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1.  EssC: domain structures inform on the elusive translocation channel in the Type VII secretion system 
Biochemical Journal  2016;473(13):1941-1952.
Structural dissection of EssC, a membrane-bound component of the bacterial Type VII secretion system, reveals two β-sandwich domains at the N-terminus and two ATPase domains at the C-terminus. A structure for the potential pore of the secretion system is proposed.
The membrane-bound protein EssC is an integral component of the bacterial Type VII secretion system (T7SS), which is a determinant of virulence in important Gram-positive pathogens. The protein is predicted to consist of an intracellular repeat of forkhead-associated (FHA) domains at the N-terminus, two transmembrane helices and three P-loop-containing ATPase-type domains, D1–D3, forming the C-terminal intracellular segment. We present crystal structures of the N-terminal FHA domains (EssC-N) and a C-terminal fragment EssC-C from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans, encompassing two of the ATPase-type modules, D2 and D3. Module D2 binds ATP with high affinity whereas D3 does not. The EssC-N and EssC-C constructs are monomeric in solution, but the full-length recombinant protein, with a molecular mass of approximately 169 kDa, forms a multimer of approximately 1 MDa. The observation of protomer contacts in the crystal structure of EssC-C together with similarity to the DNA translocase FtsK, suggests a model for a hexameric EssC assembly. Such an observation potentially identifies the key, and to date elusive, component of pore formation required for secretion by this recently discovered secretion system. The juxtaposition of the FHA domains suggests potential for interacting with other components of the secretion system. The structural data were used to guide an analysis of which domains are required for the T7SS machine to function in pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus. The extreme C-terminal ATPase domain appears to be essential for EssC activity as a key part of the T7SS, whereas D2 and FHA domains are required for the production of a stable and functional protein.
PMCID: PMC4925161  PMID: 27130157
ATPase; ESX-1; forkhead-associated domain; membrane-bound protein; P-loop-containing domain; secretion system
2.  Structures of bacterial kynurenine formamidase reveal a crowded binuclear zinc catalytic site primed to generate a potent nucleophile 
Biochemical Journal  2014;462(Pt 3):581-589.
Tryptophan is an important precursor for chemical entities that ultimately support the biosynthesis of key metabolites. The second stage of tryptophan catabolism is catalysed by kynurenine formamidase, an enzyme that is different between eukaryotes and prokaryotes. In the present study, we characterize the catalytic properties and present the crystal structures of three bacterial kynurenine formamidases. The structures reveal a new amidase protein fold, a highly organized and distinctive binuclear Zn2+ catalytic centre in a confined, hydrophobic and relatively rigid active site. The structure of a complex with 2-aminoacetophenone delineates aspects of molecular recognition extending to the observation that the substrate itself may be conformationally restricted to assist binding in the confined space of the active site and for subsequent processing. The cations occupy a crowded environment, and, unlike most Zn2+-dependent enzymes, there is little scope to increase co-ordination number during catalysis. We propose that the presence of a bridging water/hydroxide ligand in conjunction with the placement of an active site histidine supports a distinctive amidation mechanism.
Catalytic properties and structures of three bacterial kynurenine formamidases are presented. The dimeric enzyme possesses an uncommon fold and crowded binuclear zinc active site. Fluorescence and structure of a complex inform on molecular recognition and a plausible mechanism is proposed.
PMCID: PMC4243253  PMID: 24942958
amidase; binuclear metal site; kynurenine formamidase; tryptophan catabolism; X-ray crystallography; zinc enzyme; ACMSD, α-amino-β-carboxymuconate-ε-semialdehyde decarboxylase; BaKynB, Bacillus anthracis KynB; BcKynB, Burkholderia cenocepacia KynB; CV, column volume; PaKynB, Pseudomonas aeruginosa KynB; KFase, kynurenine formamidase; NCS, non-crystallographic symmetry; NFK, N-formyl-L-kynurenine; SEC, size-exclusion chromatography; TEV, tobacco etch virus; XANES, X-ray absorption near-edge structure
3.  How the structure of the large subunit controls function in an oxygen-tolerant [NiFe]-hydrogenase 
Biochemical Journal  2014;458(Pt 3):449-458.
Salmonella enterica is an opportunistic pathogen that produces a [NiFe]-hydrogenase under aerobic conditions. In the present study, genetic engineering approaches were used to facilitate isolation of this enzyme, termed Hyd-5. The crystal structure was determined to a resolution of 3.2 Å and the hydro-genase was observed to comprise associated large and small subunits. The structure indicated that His229 from the large subunit was close to the proximal [4Fe–3S] cluster in the small subunit. In addition, His229 was observed to lie close to a buried glutamic acid (Glu73), which is conserved in oxygen-tolerant hydrogenases. His229 and Glu73 of the Hyd-5 large subunit were found to be important in both hydrogen oxidation activity and the oxygen-tolerance mechanism. Substitution of His229 or Glu73 with alanine led to a loss in the ability of Hyd-5 to oxidize hydrogen in air. Furthermore, the H229A variant was found to have lost the overpotential requirement for activity that is always observed with oxygen-tolerant [NiFe]-hydrogenases. It is possible that His229 has a role in stabilizing the super-oxidized form of the proximal cluster in the presence of oxygen, and it is proposed that Glu73could play a supporting role in fine-tuning the chemistry of His229 to enable this function.
A hydrogenase consists of two subunits: a large and a small subunit. In the present study, amino acids from the large subunit were found to influence a cofactor in the small subunit, such that they help to confer oxygen-tolerance to the enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3940037  PMID: 24428762
hydrogen metabolism; iron–sulphur cluster [NiFe]-hydrogenase; oxygen-tolerance; protein film electrochemistry (PFE); Salmonella enterica; BV, Benzyl Viologen; IMAC, immobilized metal-ion-affinity chromatography; PFE, protein film electrochemistry; scc, standard cubic cm; SHE, standard H2 electrode; TM, transmembrane domain
4.  Characterization of Staphylococcus aureus EssB, an integral membrane component of the Type VII secretion system: atomic resolution crystal structure of the cytoplasmic segment 
Biochemical Journal  2012;449(Pt 2):469-477.
The Type VII protein translocation/secretion system, unique to Gram-positive bacteria, is a key virulence determinant in Staphylococcus aureus. We aim to characterize the architecture of this secretion machinery and now describe the present study of S. aureus EssB, a 52 kDa bitopic membrane protein essential for secretion of the ESAT-6 (early secretory antigenic target of 6 kDa) family of proteins, the prototypic substrate of Type VII secretion. Full-length EssB was heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, solubilized from the bacterial membrane, purified to homogeneity and shown to be dimeric. A C-terminal truncation, EssB∆C, and two soluble fragments termed EssB-N and EssB-C, predicted to occur on either side of the cytoplasmic membrane, have been successfully purified in a recombinant form, characterized and, together with the full-length protein, used in crystallization trials. EssB-N, the 25 kDa N-terminal cytoplasmic fragment, gave well-ordered crystals and we report the structure, determined by SAD (single-wavelength anomalous diffraction) targeting an SeMet (selenomethionine) derivative, refined to atomic (1.05 Å; 1 Å=0.1 nm) resolution. EssB-N is dimeric in solution, but crystallizes as a monomer and displays a fold comprised of two globular domains separated by a cleft. The structure is related to that of serine/threonine protein kinases and the present study identifies that the Type VII secretion system exploits and re-uses a stable modular entity and fold that has evolved to participate in protein–protein interactions in a similar fashion to the catalytically inert pseudokinases.
PMCID: PMC3526858  PMID: 23098276
early secretory antigenic target of 6 kDa system 1 (ESX-1); Gram-positive bacterium; protein kinase; protein secretion; pseudokinase; X-ray crystallography; BAP, biotin-acceptor peptide; BCG, Bacille Calmette–Guérin; BN-PAGE, Blue native PAGE; CV, column volume; DDM, dodecyl maltoside; DOPC, 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine; DTT, dithiothreitol; ESAT-6, early secreted antigenic target of 6 kDa; ESI–Q–TOF-MS, electrospray ionization–quadrupole–time-of-flight MS; ESX-1, ESAT-6 system 1; ess, ESX-1 secretion system; IPTG, isopropyl-β-D-thiogalactopyranoside; LB, Luria–Bertani; MALDI–TOF-MS, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization–time-of-flight MS; MWCO, molecular-mass cut-off; PEG3350, poly(ethylene glycol) 3350; rmsd, root-mean-square deviation; SAD, single-wavelength anomalous diffraction; SeMet, selenomethionine; SPR, surface plasmon resonance; TEV, tobacco etch virus; T7SS, Type VII secretion system
5.  Biochemical characterization of the initial steps of the Kennedy pathway in Trypanosoma brucei: the ethanolamine and choline kinases 
Biochemical Journal  2008;415(Pt 1):135-144.
Ethanolamine and choline are major components of the trypanosome membrane phospholipids, in the form of GPEtn (glycerophosphoethanolamine) and GPCho (glycerophosphocholine). Ethanolamine is also found as an integral component of the GPI (glycosylphosphatidylinositol) anchor that is required for membrane attachment of cell-surface proteins, most notably the variant-surface glycoproteins. The de novo synthesis of GPEtn and GPCho starts with the generation of phosphoethanolamine and phosphocholine by ethanolamine and choline kinases via the Kennedy pathway. Database mining revealed two putative C/EKs (choline/ethanolamine kinases) in the Trypanosoma brucei genome, which were cloned, overexpressed, purified and characterized. TbEK1 (T. brucei ethanolamine kinase 1) was shown to be catalytically active as an ethanolamine-specific kinase, i.e. it had no choline kinase activity. The Km values for ethanolamine and ATP were found to be 18.4±0.9 and 219±29 μM respectively. TbC/EK2 (T. brucei choline/ethanolamine kinase 2), on the other hand, was found to be able to phosphorylate both ethanolamine and choline, even though choline was the preferred substrate, with a Km 80 times lower than that of ethanolamine. The Km values for choline, ethanolamine and ATP were 31.4±2.6 μM, 2.56±0.31 mM and 20.6±1.96 μM respectively. Further substrate specificity analysis revealed that both TbEK1 and TbC/EK2 were able to tolerate various modifications at the amino group, with the exception of a quaternary amine for TbEK1 (choline) and a primary amine for TbC/EK2 (ethanolamine). Both enzymes recognized analogues with substituents on C-2, but substitutions on C-1 and elongations of the carbon chain were not well tolerated.
PMCID: PMC2552378  PMID: 18489261
choline kinase; ethanolamine kinase; Kennedy pathway; Trypanosoma brucei; C/EK, choline/ethanolamine kinase; EK, ethanolamine kinase; GPCho, glycerophosphocholine; GPEtn, glycerophosphoethanolamine; GPI, glycosylphosphatidylinositol; GPSer, glycerophosphoserine; HPTLC, high-performance TLC; LB, Luria–Bertani; MALDI, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization; ORF, open reading frame; PtdCho, phosphotidylcholine; PtdEtn, phosphatidylethanolamine; RT, reverse transcription; Tb, Trypanosome brucei; TEV, tobacco etch virus; TOF, time-of-flight; UTR, untranslated region; VSG, variant-surface glycoprotein

Results 1-5 (5)