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1.  Structural and thermodynamic effects of post-translational modifications in mutant and wild type Cu, Zn superoxide dismutase 
Journal of molecular biology  2011;408(3):555-567.
Aggregation of Cu, Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) is implicated in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Glutathionylation and phosphorylation of SOD1 is omnipresent in the human body, even in healthy individuals, and has been shown to increase SOD1 dimer dissociation, which is the first step on the pathway toward SOD1 aggregation. We find that post-translational modification of SOD1, especially glutathionylation, promotes dimer dissociation. We discover an intermediate state in the pathway to dissociation, a conformational change that involves a “loosening” of the β-barrels and a loss or shift of dimer interface interactions. In modified SOD1, this intermediate state is stabilized as compared to unmodified SOD1. The presence of post-translational modifications could explain the environmental factors involved in the speed of disease progression. Because post-translational modifications such as glutathionylation are often induced by oxidative stress, post-translational modification of SOD1 could be a factor in the occurrence of sporadic cases of ALS, which make up 90% of all cases of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3082150  PMID: 21396374
2.  Regulatory insertion removal restores maturation, stability and function of ΔF508 CFTR 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;401(2):194-210.
The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) epithelial anion channel is a large multi-domain membrane protein which matures inefficiently during biosynthesis. Its assembly is further perturbed by the deletion of F508 from the first nucleotide binding domain (NBD1) responsible for most cystic fibrosis. The mutant polypeptide is recognized by cellular quality control systems and is proteolyzed. CFTR NBD1 contains a 32 residue segment termed the regulatory insertion (RI) not present in other ABC transporters. We report here that RI deletion enabled ΔF508 CFTR to mature and traffic to the cell surface where it mediated regulated anion efflux and exhibited robust single chloride channel activity. Long term pulse-chase experiments showed that the mature ΔRI/ΔF508 had a T1/2 of ~14h in cells, similar to the wild-type. RI deletion restored ATP occlusion by NBD1 of ΔF508 CFTR and had a strong thermo-stabilizing influence on the channel with gating up to at least 40°C. None of these effects of RI removal were achieved by deletion of only portions of RI. Discrete molecular dynamics simulations of NBD1 indicated that RI might indirectly influence the interaction of NBD1 with the rest of the protein by attenuating the coupling of the F508 containing loop with the F1-like ATP-binding core subdomain so that RI removal overcame the perturbations caused by F508 deletion. Restriction of RI to a particular conformational state may ameliorate the impact of the disease-causing mutation.
PMCID: PMC4361937  PMID: 20561529
ABC transporters; CFTR; cystic fibrosis; ion channel; DMD simulations
3.  Allosteric modulation balances thermodynamic stability and restores function of ΔF508 CFTR 
Journal of molecular biology  2012;419(0):41-60.
Most cystic fibrosis is caused by a deletion of a single residue (F508) in CFTR that disrupts the folding and biosynthetic maturation of the ion channel protein. Progress towards understanding the underlying mechanisms and overcoming the defect remain incomplete. Here we show that the thermal instability of human ΔF508 CFTR channel activity evident in both cell-attached membrane patches and planar phospholipid bilayers is not observed in corresponding mutant CFTRs of several non-mammalian species. These more stable orthologs are distinguished from their mammalian counterparts by the substitution of proline residues at several key dynamic locations in the first nucleotide domain (NBD1), including the structurally diverse region (SDR), the gamma phosphate switch loop and the Regulatory Insertion (RI). Molecular Dynamic analyses revealed that addition of the prolines could reduce flexibility at these locations and increase the temperatures of unfolding transitions of ΔF508 NBD1 to that of the wild-type. Introduction of these prolines experimentally into full-length human ΔF508 CFTR together with the already recognized I539T suppressor mutation, also in the SDR, restored channel function and thermodynamic stability as well as its trafficking to and lifetime at the cell surface. Thus, while cellular manipulations that circumvent its culling by quality control systems leave ΔF508 CFTR dysfunctional at physiological temperature, restoration of the delicate balance between the dynamic protein’s inherent stability and channel activity returns a near-normal state.
PMCID: PMC3891843  PMID: 22406676
ABC transporters; CFTR; protein thermal stability; ion channel; DMD simulations
4.  Computational design of a PAK1 binding protein 
Journal of molecular biology  2010;400(2):257-270.
We describe a computational protocol, called DDMI, for redesigning scaffold proteins to bind to a specified region on a target protein. The DDMI protocol is implemented within the Rosetta molecular modeling program and uses rigid-body docking, sequence design, and gradient-based minimization of backbone and side chain torsion angles to design low energy interfaces between the scaffold and target protein. Iterative rounds of sequence design and conformational optimization were needed to produce models that have calculated binding energies that are similar to binding energies calculated for native complexes. We also show that additional conformation sampling with molecular dynamics can be iterated with sequence design to further lower the computed energy of the designed complexes. To experimentally test the DDMI protocol we redesigned the human hyperplastic discs protein to bind to the kinase domain of p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1). Six designs were experimentally characterized. Two of the designs aggregated and were not characterized further. Of the remaining four designs, three bound to the PAK1 with affinities tighter than 350 μM. The tightest binding design, named Spider Roll, bound with an affinity of 100 μM. NMR –based structure prediction of Spider Roll based on backbone and 13Cβ chemical shifts using the program CS-ROSETTA indicated that the architecture of human hyperplastic discs protein is preserved. Mutagenesis studies confirmed that Spider Roll binds the target patch on PAK1. Additionally, Spider Roll binds to full length PAK1 in its activated state, but does not bind PAK1 when it forms an auto-inhibited conformation that blocks the Spider Roll target site. Subsequent NMR characterization of the binding of Spider Roll to PAK1 revealed a comparably small binding `on-rate' constant (<< 105 M−1 s−1). The ability to rationally design the site of novel protein-protein interactions is an important step towards creating new proteins that are useful as therapeutics or molecular probes.
PMCID: PMC2903434  PMID: 20460129
Computational protein design; protein-protein interactions; protein docking; Rosetta molecular modeling program; NMR; CS-ROSETTA
5.  Computational studies reveal phosphorylation dependent changes in the unstructured R domain of CFTR 
Journal of molecular biology  2008;378(5):1052-1063.
The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) is a cAMP dependent chloride channel that is mutated in cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease of high morbidity and mortality. The phosphorylation of its ∼200 amino acid R domain by protein kinase A is obligatory for channel gating under normal conditions. The R domain contains more than ten PKA phosphorylation sites. No individual site is essential but phosphorylation of increasing numbers of sites enables progressively greater channel activity. In spite of numerous studies of the role of the R domain in CFTR regulation, its mechanism of action remains largely unknown. This is because neither its structure nor its interactions with other parts of CFTR have been completely elucidated. Studies have shown that the R domain lacks well-defined secondary structural elements and is an intrinsically disordered region of the channel protein. Here, we have analyzed the disorder pattern and employed computational methods to explore low energy conformations of the R domain. Specific disorder and secondary structure patterns detected suggest the presence of Molecular Recognition Elements (MoREs) that may mediate phosphorylation regulated intra- and inter-domain interactions. Simulations were performed to generate an ensemble of accessible R domain conformations. Although the calculated structures may represent more compact conformers than occur in vivo, their secondary structure propensities are consistent with predictions and published experimental data. Equilibrium simulations of a mimic of a phosphorylated R domain showed that it exhibited an increased radius of gyration. In one possible interpretation of these findings, by changing its size, the globally unstructured R domain may act as an entropic spring to perturb the packing of membrane-spanning sequences that constitute the ion permeability pathway and thereby activate channel gating.
PMCID: PMC2556564  PMID: 18423665
CFTR; R domain; phosphorylation; disordered protein; molecular dynamics
6.  Molecular Dynamic Simulations of Cisplatin- and Oxaliplatin-d(GG) Intrastand Cross-Links Reveal Differences in their Conformational Dynamics 
Journal of molecular biology  2007;373(5):1123-1140.
Mismatch repair proteins, DNA damage-recognition proteins and translesion DNA polymerases discriminate between Pt-GG adducts containing cis-diammine ligands (formed by cisplatin (CP) and carboplatin) and trans-RR-diaminocyclohexane ligands (formed by oxaliplatin (OX)) and this discrimination is thought to be important in determining differences in the efficacy, toxicity and mutagenicity of these platinum anticancer agents. We have postulated that these proteins recognize differences in conformation and/or conformational dynamics of the DNA containing the adducts. We have previously determined the NMR solution structure of OX-DNA, CP-DNA and undamaged duplex DNA in the 5'-d(CCTCAGGCCTCC)-3' sequence context and have shown the existence of several conformational differences in the vicinity of the Pt-GG adduct. In this study we have used molecular dynamics simulations to explore differences in the conformational dynamics between OX-DNA, CP-DNA and undamaged DNA in the same sequence context. Twenty-five 10 ns unrestrained fully solvated molecular dynamics simulations were performed starting from two different DNA conformations using AMBER v8.0. All twenty-five simulations reached equilibrium within 4 ns, were independent of the starting structure and were in close agreement with previous crystal and NMR structures. Our data show that the cis-diammine (CP) ligand preferentially forms hydrogen bonds on the 5' side of the Pt-GG adduct, while the trans-RR-diaminocyclohexane (OX) ligand preferentially forms hydrogen bonds on the 3' side of the adduct. In addition, our data show that these differences in hydrogen bond formation are strongly correlated with differences in conformational dynamics, specifically the fraction of time spent in different DNA conformations in the vicinity of the adduct, for CP- and OX-DNA adducts. We postulate that differential recognition of CP- and OX-GG adducts by mismatch repair proteins, DNA damage-recognition proteins and DNA polymerases may be due, in part, to differences in the fraction of time that the adducts spend in a conformation favorable for protein binding.
PMCID: PMC2129172  PMID: 17900616
Cisplatin; Oxaliplatin; Molecular Dynamics; Simulations; Conformation

Results 1-6 (6)