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1.  Structure of the SCAN Domain of Human Paternally Expressed Gene 3 Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69538.
Human paternally expressed gene 3 protein (PEG3) is a large multi-domain entity with diverse biological functions, including acting as a transcription factor. PEG3 contains twelve Cys2-His2 type zinc finger domains, extended regions of predicted disorder and at the N-terminus a SCAN domain. PEG3 has been identified as partner of the E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase Siah1, an association we sought to investigate. An efficient bacterial recombinant expression system of the human PEG3-SCAN domain was prepared and crystals appeared spontaneously when the protein was being concentrated after purification. The structure was determined at 1.95 Å resolution and reveals a polypeptide fold of five helices in an extended configuration. An extensive dimerization interface, using almost a quarter of the solvent accessible surface, and key salt bridge interactions explain the stability of the dimer. Comparison with other SCAN domains reveals a high degree of conservation involving residues that contribute to the dimer interface. The PEG3-SCAN domain appears to constitute an assembly block, enabling PEG3 homo- or heterodimerization to control gene expression in a combinatorial fashion.
PMCID: PMC3720700  PMID: 23936039
2.  IspE Inhibitors Identified by a Combination of In Silico and In Vitro High-Throughput Screening 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35792.
CDP-ME kinase (IspE) contributes to the non-mevalonate or deoxy-xylulose phosphate (DOXP) pathway for isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis found in many species of bacteria and apicomplexan parasites. IspE has been shown to be essential by genetic methods and since it is absent from humans it constitutes a promising target for antimicrobial drug development. Using in silico screening directed against the substrate binding site and in vitro high-throughput screening directed against both, the substrate and co-factor binding sites, non-substrate-like IspE inhibitors have been discovered and structure-activity relationships were derived. The best inhibitors in each series have high ligand efficiencies and favourable physico-chemical properties rendering them promising starting points for drug discovery. Putative binding modes of the ligands were suggested which are consistent with established structure-activity relationships. The applied screening methods were complementary in discovering hit compounds, and a comparison of both approaches highlights their strengths and weaknesses. It is noteworthy that compounds identified by virtual screening methods provided the controls for the biochemical screens.
PMCID: PMC3340893  PMID: 22563402
3.  Assessment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa N5,N10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase - Cyclohydrolase as a Potential Antibacterial Drug Target 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35973.
The bifunctional enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase – cyclohydrolase (FolD) is identified as a potential drug target in Gram-negative bacteria, in particular the troublesome Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In order to provide a comprehensive and realistic assessment of the potential of this target for drug discovery we generated a highly efficient recombinant protein production system and purification protocol, characterized the enzyme, carried out screening of two commercial compound libraries by differential scanning fluorimetry, developed a high-throughput enzyme assay and prosecuted a screening campaign against almost 80,000 compounds. The crystal structure of P. aeruginosa FolD was determined at 2.2 Å resolution and provided a template for an assessment of druggability and for modelling of ligand complexes as well as for comparisons with the human enzyme. New FolD inhibitors were identified and characterized but the weak levels of enzyme inhibition suggest that these compounds are not optimal starting points for future development. Furthermore, the close similarity of the bacterial and human enzyme structures suggest that selective inhibition might be difficult to attain. In conclusion, although the preliminary biological data indicates that FolD represents a valuable target for the development of new antibacterial drugs, indeed spurred us to investigate it, our screening results and structural data suggest that this would be a difficult enzyme to target with respect to developing the appropriate lead molecules required to underpin a serious drug discovery effort.
PMCID: PMC3338484  PMID: 22558288
4.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa 4-Amino-4-Deoxychorismate Lyase: Spatial Conservation of an Active Site Tyrosine and Classification of Two Types of Enzyme 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24158.
4-Amino-4-deoxychorismate lyase (PabC) catalyzes the formation of 4-aminobenzoate, and release of pyruvate, during folate biosynthesis. This is an essential activity for the growth of Gram-negative bacteria, including important pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A high-resolution (1.75 Å) crystal structure of PabC from P. aeruginosa has been determined, and sequence-structure comparisons with orthologous structures are reported. Residues around the pyridoxal 5′-phosphate cofactor are highly conserved adding support to aspects of a mechanism generic for enzymes carrying that cofactor. However, we suggest that PabC can be classified into two groups depending upon whether an active site and structurally conserved tyrosine is provided from the polypeptide that mainly forms an active site or from the partner subunit in the dimeric assembly. We considered that the conserved tyrosine might indicate a direct role in catalysis: that of providing a proton to reduce the olefin moiety of substrate as pyruvate is released. A threonine had previously been suggested to fulfill such a role prior to our observation of the structurally conserved tyrosine. We have been unable to elucidate an experimentally determined structure of PabC in complex with ligands to inform on mechanism and substrate specificity. Therefore we constructed a computational model of the catalytic intermediate docked into the enzyme active site. The model suggests that the conserved tyrosine helps to create a hydrophobic wall on one side of the active site that provides important interactions to bind the catalytic intermediate. However, this residue does not appear to participate in interactions with the C atom that undergoes an sp2 to sp3 conversion as pyruvate is produced. The model and our comparisons rather support the hypothesis that an active site threonine hydroxyl contributes a proton used in the reduction of the substrate methylene to pyruvate methyl in the final stage of the mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3174152  PMID: 21935381

Results 1-4 (4)