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1.  Inhibition of d-xylose isomerase by polyols: atomic details by joint X-ray/neutron crystallography 
A joint X-ray/neutron structure of d-xylose isomerase in complex with the inhibitor sorbitol was determined at room temperature at an acidic pH of 5.9. Protonation of the O5 O atom of the sugar was directly observed in the nuclear density maps. Under acidic conditions sorbitol gains a water-mediated interaction with the enzyme active site, which may explain the increased potency of the inhibitor at low pH.
d-Xylose isomerase (XI) converts the aldo-sugars xylose and glucose to their keto analogs xylulose and fructose, but is strongly inhibited by the polyols xylitol and sorbitol, especially at acidic pH. In order to understand the atomic details of polyol binding to the XI active site, a 2.0 Å resolution room-temperature joint X-ray/neutron structure of XI in complex with Ni2+ cofactors and sorbitol inhibitor at pH 5.9 and a room-temperature X-ray structure of XI containing Mg2+ ions and xylitol at the physiological pH of 7.7 were obtained. The protonation of oxygen O5 of the inhibitor, which was found to be deprotonated and negatively charged in previous structures of XI complexed with linear glucose and xylulose, was directly observed. The Ni2+ ions occupying the catalytic metal site (M2) were found at two locations, while Mg2+ in M2 is very mobile and has a high B factor. Under acidic conditions sorbitol gains a water-mediated interaction that connects its O1 hydroxyl to Asp257. This contact is not found in structures at basic pH. The new interaction that is formed may improve the binding of the inhibitor, providing an explanation for the increased affinity of the polyols for XI at low pH.
PMCID: PMC3489103  PMID: 22948921
d-xylose isomerase; joint X-ray/neutron crystallography; protonation; hydration; metalloenzymes
2.  Low- and room-temperature X-ray structures of protein kinase A ternary complexes shed new light on its activity 
ATP bound in the active site of protein kinase A is readily hydrolysed to ADP and free phosphate by X-ray irradiation at room temperature. The phosphate ion observed in the active site causes a dramatic conformational change of the bound peptide inhibitor.
Post-translational protein phosphorylation by protein kinase A (PKA) is a ubiquitous signalling mechanism which regulates many cellular processes. A low-temperature X-ray structure of the ternary complex of the PKA catalytic subunit (PKAc) with ATP and a 20-residue peptidic inhibitor (IP20) at the physiological Mg2+ concentration of ∼0.5 mM (LT PKA–MgATP–IP20) revealed a single metal ion in the active site. The lack of a second metal in LT PKA–MgATP–IP20 renders the β- and γ-phosphoryl groups of ATP very flexible, with high thermal B factors. Thus, the second metal is crucial for tight positioning of the terminal phosphoryl group for transfer to a substrate, as demonstrated by comparison of the former structure with that of the LT PKA–Mg2ATP–IP20 complex obtained at high Mg2+ concentration. In addition to its kinase activity, PKAc is also able to slowly catalyze the hydrolysis of ATP using a water molecule as a substrate. It was found that ATP can be readily and completely hydrolyzed to ADP and a free phosphate ion in the crystals of the ternary complex PKA–Mg2ATP–IP20 by X-ray irradiation at room temperature. The cleavage of ATP may be aided by X-ray-generated free hydroxyl radicals, a very reactive chemical species, which move rapidly through the crystal at room temperature. The phosphate anion is clearly visible in the electron-density maps; it remains in the active site but slides about 2 Å from its position in ATP towards Ala21 of IP20, which mimics the phosphorylation site. The phosphate thus pushes the peptidic inhibitor away from the product ADP, while resulting in dramatic conformational changes of the terminal residues 24 and 25 of IP20. X-ray structures of PKAc in complex with the non­hydrolysable ATP analogue AMP-PNP at both room and low temperature demonstrated no temperature effects on the conformation and position of IP20.
PMCID: PMC3388813  PMID: 22751671
protein kinase A; ATPases; ATP hydrolysis
3.  High-resolution neutron crystallographic studies of the hydration of the coenzyme cob(II)alamin 
High-resolution crystallographic studies of the hydration of the coenzyme cob(II)alamin have provided hydrogen-bond parameters of unprecedented accuracy for a biomacromolecule.
The hydration of the coenzyme cob(II)alamin has been studied using high-resolution monochromatic neutron crystallographic data collected at room temperature to a resolution of 0.92 Å on the original D19 diffractometer with a prototype 4° × 64° detector at the high-flux reactor neutron source run by the Institute Laue–Langevin. The resulting structure provides hydrogen-bonding parameters for the hydration of biomacromolecules to unprecedented accuracy. These experimental parameters will be used to define more accurate force fields for biomacromolecular structure refinement. The presence of a hydrophobic bowl motif surrounded by flexible side chains with terminal functional groups may be significant for the efficient scavenging of ligands. The feasibility of extending the resolution of this structure to ultrahigh resolution was investigated by collecting time-of-flight neutron crystallographic data during commissioning of the TOPAZ diffracto­meter with a prototype array of 14 modular 2° × 21° detectors at the Spallation Neutron Source run by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
PMCID: PMC3107055  PMID: 21636899
cob(II)alamin; neutron crystallography; hydration; hydrogen bonding; high resolution; D19; TOPAZ
4.  Neutron structure and mechanistic studies of diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) 
The structure and mechanism of diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) have been studied using a variety of methods, including isotopic labelling, X-ray crystallography and neutron crystallography. The neutron structure of DFPase, mechanistic studies and subsequent rational design efforts are described.
Diisopropyl fluorophosphatase (DFPase) is a calcium-dependent phosphotriesterase that acts on a variety of highly toxic organophosphorus compounds that act as inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase. The mechanism of DFPase has been probed using a variety of methods, including isotopic labelling, which demonstrated the presence of a phosphoenzyme intermediate in the reaction mechanism. In order to further elucidate the mechanism of DFPase and to ascertain the protonation states of the residues and solvent molecules in the active site, the neutron structure of DFPase was solved at 2.2 Å resolution. The proposed nucleophile Asp229 is deprotonated, while the active-site solvent molecule W33 was identified as water and not hydroxide. These data support a mechanism involving direct nucleophilic attack by Asp229 on the substrate and rule out a mechanism involving metal-assisted water activation. These data also allowed for the re-engineering of DFPase through rational design to bind and productively orient the more toxic S P stereoisomers of the nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin, creating a modified enzyme with enhanced overall activity and significantly increased detoxification properties.
PMCID: PMC2967418  PMID: 21041927
neutron crystallography; DFPase; enzymes; rational design; phosphotriesterases; mechanism
5.  Protonation states of histidine and other key residues in deoxy normal human adult hemoglobin by neutron protein crystallography 
Using neutron diffraction analysis, the protonation states of 35 of 38 histidine residues were determined for the deoxy form of normal human adult hemoglobin. Distal and buried histidines may contribute to the increased affinity of the deoxy state for hydrogen ions and its decreased affinity for oxygen compared with the oxygenated form.
The protonation states of the histidine residues key to the function of deoxy (T-state) human hemoglobin have been investigated using neutron protein crystallography. These residues can reversibly bind protons, thereby regulating the oxygen affinity of hemoglobin. By examining the OMIT F o − F c and 2F o − F c neutron scattering maps, the protonation states of 35 of the 38 His residues were directly determined. The remaining three residues were found to be disordered. Surprisingly, seven pairs of His residues from equivalent α or β chains, αHis20, αHis50, αHis58, αHis89, βHis63, βHis143 and βHis146, have different protonation states. The proton­ation of distal His residues in the α1β1 heterodimer and the protonation of αHis103 in both subunits demonstrates that these residues may participate in buffering hydrogen ions and may influence the oxygen binding. The observed protonation states of His residues are compared with their ΔpK a between the deoxy and oxy states. Examination of inter-subunit interfaces provided evidence for interactions that are essential for the stability of the deoxy tertiary structure.
PMCID: PMC2967419  PMID: 21041929
human hemoglobin; deoxy form; protonation states; neutron protein crystallography; Bohr effect; histidine; deuterated water
6.  Joint X-ray and neutron refinement with phenix.refine  
The implementation of crystallographic structure-refinement procedures that include both X-ray and neutron data (separate or jointly) in the PHENIX system is described.
Approximately 85% of the structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank have been solved using X-ray crystallography, making it the leading method for three-dimensional structure determination of macromolecules. One of the limitations of the method is that the typical data quality (resolution) does not allow the direct determination of H-atom positions. Most hydrogen positions can be inferred from the positions of other atoms and therefore can be readily included into the structure model as a priori knowledge. However, this may not be the case in biologically active sites of macromolecules, where the presence and position of hydrogen is crucial to the enzymatic mechanism. This makes the application of neutron crystallo­graphy in biology particularly important, as H atoms can be clearly located in experimental neutron scattering density maps. Without exception, when a neutron structure is determined the corresponding X-ray structure is also known, making it possible to derive the complete structure using both data sets. Here, the implementation of crystallographic structure-refinement procedures that include both X-ray and neutron data (separate or jointly) in the PHENIX system is described.
PMCID: PMC2967420  PMID: 21041930
structure refinement; neutrons; joint X-ray and neutron refinement; PHENIX
7.  Macromolecular neutron crystallography at the Protein Crystallography Station (PCS) 
The Protein Crystallography Station user facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory not only offers open access to a high-performance neutron beamline, but also actively supports and develops new methods in protein expression, deuteration, purification, robotic crystallization and the synthesis of substrates with stable isotopes and provides assistance with data-reduction and structure-refinement software and comprehensive neutron structure analysis.
The Protein Crystallography Station (PCS) at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center is a high-performance beamline that forms the core of a capability for neutron macromolecular structure and function determination. Neutron diffraction is a powerful technique for locating H atoms and can therefore provide unique information about how biological macro­molecules function and interact with each other and smaller molecules. Users of the PCS have access to neutron beam time, deuteration facilities, the expression of proteins and the synthesis of substrates with stable isotopes and also support for data reduction and structure analysis. The beamline exploits the pulsed nature of spallation neutrons and a large electronic detector in order to collect wavelength-resolved Laue patterns using all available neutrons in the white beam. The PCS user facility is described and highlights from the user program are presented.
PMCID: PMC2967422  PMID: 21041938
Protein Crystallography Station; neutron macromolecular crystallography; spallation neutron sources; deuteration; user support
8.  Hemoglobin redux: combining neutron and X-ray diffraction with mass spectrometry to analyse the quaternary state of oxidized hemoglobins 
X-ray and neutron diffraction studies of cyanomethemoglobin are being used to evaluate the structural waters within the dimer–dimer interface involved in quaternary-state transitions.
Improvements in neutron diffraction instrumentation are affording the opportunity to re-examine the structures of vertebrate hemoglobins and to interrogate proton and solvent position changes between the different quaternary states of the protein. For hemoglobins of unknown primary sequence, structural studies of cyanomethemoglobin (CNmetHb) are being used to help to resolve sequence ambiguity in the mass spectra. These studies have also provided additional structural evidence for the involvement of oxidized hemoglobin in the process of erythrocyte senescence. X-ray crystal studies of Tibetan snow leopard CNmetHb have shown that this protein crystallizes in the B state, a structure with a more open dyad, which possibly has relevance to RBC band 3 protein binding and erythrocyte senescence. R-state equine CNmetHb crystal studies elaborate the solvent differences in the switch and hinge region compared with a human deoxyhemoglobin T-­state neutron structure. Lastly, comparison of histidine protonation between the T and R state should enumerate the Bohr-effect protons.
PMCID: PMC2967423  PMID: 21041946
equine hemoglobin; snow leopard hemoglobin; mass spectrometry; protein sequencing; time-of-flight neutron diffraction; R state; T state; B state; joint XN refinement; protonation state
9.  Using neutron protein crystallography to understand enzyme mechanisms 
A description is given of the results of neutron diffraction studies of the structures of four different metal-ion complexes of deuterated d-xylose isomerase.
A description is given of the results of neutron diffraction studies of the structures of four different metal-ion complexes of deuterated d-xylose isomerase. These represent four stages in the progression of the biochemical catalytic action of this enzyme. Analyses of the structural changes observed between the various three-dimensional structures lead to some insight into the mechanism of action of this enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2967424  PMID: 21041947
neutron diffraction; enzyme mechanisms; d-xylose isomerase
10.  Generalized X-ray and neutron crystallographic analysis: more accurate and complete structures for biological macromolecules 
X-ray and neutron crystallographic data have been combined in a joint structure-refinement procedure that has been developed using recent advances in modern computational methodologies, including cross-validated maximum-likelihood target functions with gradient-based optimization and simulated annealing.
X-ray and neutron crystallographic techniques provide complementary information on the structure and function of biological macromolecules. X-ray and neutron (XN) crystallo­graphic data have been combined in a joint structure-refinement procedure that has been developed using recent advances in modern computational methodologies, including cross-validated maximum-likelihood target functions with gradient-based optimization and simulated annealing. The XN approach for complete (including hydrogen) macromolecular structure analysis provides more accurate and complete structures, as demonstrated for diisopropyl fluorophosphatase, photoactive yellow protein and human aldose reductase. Furthermore, this method has several practical advantages, including the easier determination of the orientation of water molecules, hydroxyl groups and some amino-acid side chains.
PMCID: PMC2685734  PMID: 19465771
joint X-ray and neutron crystallography; structure refinement

Results 1-10 (10)