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1.  Structure of the prolyl-tRNA synthetase from the eukaryotic pathogen Giardia lamblia  
The structure of Giardia prolyl-tRNA synthetase cocrystallized with proline and ATP shows evidence for half-of-the-sites activity, leading to a corresponding mixture of reaction substrates and product (prolyl-AMP) in the two active sites of the dimer.
The genome of the human intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia contains only a single aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase gene for each amino acid. The Giardia prolyl-tRNA synthetase gene product was originally misidentified as a dual-specificity Pro/Cys enzyme, in part owing to its unexpectedly high off-target activation of cysteine, but is now believed to be a normal representative of the class of archaeal/eukaryotic prolyl-tRNA synthetases. The 2.2 Å resolution crystal structure of the G. lamblia enzyme presented here is thus the first structure determination of a prolyl-tRNA synthetase from a eukaryote. The relative occupancies of substrate (proline) and product (prolyl-AMP) in the active site are consistent with half-of-the-sites reactivity, as is the observed biphasic thermal denaturation curve for the protein in the presence of proline and MgATP. However, no corresponding induced asymmetry is evident in the structure of the protein. No thermal stabilization is observed in the presence of cysteine and ATP. The implied low affinity for the off-target activation product cysteinyl-AMP suggests that translational fidelity in Giardia is aided by the rapid release of misactivated cysteine.
PMCID: PMC3489102  PMID: 22948920
aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases; protozoa; structural genomics; Giardia lamblia
2.  To B or not to B: a question of resolution? 
A simple rule of thumb based on resolution is not adequate to identify the best treatment of atomic displacements in macromolecular structural models. The choice to use isotropic B factors, anisotropic B factors, TLS models or some combination of the three should be validated through statistical analysis of the model refinement.
In choosing and refining any crystallographic structural model, there is tension between the desire to extract the most detailed information possible and the necessity to describe no more than what is justified by the observed data. A more complex model is not necessarily a better model. Thus, it is important to validate the choice of parameters as well as validating their refined values. One recurring task is to choose the best model for describing the displacement of each atom about its mean position. At atomic resolution one has the option of devoting six model parameters (a ‘thermal ellipsoid’) to describe the displacement of each atom. At medium resolution one typically devotes at most one model parameter per atom to describe the same thing (a ‘B factor’). At very low resolution one cannot justify the use of even one parameter per atom. Furthermore, this aspect of the structure may be described better by an explicit model of bulk displacements, the most common of which is the translation/libration/screw (TLS) formalism, rather than by assigning some number of para­meters to each atom individually. One can sidestep this choice between atomic displacement parameters and TLS descriptions by including both treatments in the same model, but this is not always statistically justifiable. The choice of which treatment is best for a particular structure refinement at a particular resolution can be guided by general considerations of the ratio of model parameters to the number of observations and by specific statistics such as the Hamilton R-­factor ratio test.
PMCID: PMC3322606  PMID: 22505267
atomic displacements; B factors; TLS models; model parameters
3.  Validation of crystallographic models containing TLS or other descriptions of anisotropy 
Guidelines and specific tests for validating macromolecular crystal structures that include TLS models are introduced. Validation may used to troubleshoot problems during refinement, to confirm the internal consistency of the model as part of deposition into the Protein Data Bank or to assess the plausibility of interpretating the boundary between two TLS groups as indicating a hinge point between structural domains.
The use of TLS (translation/libration/screw) models to describe anisotropic displacement of atoms within a protein crystal structure has become increasingly common. These models may be used purely as an improved methodology for crystallographic refinement or as the basis for analyzing inter-domain and other large-scale motions implied by the crystal structure. In either case it is desirable to validate that the crystallographic model, including the TLS description of anisotropy, conforms to our best understanding of protein structures and their modes of flexibility. A set of validation tests has been implemented that can be integrated into ongoing crystallographic refinement or run afterwards to evaluate a previously refined structure. In either case validation can serve to increase confidence that the model is correct, to highlight aspects of the model that may be improved or to strengthen the evidence supporting specific modes of flexibility inferred from the refined TLS model. Automated validation checks have been added to the PARVATI and TLSMD web servers and incorporated into the CCP4i user interface.
PMCID: PMC2917275  PMID: 20693688
validation; TLS models; anisotropy
4.  Atomic resolution studies of carbonic anhydrase II 
The structure of human carbonic anhydrase II has been solved with a sulfonamide inhibitor at 0.9 Å resolution. Structural variation and flexibility is seen on the surface of the protein and is consistent with the anisotropic ADPs obtained from refinement. Comparison with 13 other atomic resolution carbonic anhydrase structures shows that surface variation exists even in these highly ordered isomorphous crystals.
Carbonic anhydrase has been well studied structurally and functionally owing to its importance in respiration. A large number of X-ray crystallographic structures of carbonic anhydrase and its inhibitor complexes have been determined, some at atomic resolution. Structure determination of a sulfonamide-containing inhibitor complex has been carried out and the structure was refined at 0.9 Å resolution with anisotropic atomic displacement parameters to an R value of 0.141. The structure is similar to those of other carbonic anhydrase complexes, with the inhibitor providing a fourth nonprotein ligand to the active-site zinc. Comparison of this structure with 13 other atomic resolution (higher than 1.25 Å) isomorphous carbonic anhydrase structures provides a view of the structural similarity and variability in a series of crystal structures. At the center of the protein the structures superpose very well. The metal complexes superpose (with only two exceptions) with standard deviations of 0.01 Å in some zinc–protein and zinc–ligand bond lengths. In contrast, regions of structural variability are found on the protein surface, possibly owing to flexibility and disorder in the individual structures, differences in the chemical and crystalline environments or the different approaches used by different investigators to model weak or complicated electron-density maps. These findings suggest that care must be taken in interpreting structural details on protein surfaces on the basis of individual X-ray structures, even if atomic resolution data are available.
PMCID: PMC2865367  PMID: 20445237
carbonic anhydrase; structure comparison; metalloproteins; atomic resolution

Results 1-4 (4)