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1.  Structural Insights into the Regulatory Mechanism of the Response Regulator RocR from Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Cyclic Di-GMP Signaling 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(18):4837-4846.
The nucleotide messenger cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) plays a central role in the regulation of motility, virulence, and biofilm formation in many pathogenic bacteria. EAL domain-containing phosphodiesterases are the major signaling proteins responsible for the degradation of c-di-GMP and maintenance of its cellular level. We determined the crystal structure of a single mutant (R286W) of the response regulator RocR from Pseudomonas aeruginosa to show that RocR exhibits a highly unusual tetrameric structure arranged around a single dyad, with the four subunits adopting two distinctly different conformations. Subunits A and B adopt a conformation with the REC domain located above the c-di-GMP binding pocket, whereas subunits C and D adopt an open conformation with the REC domain swung to the side of the EAL domain. Remarkably, the access to the substrate-binding pockets of the EAL domains of the open subunits C and D are blocked in trans by the REC domains of subunits A and B, indicating that only two of the four active sites are engaged in the degradation of c-di-GMP. In conjunction with biochemical and biophysical data, we propose that the structural changes within the REC domains triggered by the phosphorylation are transmitted to the EAL domain active sites through a pathway that traverses the dimerization interfaces composed of a conserved regulatory loop and the neighboring motifs. This exquisite mechanism reinforces the crucial role of the regulatory loop and suggests that similar regulatory mechanisms may be operational in many EAL domain proteins, considering the preservation of the dimerization interface and the spatial arrangement of the regulatory domains.
doi:10.1128/JB.00560-12
PMCID: PMC3430337  PMID: 22753070
2.  Exploiting structure similarity in refinement: automated NCS and target-structure restraints in BUSTER  
Local structural similarity restraints (LSSR) provide a novel method for exploiting NCS or structural similarity to an external target structure. Two examples are given where BUSTER re-refinement of PDB entries with LSSR produces marked improvements, enabling further structural features to be modelled.
Maximum-likelihood X-ray macromolecular structure refinement in BUSTER has been extended with restraints facilitating the exploitation of structural similarity. The similarity can be between two or more chains within the structure being refined, thus favouring NCS, or to a distinct ‘target’ structure that remains fixed during refinement. The local structural similarity restraints (LSSR) approach considers all distances less than 5.5 Å between pairs of atoms in the chain to be restrained. For each, the difference from the distance between the corresponding atoms in the related chain is found. LSSR applies a restraint penalty on each difference. A functional form that reaches a plateau for large differences is used to avoid the restraints distorting parts of the structure that are not similar. Because LSSR are local, there is no need to separate out domains. Some restraint pruning is still necessary, but this has been automated. LSSR have been available to academic users of BUSTER since 2009 with the easy-to-use -autoncs and -­target target.pdb options. The use of LSSR is illustrated in the re-refinement of PDB entries 5rnt, where -target enables the correct ligand-binding structure to be found, and 1osg, where -autoncs contributes to the location of an additional copy of the cyclic peptide ligand.
doi:10.1107/S0907444911056058
PMCID: PMC3322596  PMID: 22505257
BUSTER; NCS restraints; target-structure restraints; local structural similarity restraints
3.  Data processing and analysis with the autoPROC toolbox 
Typical topics and problems encountered during data processing of diffraction experiments are discussed and the tools provided in the autoPROC software are described.
A typical diffraction experiment will generate many images and data sets from different crystals in a very short time. This creates a challenge for the high-throughput operation of modern synchrotron beamlines as well as for the subsequent data processing. Novice users in particular may feel overwhelmed by the tables, plots and numbers that the different data-processing programs and software packages present to them. Here, some of the more common problems that a user has to deal with when processing a set of images that will finally make up a processed data set are shown, concentrating on difficulties that may often show up during the first steps along the path of turning the experiment (i.e. data collection) into a model (i.e. interpreted electron density). Difficulties such as unexpected crystal forms, issues in crystal handling and suboptimal choices of data-collection strategies can often be dealt with, or at least diagnosed, by analysing specific data characteristics during processing. In the end, one wants to distinguish problems over which one has no immediate control once the experiment is finished from problems that can be remedied a posteriori. A new software package, autoPROC, is also presented that combines third-party processing programs with new tools and an automated workflow script that is intended to provide users with both guidance and insight into the offline processing of data affected by the difficulties mentioned above, with particular emphasis on the automated treatment of multi-sweep data sets collected on multi-axis goniostats.
doi:10.1107/S0907444911007773
PMCID: PMC3069744  PMID: 21460447
autoPROC; data processing
4.  The N-Terminal Domain of the Arenavirus L Protein Is an RNA Endonuclease Essential in mRNA Transcription 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(9):e1001038.
Arenaviridae synthesize viral mRNAs using short capped primers presumably acquired from cellular transcripts by a ‘cap-snatching’ mechanism. Here, we report the crystal structure and functional characterization of the N-terminal 196 residues (NL1) of the L protein from the prototypic arenavirus: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. The NL1 domain is able to bind and cleave RNA. The 2.13 Å resolution crystal structure of NL1 reveals a type II endonuclease α/β architecture similar to the N-terminal end of the influenza virus PA protein. Superimposition of both structures, mutagenesis and reverse genetics studies reveal a unique spatial arrangement of key active site residues related to the PD…(D/E)XK type II endonuclease signature sequence. We show that this endonuclease domain is conserved and active across the virus families Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae and Orthomyxoviridae and propose that the arenavirus NL1 domain is the Arenaviridae cap-snatching endonuclease.
Author Summary
The Arenaviridae virus family includes several life-threatening human pathogens that cause meningitis or hemorrhagic fever. These RNA viruses replicate and transcribe their genome using an RNA synthesis machinery for which no structural data currently exist. They synthesize viral mRNAs using short capped primers presumably acquired from cellular transcripts by a ‘cap-snatching’ mechanism thought to involve the large L protein, which carries RNA-dependent RNA polymerase signature sequences. Here, we report the crystal structure and functional characterization of an isolated N-terminal domain of the L protein (NL1) from the prototypic arenavirus: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. The NL1 domain is able to bind and cleave RNA. The 2.13 Å resolution crystal structure of NL1 reveals a type II endonuclease α/β architecture similar to the N-terminal end of the influenza virus PA protein. Superimposition of both structures and mutagenesis studies reveal a unique spatial arrangement of key active site residues related to the PD…(D/E)XK type II endonuclease signature sequence. Reverse genetic studies show that mutation of active site residues selectively abolish transcription, not replication. We show that this endonuclease domain is conserved and active across the virus families: Arenaviridae, Bunyaviridae and Orthomyxoviridae and propose that the arenavirus NL1 domain is the Arenaviridae cap-snatching endonuclease.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001038
PMCID: PMC2940758  PMID: 20862324

Results 1-4 (4)