase RmuC, DNA competence factor CoiA, a DNA-binding protein SfsA, a large human protein predicted to be a DNA repair enzyme, predicted archaeal transcription regulators, and the head completion protein of phage T4) and in proteins for which no function was assigned to date (such as YhcG, various phage proteins, novel candidates for restriction enzymes). Our results contributes to the reduction of "white spaces" on the sequence-structure-function map of the protein universe and will help to jump-start the experimental characterization of new nucleases, of which many may be of importance for the complete understanding of mechanisms that govern the evolution and stability of the genome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-172
PMCID: PMC1189080  PMID: 16011798

Results 1-5 (5)