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1.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic studies of human voltage-dependent anion channel isoform I (HVDAC1) 
The human voltage-dependent anion channel was overproduced in bacteria and refolded with the help of detergents. Extensive screening of crystallization conditions resulted in the first crystals to be obtained of this voltage-dependent anion-channel type. The crystals diffracted to a resolution of 3.6 Å.
The major channel by which metabolites can pass through the outer mitochondrial membrane is formed by the voltage-dependent anion-channel (VDAC) family. Functionally, VDAC is involved in the limited exchange of ATP, ADP and small hydrophilic molecules across the outer membrane. Moreover, there is compelling evidence that VDAC isoforms in mammals may act in the cross-talk between mitochondria and the cytoplasm by direct interaction with enzymes involved in energy metabolism and proteins involved in mitochondrial-induced apoptosis. To obtain a high-resolution structure of this channel, human VDAC protein isoform I was overproduced in Escherichia coli. After refolding and testing the correct fold using circular dichroism, a subsequent broad-range screening in different detergents resulted in a variety of crystals which diffracted to 3.5 Å resolution. The crystal lattice belongs to the trigonal space group P321, with unit-cell parameters a = 78.9, c = 165.7 Å and one monomer in the asymmetric unit.
doi:10.1107/S174430910801676X
PMCID: PMC2443964  PMID: 18607100
voltage-dependent anion channel; porins
2.  Identification of COUP-TFII Orphan Nuclear Receptor as a Retinoic Acid–Activated Receptor 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(9):e227.
The chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter-transcription factors (COUP-TFI and II) make up the most conserved subfamily of nuclear receptors that play key roles in angiogenesis, neuronal development, organogenesis, cell fate determination, and metabolic homeostasis. Although the biological functions of COUP-TFs have been studied extensively, little is known of their structural features or aspects of ligand regulation. Here we report the ligand-free 1.48 Å crystal structure of the human COUP-TFII ligand-binding domain. The structure reveals an autorepressed conformation of the receptor, where helix α10 is bent into the ligand-binding pocket and the activation function-2 helix is folded into the cofactor binding site, thus preventing the recruitment of coactivators. In contrast, in multiple cell lines, COUP-TFII exhibits constitutive transcriptional activity, which can be further potentiated by nuclear receptor coactivators. Mutations designed to disrupt cofactor binding, dimerization, and ligand binding, substantially reduce the COUP-TFII transcriptional activity. Importantly, retinoid acids are able to promote COUP-TFII to recruit coactivators and activate a COUP-TF reporter construct. Although the concentration needed is higher than the physiological levels of retinoic acids, these findings demonstrate that COUP-TFII is a ligand-regulated nuclear receptor, in which ligands activate the receptor by releasing it from the autorepressed conformation.
Author Summary
Unlike other classes of receptors, nuclear receptors can bind directly to DNA and act as transcription factors, playing key roles in embryonic development and cellular metabolism. Most nuclear receptors are activated by signal-triggering molecules (ligands) and can regulate their activity by recruiting coactivator proteins. However, the ligands are unknown for a subset of “orphan” nuclear receptors, including the chicken ovalbumin promoter-transcription factors (COUP-TFI and II, and EAR2). COUP-TFs are the most conserved nuclear receptors, with roles in angiogenesis, neuronal development, organogenesis, and metabolic homeostasis. Here we demonstrate that COUP-TFII is a ligand-regulated nuclear receptor that can be activated by unphysiological micromolar concentrations of retinoic acids. We determined the structure of the ligand-free ligand-binding domain of the human COUP-TFII, revealing the autorepressed conformation of the receptor, where helix α10 is bent into the ligand-binding pocket and the activation function-2 helix is folded into the cofactor binding site, thus preventing the recruitment of coactivators. These results suggest a mechanism where ligands activate COUP-TFII by releasing the receptor from the autorepressed conformation. The identification of COUP-TFII as a low-affinity retinoic acid receptor suggests ways of searching for the endogenous ligands that may ultimately link retinoic acid and COUP-TF signaling pathways.
Structural and functional studies reveal that the orphan nuclear receptor COUP-TFII is a low-affinity receptor for retinoic acids. paving the way to finding the endogenous ligands that may ultimately link retinoic acid and COUP-TF signaling pathways.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060227
PMCID: PMC2535662  PMID: 18798693

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