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1.  The role of Co2+ in the crystallization of human SENP1 and comments on the limitations of automated refinement protocols 
Crystallographic analysis of the human SENP1 catalytic domain identified a well ordered Co2+ ion that contributes to intermolecular interactions relevant to crystallization of the enzyme. The presence of this ion was overlooked in previous studies.
Metal ions often stabilize intermolecular contacts between macromolecules, thereby promoting crystallization. When interpreting a medium-resolution electron-density map of the catalytic domain of human sentrin-specific protease 1 (SENP1), a strong feature indicative of an ordered divalent cation was noted. This was assigned as Co2+, an essential component of the crystallization mixture. The ion displays tetrahedral coordination by Glu430 and His640 from one molecule and the corresponding residues from a symmetry-related molecule. Analysis of the data derived from a previous structure of SENP1 suggested that Co2+ had been overlooked and re-refinement supported this conclusion. High-throughput automated re-refinement protocols also failed to mark the Co2+ position, supporting the requirement for the incorporation of as much information as possible to enhance the value of such protocols.
doi:10.1107/S1744309111005835
PMCID: PMC3080145  PMID: 21505236
cobalt; sentrin-specific protease 1; SUMO
2.  Isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis offers potential targets for drug discovery against diseases caused by apicomplexan parasites 
Current topics in medicinal chemistry  2011;11(16):2048-2059.
Two, simple, C5 compounds, dimethylally diphosphate and isopentenyl diphosphate, are the universal precursors of isoprenoids, a large family of natural products involved in numerous important biological processes. Two distinct biosynthetic pathways have evolved to supply these precursors. Humans use the mevalonate route whilst many species of bacteria including important pathogens, plant chloroplasts and apicomplexan parasites exploit the non-mevalonate pathway. The absence from humans, combined with genetic and chemical validation suggests that the non-mevalonate pathway holds the potential to support new drug discovery programmes targeting Gram-negative bacteria and the apicomplexan parasites responsible for causing serious human diseases, and also infections of veterinary importance. The non-mevalonate pathway relies on eight enzyme-catalyzed stages exploiting a range of cofactors and metal ions. A wealth of structural and mechanistic data, mainly derived from studies of bacterial enzymes, now exists for most components of the pathway and these will be described. Particular attention will be paid to how these data inform on the apicomplexan orthologues concentrating on the enzymes from Plasmodium spp.; these cause malaria, one the most important parasitic diseases in the world today.
PMCID: PMC3466564  PMID: 21619509
Antimicrobial drug discovery; isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis; malaria; structure-based inhibitor discovery; toxoplasmosis
3.  The structure of Serratia marcescens Lip, a membrane-bound component of the type VI secretion system 
The high-resolution crystal structure of S. marcescens Lip reveals a new member of the transthyretin family of proteins. Lip, a core component of the type VI secretion apparatus, is localized to the outer membrane and is positioned to interact with other proteins forming this complex system.
Lip is a membrane-bound lipoprotein and a core component of the type VI secretion system found in Gram-negative bacteria. The structure of a Lip construct (residues 29–176) from Serratia marcescens (SmLip) has been determined at 1.92 Å resolution. Experimental phases were derived using a single-wavelength anomalous dispersion approach on a sample cocrystallized with iodide. The membrane localization of the native protein was confirmed. The structure is that of the globular domain lacking only the lipoprotein signal peptide and the lipidated N-terminus of the mature protein. The protein fold is dominated by an eight-stranded β-sandwich and identifies SmLip as a new member of the transthyretin family of proteins. Transthyretin and the only other member of the family fold, 5-hydroxyisourate hydrolase, form homo­tetramers important for their function. The asymmetric unit of SmLip is a tetramer with 222 symmetry, but the assembly is distinct from that previously noted for the transthyretin protein family. However, structural comparisons and bacterial two-hybrid data suggest that the SmLip tetramer is not relevant to its role as a core component of the type VI secretion system, but rather reflects a propensity for SmLip to participate in protein–protein interactions. A relatively low level of sequence conservation amongst Lip homologues is noted and is restricted to parts of the structure that might be involved in interactions with physiological partners.
doi:10.1107/S0907444911046300
PMCID: PMC3225178  PMID: 22120744
β-sandwich; Gram-negative pathogens; lipoproteins; protein secretion; transthyretin; virulence
4.  Crystal structures of Burkholderia cenocepacia dihydropteroate synthase in the apo-form and complexed with the product 7,8-dihydropteroate 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6807-11-21
PMCID: PMC3098144  PMID: 21554707
5.  Exploiting the high-resolution crystal structure of Staphylococcus aureus MenH to gain insight into enzyme activity 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6807-11-19
PMCID: PMC3097144  PMID: 21513522
6.  Crystal Structures of Penicillin-Binding Protein 3 from Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Comparison of Native and Antibiotic-Bound Forms 
Journal of Molecular Biology  2011;405(1-3):173-184.
We report the first crystal structures of a penicillin-binding protein (PBP), PBP3, from Pseudomonas aeruginosa in native form and covalently linked to two important β-lactam antibiotics, carbenicillin and ceftazidime. Overall, the structures of apo and acyl complexes are very similar; however, variations in the orientation of the amino-terminal membrane-proximal domain relative to that of the carboxy-terminal transpeptidase domain indicate interdomain flexibility. Binding of either carbenicillin or ceftazidime to purified PBP3 increases the thermostability of the enzyme significantly and is associated with local conformational changes, which lead to a narrowing of the substrate-binding cleft. The orientations of the two β-lactams in the active site and the key interactions formed between the ligands and PBP3 are similar despite differences in the two drugs, indicating a degree of flexibility in the binding site. The conserved binding mode of β-lactam-based inhibitors appears to extend to other PBPs, as suggested by a comparison of the PBP3/ceftazidime complex and the Escherichia coli PBP1b/ceftoxamine complex. Since P. aeruginosa is an important human pathogen, the structural data reveal the mode of action of the frontline antibiotic ceftazidime at the molecular level. Improved drugs to combat infections by P. aeruginosa and related Gram-negative bacteria are sought and our study provides templates to assist that process and allows us to discuss new ways of inhibiting PBPs.
doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2010.10.024
PMCID: PMC3025346  PMID: 20974151
PBP, penicillin-binding protein; HMM, high molecular mass; LMM, low molecular mass; PDB, Protein Data Bank; ESRF, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility; anti-bacterial; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; carbenicillin; ceftazidime; enzyme structure
7.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024158
PMCID: PMC3174152  PMID: 21935381

Results 1-7 (7)