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1.  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.
PMCID: PMC3322596  PMID: 22505257
BUSTER; NCS restraints; target-structure restraints; local structural similarity restraints
2.  The SARS-Unique Domain (SUD) of SARS Coronavirus Contains Two Macrodomains That Bind G-Quadruplexes 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(5):e1000428.
Since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the three-dimensional structures of several of the replicase/transcriptase components of SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the non-structural proteins (Nsps), have been determined. However, within the large Nsp3 (1922 amino-acid residues), the structure and function of the so-called SARS-unique domain (SUD) have remained elusive. SUD occurs only in SARS-CoV and the highly related viruses found in certain bats, but is absent from all other coronaviruses. Therefore, it has been speculated that it may be involved in the extreme pathogenicity of SARS-CoV, compared to other coronaviruses, most of which cause only mild infections in humans. In order to help elucidate the function of the SUD, we have determined crystal structures of fragment 389–652 (“SUDcore”) of Nsp3, which comprises 264 of the 338 residues of the domain. Both the monoclinic and triclinic crystal forms (2.2 and 2.8 Å resolution, respectively) revealed that SUDcore forms a homodimer. Each monomer consists of two subdomains, SUD-N and SUD-M, with a macrodomain fold similar to the SARS-CoV X-domain. However, in contrast to the latter, SUD fails to bind ADP-ribose, as determined by zone-interference gel electrophoresis. Instead, the entire SUDcore as well as its individual subdomains interact with oligonucleotides known to form G-quadruplexes. This includes oligodeoxy- as well as oligoribonucleotides. Mutations of selected lysine residues on the surface of the SUD-N subdomain lead to reduction of G-quadruplex binding, whereas mutations in the SUD-M subdomain abolish it. As there is no evidence for Nsp3 entering the nucleus of the host cell, the SARS-CoV genomic RNA or host-cell mRNA containing long G-stretches may be targets of SUD. The SARS-CoV genome is devoid of G-stretches longer than 5–6 nucleotides, but more extended G-stretches are found in the 3′-nontranslated regions of mRNAs coding for certain host-cell proteins involved in apoptosis or signal transduction, and have been shown to bind to SUD in vitro. Therefore, SUD may be involved in controlling the host cell's response to the viral infection. Possible interference with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-like domains is also discussed.
Author Summary
The genome of the SARS coronavirus codes for 16 non-structural proteins that are involved in replicating this huge RNA (approximately 29 kilobases). The roles of many of these in replication (and/or transcription) are unknown. We attempt to derive conclusions concerning the possible functions of these proteins from their three-dimensional structures, which we determine by X-ray crystallography. Non-structural protein 3 contains at least seven different functional modules within its 1922-amino-acid polypeptide chain. One of these is the so-called SARS-unique domain, a stretch of about 338 residues that is completely absent from any other coronavirus. It may thus be responsible for the extraordinarily high pathogenicity of the SARS coronavirus, compared to other viruses of this family. We describe here the three-dimensional structure of the SARS-unique domain and show that it consists of two modules with a known fold, the so-called macrodomain. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these domains bind unusual nucleic-acid structures formed by consecutive guanosine nucleotides, where four strands of nucleic acid are forming a superhelix (so-called G-quadruplexes). SUD may be involved in binding to viral or host-cell RNA bearing this peculiar structure and thereby regulate viral replication or fight the immune response of the infected host cell.
PMCID: PMC2674928  PMID: 19436709

Results 1-2 (2)