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1.  Crystal structures of IspF from Plasmodium falciparum and Burkholderia cenocepacia: comparisons inform antimicrobial drug target assessment 
2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF) catalyzes the conversion of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2-phosphate to 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate and cytidine monophosphate in production of isoprenoid-precursors via the methylerythritol phosphate biosynthetic pathway. IspF is found in the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that causes cerebral malaria, as well as in many Gram-negative bacteria such as Burkholderia cenocepacia. IspF represents a potential target for development of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs since it is proven or inferred as essential in these pathogens and absent from mammals. Structural studies of IspF from these two important yet distinct pathogens, and comparisons with orthologues have been carried out to generate reagents, to support and inform a structure-based approach to early stage drug discovery.
Efficient recombinant protein production and crystallization protocols were developed, and high-resolution crystal structures of IspF from P. falciparum (Emphasis/Emphasis>IspF) and B. cenocepacia (BcIspF) in complex with cytidine nucleotides determined. Comparisons with orthologues, indicate a high degree of order and conservation in parts of the active site where Zn2+ is bound and where recognition of the cytidine moiety of substrate occurs. However, conformational flexibility is noted in that area of the active site responsible for binding the methylerythritol component of substrate. Unexpectedly, one structure of BcIspF revealed two molecules of cytidine monophosphate in the active site, and another identified citrate coordinating to the catalytic Zn2+. In both cases interactions with ligands appear to help order a flexible loop at one side of the active site. Difficulties were encountered when attempting to derive complex structures with other ligands.
High-resolution crystal structures of IspF from two important human pathogens have been obtained and compared to orthologues. The studies reveal new data on ligand binding, with citrate coordinating to the active site Zn2+ and when present in high concentrations cytidine monophosphate displays two binding modes in the active site. Ligand binding appears to order a part of the active site involved in substrate recognition. The high degree of structural conservation in and around the IspF active site suggests that any structural model might be suitable to support a program of structure-based drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3927217  PMID: 24410837
Antimicrobial drug target; Isoprenoid biosynthesis; X-ray crystallography; Zn2+-dependent enzyme
2.  Crystal structures of Burkholderia cenocepacia dihydropteroate synthase in the apo-form and complexed with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate 
The enzyme dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) participates in the de novo synthesis of folate cofactors by catalyzing the formation of 7,8-dihydropteroate from condensation of p-aminobenzoic acid with 6-hydroxymethyl-7,8-dihydropteroate pyrophosphate. DHPS is absent from humans, who acquire folates from diet, and has been validated as an antimicrobial therapeutic target by chemical and genetic means. The bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen and an infective agent of cystic fibrosis patients. The organism is highly resistant to antibiotics and there is a recognized need for the identification of new drugs against Burkholderia and related Gram-negative pathogens. Our characterization of the DHPS active site and interactions with the enzyme product are designed to underpin early stage drug discovery.
An efficient recombinant protein expression system for DHPS from B. cenocepacia (BcDHPS) was prepared, the dimeric enzyme purified in high yield and crystallized. The structure of the apo-enzyme and the complex with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate have been determined to 2.35 Å and 1.95 Å resolution respectively in distinct orthorhombic crystal forms. The latter represents the first crystal structure of the DHPS-pterin product complex, reveals key interactions involved in ligand binding, and reinforces data generated by other structural studies. Comparisons with orthologues identify plasticity near the substrate-binding pocket and in particular a range of loop conformations that contribute to the architecture of the DHPS active site. These structural data provide a foundation for hit discovery. An intriguing observation, an artifact of the analysis, that of a potential sulfenamide bond within the ligand complex structure is mentioned.
Structural similarities between BcDHPS and orthologues from other Gram-negative species are evident as expected on the basis of a high level of sequence identity. The presence of 7,8-dihydropteroate in the binding site provides details about ligand recognition by the enzyme and the different states of the enzyme allow us to visualize distinct conformational states of loops adjacent to the active site. Improved drugs to combat infections by Burkholderia sp. and related Gram-negative bacteria are sought and our study now provides templates to assist that process and allow us to discuss new ways of inhibiting DHPS.
PMCID: PMC3098144  PMID: 21554707
3.  Exploiting the high-resolution crystal structure of Staphylococcus aureus MenH to gain insight into enzyme activity 
MenH (2-succinyl-6-hydroxy-2,4-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate synthase) is a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of menaquinone, catalyzing an unusual 2,5-elimination of pyruvate from 2-succinyl-5-enolpyruvyl-6-hydroxy-3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxylate.
The crystal structure of Staphylococcus aureus MenH has been determined at 2 Å resolution. In the absence of a complex to inform on aspects of specificity a model of the enzyme-substrate complex has been used in conjunction with previously published kinetic analyses, site-directed mutagenesis studies and comparisons with orthologues to investigate the structure and reactivity of MenH.
The overall basic active site displays pronounced hydrophobic character on one side and these properties complement those of the substrate. A complex network of hydrogen bonds involving well-ordered water molecules serves to position key residues participating in the recognition of substrate and subsequent catalysis. We propose a proton shuttle mechanism, reliant on a catalytic triad consisting of Ser89, Asp216 and His243. The reaction is initiated by proton abstraction from the substrate by an activated Ser89. The propensity to form a conjugated system provides the driving force for pyruvate elimination. During the elimination, a methylene group is converted to a methyl and we judge it likely that His243 provides a proton, previously acquired from Ser89 for that reduction. A conformational change of the protonated His243 may be encouraged by the presence of an anionic intermediate in the active site.
PMCID: PMC3097144  PMID: 21513522
4.  The structure of Mycobacteria 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase, an essential enzyme, provides a platform for drug discovery 
The prevalence of tuberculosis, the prolonged and expensive treatment that this disease requires and an increase in drug resistance indicate an urgent need for new treatments. The 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate pathway of isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis is an attractive chemotherapeutic target because it occurs in many pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and is absent from humans. To underpin future drug development it is important to assess which enzymes in this biosynthetic pathway are essential in the actual pathogens and to characterize them.
The fifth enzyme of this pathway, encoded by ispF, is 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF). A two-step recombination strategy was used to construct ispF deletion mutants in M. tuberculosis but only wild-type double crossover strains were isolated. The chromosomal copy could be deleted when a second functional copy was provided on an integrating plasmid, demonstrating that ispF is an essential gene under the conditions tested thereby confirming its potential as a drug target. We attempted structure determination of the M. tuberculosis enzyme (MtIspF), but failed to obtain crystals. We instead analyzed the orthologue M. smegmatis IspF (MsIspF), sharing 73% amino acid sequence identity, at 2.2 Å resolution. The high level of sequence conservation is particularly pronounced in and around the active site. MsIspF is a trimer with a hydrophobic cavity at its center that contains density consistent with diphosphate-containing isoprenoids. The active site, created by two subunits, comprises a rigid CDP-Zn2+ binding pocket with a flexible loop to position the 2C-methyl-D-erythritol moiety of substrate. Sequence-structure comparisons indicate that the active site and interactions with ligands are highly conserved.
Our study genetically validates MtIspF as a therapeutic target and provides a model system for structure-based ligand design.
PMCID: PMC2151065  PMID: 17956607
5.  Structure, substrate recognition and reactivity of Leishmania major mevalonate kinase 
Isoprenoid precursor synthesis via the mevalonate route in humans and pathogenic trypanosomatids is an important metabolic pathway. There is however, only limited information available on the structure and reactivity of the component enzymes in trypanosomatids. Since isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for trypanosomatid viability and may provide new targets for therapeutic intervention it is important to characterize the pathway components.
Putative mevalonate kinase encoding genes from Leishmania major (LmMK) and Trypanosoma brucei (TbMK) have been cloned, over-expressed in and proteins isolated from procyclic-form T. brucei. A highly sensitive radioactive assay was developed and shows ATP-dependent phosphorylation of mevalonate. Apo and (R)-mevalonate bound crystal structures of LmMK, from a bacterial expression system, have been determined to high resolution providing, for the first time, information concerning binding of mevalonate to an MK. The mevalonate binds in a deep cavity lined by highly conserved residues. His25 is key for binding and for discrimination of (R)- over (S)-mevalonate, with the main chain amide interacting with the C3 hydroxyl group of (R)-mevalonate, and the side chain contributing, together with Val202 and Thr283, to the construction of a hydrophobic binding site for the C3 methyl substituent. The C5 hydroxyl, where phosphorylation occurs, points towards catalytic residues, Lys18 and Asp155. The activity of LmMK was significantly reduced compared to MK from other species and we were unable to obtain ATP-binding data. Comparisons with the rat MK:ATP complex were used to investigate how this substrate might bind. In LmMK, helix α2 and the preceding polypeptide adopt a conformation, not seen in related kinase structures, impeding access to the nucleotide triphosphate binding site suggesting that a conformational rearrangement is required to allow ATP binding.
Our new structural information, consistent with data on homologous enzymes allows a detailed description of how mevalonate is recognized and positioned for catalysis in MK. The mevalonate-binding site is highly conserved yet the ATP-binding site is structurally distinct in LmMK. We are unable to provide a definitive explanation for the low activity of recombinant protein isolated from a bacterial expression system compared to material isolated from procyclic-form Trypanosoma brucei.
PMCID: PMC1851959  PMID: 17397541

Results 1-5 (5)