Katrina T. Forest
Professor of BacteriologyAddress: 1550 Linden Drive, Room 6552
Phone: (608) 265-3566
Lab Phone: (608) 265-9282
Synthetic peptides that contain backbone modifications but nevertheless adopt folded structures similar to those of natural polypeptides are of fundamental interest and may provide a basis for biomedical applications. Such molecules can, for example, mimic the ability of natural prototypes to bind to specific target macromolecules but resist degradation by proteases. We have previously shown that oligomers containing mixtures of α- and β-amino acid residues ("α/β-peptides") can mimic the α-helix secondary structure, and that properly designed α/β-peptides can bind to proteins that evolved to bind to α-helical partners. Here we report fundamental studies that support the long-range goal of extending the α/β approach to tertiary structures. We have evaluated the impact of single α → β modifications on the structure and stability of the small and well-studied villin headpiece subdomain (VHP). The native state of this 35-residue polypeptide contains several α-helical segments packed around a small hydrophobic core. We examined α → β substitution at four solvent-exposed positions, Asn19, Trp23, Gln26 and Lys30. In each case, both the β(3) homologue of the natural α residue and a cyclic β residue were evaluated. All α → β(3) substitutions caused significant destabilization of the tertiary structure as measured by variable-temperature circular dichroism, although at some of these positions, replacing the β(3) residue with a cyclic β residue led to improved stability. Atomic-resolution structures of four VHP analogues were obtained via quasiracemic crystallization. These findings contribute to a fundamental α/β-peptide knowledge-base by confirming that β(3)-amino acid residues can serve as effective structural mimics of homologous α-amino acid residues within a natural tertiary fold, which should support rational design of functional α/β analogues of natural poly-α-peptides.
Bacteriophytochrome photoreceptors (BphPs) and their cognate response regulators make up two-component signal transduction systems which direct bacteria to mount phenotypic responses to changes in environmental light quality. Most of these systems utilize single-domain response regulators to transduce signals through unknown pathways and mechanisms. Here we describe the photocycle and autophosphorylation kinetics of RtBphP1, a red light-regulated histidine kinase from the desert bacterium Ramlibacter tataouinensis RtBphP1 undergoes red to far-red photoconversion with rapid thermal reversion to the dark state. RtBphP1 is autophosphorylated in the dark; this activity is inhibited under red light. The RtBphP1 cognate response regulator, the R. tataouinensis bacteriophytochrome response regulator (RtBRR), and a homolog, AtBRR from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, crystallize unexpectedly as arm-in-arm dimers, reliant on a conserved hydrophobic motif, hFWAhL (where h is a hydrophobic M, V, L, or I residue). RtBRR and AtBRR dimerize distinctly from four structurally characterized phytochrome response regulators found in photosynthetic organisms and from all other receiver domain homodimers in the Protein Data Bank. A unique cacodylate-zinc-histidine tag metal organic framework yielded single-wavelength anomalous diffraction phases and may be of general interest. Examination of the effect of the BRR stoichiometry on signal transduction showed that phosphorylated RtBRR is accumulated more efficiently than the engineered monomeric RtBRR (RtBRRmon) in phosphotransfer reactions. Thus, we conclude that arm-in-arm dimers are a relevant signaling intermediate in this class of two-component regulatory systems. BphP histidine kinases and their cognate response regulators comprise widespread red light-sensing two-component systems. Much work on BphPs has focused on structural understanding of light sensing and on enhancing the natural infrared fluorescence of these proteins, rather than on signal transduction or the resultant phenotypes. To begin to address this knowledge gap, we solved the crystal structures of two single-domain response regulators encoded by a region immediately downstream of that encoding BphPs. We observed a previously unknown arm-in-arm dimer linkage. Monomerization via deletion of the C-terminal dimerization motif had an inhibitory effect on net response regulator phosphorylation, underlining the importance of these unusual dimers for signal transduction.
Intelectins (X-type lectins), broadly distributed throughout chordates, have been implicated in innate immunity. Xenopus laevis embryonic epidermal lectin (XEEL), an intelectin secreted into environmental water by the X. laevis embryo, is postulated to function as a defense against microbes. XEEL is homologous (64% identical) to human intelectin-1 (hIntL-1), which is also implicated in innate immune defense. We showed previously that hIntL-1 binds microbial glycans bearing exocyclic vicinal diol groups. It is unknown whether XEEL has the same ligand specificity. Also unclear is whether XEEL and hIntL-1 have similar quaternary structures, as XEEL lacks the corresponding cysteine residues in hIntL-1 that stabilize the disulfide-linked trimer. These observations prompted us to further characterize XEEL. We found that hIntL-1 and XEEL have similar structural features. Even without the corresponding intermolecular disulfide bonds present in hIntL-1, the carbohydrate recognition domain of XEEL (XEELCRD) forms a stable trimer in solution. The structure of XEELCRD in complex with d-glycerol-1-phosphate, a residue present in microbe-specific glycans, indicated that the exocyclic vicinal diol coordinates to a protein-bound calcium ion. This ligand-binding mode is conserved between XEEL and hIntL-1. The domain architecture of full-length XEEL is reminiscent of a barbell, with two sets of three glycan-binding sites oriented in opposite directions. This orientation is consistent with our observation that XEEL can promote the agglutination of specific serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae. These data support a role for XEEL in innate immunity, and they highlight structural and functional conservation of X-type lectins among chordates.
The roles of the extracellular domain of type II TGF-β receptor (TBRII-ECD) in physiological processes ranging from development to cancer to wound healing render it an attractive target for exploration with chemical tools. For such applications, large amounts of active soluble protein are needed, but the yields of TBRII-ECD we obtained with current folding protocols were variable. To expedite the identification of alternative folding conditions, we developed an on-plate screen. This assay indicated that effective folding additives included the non-detergent sulfobetaine-201 (NDSB-201). Although NDSB-201 can facilitate protein folding, the mode by which it does so is poorly understood. We postulated that specific interactions between NDSB-201 and TBRII-ECD might be responsible. Analysis by X-ray crystallography indicates that the TBRII-ECD possesses a binding pocket for NDSB-201. The pyridinium group of the additive stacks with a phenylalanine side chain in the binding site. The ability of NDSB-201 to occupy a pocket on the protein provides a molecular mechanism for the additive's ability to minimize TBRII-ECD aggregation and stabilize the folded state. NDSB-201 also accelerates TBRII-ECD crystallization, suggesting it may serve as a useful crystallization additive for proteins refolded with it. Our results also suggest there is a site on TBRII-ECD that could be targeted by small-molecule modulators.
Genetically encoded fluorescent markers have revolutionized cell and molecular biology due to their biological compatibility, controllable spatiotemporal expression, and photostability. To achieve in vivo imaging in whole animals, longer excitation wavelength probes are needed due to the superior ability of near infrared light to penetrate tissues unimpeded by absorbance from biomolecules or autofluorescence of water. Derived from near infrared-absorbing bacteriophytochromes, phytofluors are engineered to fluoresce in this region of the electromagnetic spectrum, although high quantum yield remains an elusive goal. An invariant aspartate residue is of utmost importance for photoconversion in native phytochromes, presumably due to the proximity of its backbone carbonyl to the pyrrole ring nitrogens of the biliverdin (BV) chromophore as well as the size and charge of the side chain. We hypothesized that the polar interaction network formed by the charged side chain may contribute to the decay of the excited state via proton transfer. Thus, we chose to further probe the role of this amino acid by removing all possibility for polar interactions with its carboxylate side chain by incorporating leucine instead. The resultant fluorescent protein, WiPhy2, maintains BV binding, monomeric status, and long maximum excitation wavelength while minimizing undesirable protoporphyrin IXα binding in cells. A crystal structure and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy reveal that water near the BV chromophore is excluded and thus validate our hypothesis that removal of polar interactions leads to enhanced fluorescence by increasing the lifetime of the excited state. This new phytofluor maintains its fluorescent properties over a broad pH range and does not suffer from photobleaching. WiPhy2 achieves the best compromise to date between high fluorescence quantum yield and long illumination wavelength in this class of fluorescent proteins.
Galactofuranose (Galf) is present in glycans critical for the virulence and viability of several pathogenic microbes, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, yet the monosaccharide is absent from mammalian glycans. Uridine 5'-diphosphate-galactopyranose mutase (UGM) catalyzes the formation of UDP-Galf, which is required to produce Galf-containing glycoconjugates. Inhibitors of UGM have therefore been sought, both as antimicrobial leads and as tools to delineate the roles of Galf in cells. Obtaining cell permeable UGM probes by either design or high throughput screens has been difficult, as has elucidating how UGM binds small molecule, noncarbohydrate inhibitors. To address these issues, we employed structure-based virtual screening to uncover new inhibitor chemotypes, including a triazolothiadiazine series. These compounds are among the most potent antimycobacterial UGM inhibitors described. They also facilitated determination of a UGM-small molecule inhibitor structure, which can guide optimization. A comparison of results from the computational screen and a high-throughput fluorescence polarization (FP) screen indicated that the scaffold hits from the former had been evaluated in the FP screen but missed. By focusing on promising compounds, the virtual screen rescued false negatives, providing a blueprint for generating new UGM probes and therapeutic leads.
Quasiracemic crystallography has been used to explore the significance of homochiral and heterochiral associations in a set of host-defense peptide derivatives. The previously reported racemic crystal structure of a magainin 2 derivative displayed a homochiral antiparallel dimer association featuring a "phenylalanine zipper" notable for the dual roles of phenylalanines in mediating dimerization and formation of an exposed hydrophobic swath. This motif is seen as well in two new quasiracemate crystals that contain the d form of the magainin 2 derivative along with an l-peptide in which one Ala has been replaced by a β-amino acid residue. This structural trend supports the hypothesis that the Phe zipper motif has functional significance.
Interactions between polypeptide chains containing amino acid residues with opposite absolute configurations have long been a source of interest and speculation, but there is very little structural information for such heterochiral associations. The need to address this lacuna has grown in recent years because of increasing interest in the use of peptides generated from d amino acids (d peptides) as specific ligands for natural proteins, e.g., to inhibit deleterious protein-protein interactions. Coiled-coil interactions, between or among α-helices, represent the most common tertiary and quaternary packing motif in proteins. Heterochiral coiled-coil interactions were predicted over 50 years ago by Crick, and limited experimental data obtained in solution suggest that such interactions can indeed occur. To address the dearth of atomic-level structural characterization of heterochiral helix pairings, we report two independent crystal structures that elucidate coiled-coil packing between l- and d-peptide helices. Both structures resulted from racemic crystallization of a peptide corresponding to the transmembrane segment of the influenza M2 protein. Networks of canonical knobs-into-holes side-chain packing interactions are observed at each helical interface. However, the underlying patterns for these heterochiral coiled coils seem to deviate from the heptad sequence repeat that is characteristic of most homochiral analogs, with an apparent preference for a hendecad repeat pattern.
The glycans displayed on mammalian cells can differ markedly from those on microbes. Such differences could, in principle, be 'read' by carbohydrate-binding proteins, or lectins. We used glycan microarrays to show that human intelectin-1 (hIntL-1) does not bind known human glycan epitopes but does interact with multiple glycan epitopes found exclusively on microbes: β-linked D-galactofuranose (β-Galf), D-phosphoglycerol-modified glycans, heptoses, D-glycero-D-talo-oct-2-ulosonic acid (KO) and 3-deoxy-D-manno-oct-2-ulosonic acid (KDO). The 1.6-Å-resolution crystal structure of hIntL-1 complexed with β-Galf revealed that hIntL-1 uses a bound calcium ion to coordinate terminal exocyclic 1,2-diols. N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac), a sialic acid widespread in human glycans, has an exocyclic 1,2-diol but does not bind hIntL-1, probably owing to unfavorable steric and electronic effects. hIntL-1 marks only Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes that display surface glycans with terminal 1,2-diol groups. This ligand selectivity suggests that hIntL-1 functions in microbial surveillance.
Peptide-based agents derived from well-defined scaffolds offer an alternative to antibodies for selective and high-affinity recognition of large and topologically complex protein surfaces. Here, we describe a strategy for designing oligomers containing both α- and β-amino acid residues ("α/β-peptides") that mimic several peptides derived from the three-helix bundle "Z-domain" scaffold. We show that α/β-peptides derived from a Z-domain peptide targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) can structurally and functionally mimic the binding surface of the parent peptide while exhibiting significantly decreased susceptibility to proteolysis. The tightest VEGF-binding α/β-peptide inhibits the VEGF165-induced proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells. We demonstrate the versatility of this strategy by showing how principles underlying VEGF signaling inhibitors can be rapidly extended to produce Z-domain-mimetic α/β-peptides that bind to two other protein partners, IgG and tumor necrosis factor-α. Because well-established selection techniques can identify high-affinity Z-domain derivatives from large DNA-encoded libraries, our findings should enable the design of biostable α/β-peptides that bind tightly and specifically to diverse targets of biomedical interest. Such reagents would be useful for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Members of the acI lineage of Actinobacteria are the most abundant microorganisms in most freshwater lakes; however, our understanding of the keys to their success and their role in carbon and nutrient cycling in freshwater systems has been hampered by the lack of pure cultures and genomes. We obtained draft genome assemblies from 11 single cells representing three acI tribes (acI-A1, acI-A7, acI-B1) from four temperate lakes in the United States and Europe. Comparative analysis of acI SAGs and other available freshwater bacterial genomes showed that acI has more gene content directed toward carbohydrate acquisition as compared to Polynucleobacter and LD12 Alphaproteobacteria, which seem to specialize more on carboxylic acids. The acI genomes contain actinorhodopsin as well as some genes involved in anaplerotic carbon fixation indicating the capacity to supplement their known heterotrophic lifestyle. Genome-level differences between the acI-A and acI-B clades suggest specialization at the clade level for carbon substrate acquisition. Overall, the acI genomes appear to be highly streamlined versions of Actinobacteria that include some genes allowing it to take advantage of sunlight and N-rich organic compounds such as polyamines, di- and oligopeptides, branched-chain amino acids and cyanophycin. This work significantly expands the known metabolic potential of the cosmopolitan freshwater acI lineage and its ecological and genetic traits.
Use of fluorescent proteins to study in vivo processes in mammals requires near-infrared (NIR) biomarkers that exploit the ability of light in this range to penetrate tissue. Bacteriophytochromes (BphPs) are photoreceptors that couple absorbance of NIR light to photoisomerization, protein conformational changes, and signal transduction. BphPs have been engineered to form NIR fluorophores, including IFP1.4, Wi-Phy, and the iRFP series, initially by replacement of Asp-207 by His. This position was suggestive because its main chain carbonyl is within hydrogen-bonding distance to pyrrole ring nitrogens of the biliverdin chromophore, thus potentially functioning as a crucial transient proton sink during photoconversion. To explain the origin of fluorescence in these phytofluors, we solved the crystal structures of IFP1.4 and a comparison non-fluorescent monomeric phytochrome DrCBDmon. Met-186 and Val-288 in IFP1.4 are responsible for the formation of a tightly packed hydrophobic hub around the biliverdin D ring. Met-186 is also largely responsible for the blue-shifted IFP1.4 excitation maximum relative to the parent BphP. The structure of IFP1.4 revealed decreased structural heterogeneity and a contraction of two surface regions as direct consequences of side chain substitutions. Unexpectedly, IFP1.4 with Asp-207 reinstalled (IFPrev) has a higher fluorescence quantum yield (∼9%) than most NIR phytofluors published to date. In agreement, fluorescence lifetime measurements confirm the exceptionally long excited state lifetimes, up to 815 ps, in IFP1.4 and IFPrev. Our research helps delineate the origin of fluorescence in engineered BphPs and will facilitate the wide-spread adoption of phytofluors as biomarkers.
σ factors endow RNA polymerase with promoter specificity in bacteria. Extra-Cytoplasmic Function (ECF) σ factors represent the largest and most diverse family of σ factors. Most ECF σ factors must be activated in response to an external signal. One mechanism of activation is the stepwise proteolytic destruction of an anti-σ factor via Regulated Intramembrane Proteolysis (RIP). In most cases, the site-1 protease required to initiate the RIP process directly senses the signal. Here we report a new mechanism in which the anti-σ factor rather than the site-1 protease is the sensor. We provide evidence suggesting that the anti-σ factor RsiV is the bacterial receptor for the innate immune defense enzyme, lysozyme. The site-1 cleavage site is similar to the recognition site of signal peptidase and cleavage at this site is required for σV activation in Bacillus subtilis. We reconstitute site-1 cleavage in vitro and demonstrate that it requires both signal peptidase and lysozyme. We demonstrate that the anti-σ factor RsiV directly binds to lysozyme and muramidase activity is not required for σV activation. We propose a model in which the binding of lysozyme to RsiV activates RsiV for signal peptidase cleavage at site-1, initiating proteolytic destruction of RsiV and activation of σV. This suggests a novel mechanism in which conformational change in a substrate controls the cleavage susceptibility for signal peptidase. Thus, unlike other ECF σ factors which require regulated intramembrane proteolysis for activation, the sensor for σV activation is not the site-1 protease but the anti-σ factor.
We have previously shown that the acyl transferase domain of ZmaA (ZmaA-AT) is involved in the biosynthesis of the aminopolyol polyketide/nonribosomal peptide hybrid molecule zwittermicin A from cereus UW85, and that it specifically recognizes the precursor hydroxymalonyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) and transfers the hydroxymalonyl extender unit to a downstream second ACP via a transacylated AT domain intermediate. We now present the X-ray crystal structure of ZmaA-AT at a resolution of 1.7 Å. The structure shows a patch of solvent-exposed hydrophobic residues in the area where the AT is proposed to interact with the precursor ACP. We addressed the significance of the AT/ACP interaction in precursor specificity of the AT by testing whether malonyl- or methylmalonyl-ACP can be recognized by ZmaA-AT. We found that the ACP itself biases extender unit selection. Until now, structural information for ATs has been limited to ATs specific for the CoA-linked precursors malonyl-CoA and (2S)-methylmalonyl-CoA. This work contributes to polyketide synthase engineering efforts by expanding our knowledge of AT/substrate interactions with the structure of an AT domain that recognizes an ACP-linked substrate, the rare hydroxymalonate. Our structure suggests a model in which ACP interaction with a hydrophobic motif promotes secondary structure formation at the binding site, and opening of the adjacent substrate pocket lid to allow extender unit binding in the AT active site.
The human Pin1 WW domain is a small autonomously folding protein that has been useful as a model system for biophysical studies of β-sheet folding. This domain has resisted previous attempts at crystallization for X-ray diffraction studies, perhaps because of intrinsic conformational flexibility that interferes with the formation of a crystal lattice. Here, the crystal structure of the human Pin1 WW domain has been obtained via racemic crystallization in the presence of small-molecule additives. Both enantiomers of a 36-residue variant of the Pin1 WW domain were synthesized chemically, and the L- and D-polypeptides were combined to afford diffracting crystals. The structural data revealed packing interactions of small carboxylic acids, either achiral citrate or a D,L mixture of malic acid, with a mobile loop region of the WW-domain fold. These interactions with solution additives may explain our success in crystallization of this protein racemate. Molecular-dynamics simulations starting from the structure of the Pin1 WW domain suggest that the crystal structure closely resembles the conformation of this domain in solution. The structural data presented here should provide a basis for further studies of this important model system.
Fluorescence line narrowing (FLN) spectroscopy was used to study bacteriophytochromes and variants from various species in their red-absorbing Pr ground state, including phytochromes Agp1 from Agrobacterium tumefaciens , DrBphP from Deinococcus radiodurans , and RpBphP2 and RpBphP3 from Rhodopseudomonas palustris . A species-dependent narrowing of the fluorescence emission bands is observed. The results suggest varied pigment-protein interactions, possibly connected to chromophore mobility or extended water pyrrole networks inside of the differing binding pockets. Solvent water isotope exchange from H2O-based buffer to D2O-based buffer solutions was used to identify specific vibrational modes of the chromophore. In addition to the expected frequency shifts upon isotope exchange, the line narrowing efficiency is increased in deuterated compared to protonated surroundings. We conclude that proton dynamics inside of the protein binding pocket are a dominant source of spectral diffusion at low temperatures, which possibly relates to the previous observation that the electronic transition is directly coupled to proton transfer. The FLN spectra of Agp1 reconstituted with a synthesized pigment shows strong line narrowing efficiency even in protonated buffer solution. The FLN spectra of a point mutant of RpBphP3 highlight the involvement of aspartate 216 in a hydrogen bond network around the chromophore. On the basis of similar FLN characteristics in RpBphP2 and RpBphP3, we propose a similarly extended hydrogen bond network around their chromophores despite the different photoreactions leading to red- or blue-shifted absorption relative to the respective photoreceptors' ground-state absorption.
High-resolution structure elucidation has been challenging for the large group of host-defense peptides that form helices on or within membranes but do not manifest a strong folding propensity in aqueous solution. Here we report the crystal structure of an analogue of the widely studied host-defense peptide magainin 2. Magainin 2 (S8A, G13A, G18A) is a designed variant that displays enhanced antibacterial activity relative to the natural peptide. The crystal structure of magainin 2 (S8A, G13A, G18A), obtained for the racemic form, features a dimerization mode that has previously been proposed to play a role in the antibacterial activity of magainin 2 and related peptides.
Cyclic constraints have proven to be very effective for preorganizing β-amino acid residues and thereby stabilizing β- and α/β-peptide helices, but little is known about possible preorganization effects among γ residues. Here we assess and compare the impact of cyclic preorganization of β and γ residues in the context of a specific α/β/γ-peptide helix. The results show that β residue preorganization is critical for helix stability but that γ residue preorganization is less important.
Integral membrane aspartic acid proteases are receiving growing recognition for their fundamental roles in cellular physiology of eukaryotes and prokaryotes, and may be medically important pharmaceutical targets. The Gram-negative Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilD and the archaeal Methanococcus voltae FlaK were synthesized in the presence of unilamellar liposomes in a cell-free translation system. Cosynthesis of PilD with its full-length substrate, PilA, or of FlaK with its full-length substrate, FlaB2, led to complete cleavage of the substrate signal peptides. Scaled-up synthesis of PilD, followed by solubilization in dodecyl-β-d-maltoside and chromatography, led to a pure enzyme that retained both of its known biochemical activities: cleavage of the PilA signal peptide and S-adenosyl methionine-dependent methylation of the mature pilin. X-ray fluorescence scans show for the first time that PilD is a zinc-binding protein. Zinc is required for the N-terminal methylation of the mature pilin, but not for signal peptide cleavage. Taken together, our work identifies the P. aeruginosa prepilin peptidase PilD as a zinc-dependent N-methyltransferase and provides a new platform for large-scale synthesis of PilD and other integral membrane proteases important for basic microbial physiology and virulence.
The Type II secretion nanomachine transports folded proteins across the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Recent X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, and molecular modeling studies provide structural insights into three functionally and spatially connected units of this nanomachine: the cytoplasmic and inner membrane energy-harvesting complex, the periplasmic helical pseudopilus, and the outer membrane secretin. Key advances include cryo-EM reconstruction of the secretin and demonstration that it interacts with both secreted substrates and a crucial transmembrane clamp protein, plus a biochemical and structural explanation of the role of low-abundance pseudopilins in initiating pseudopilus growth. Combining structures and protein interactions, we synthesize a 3D view of the complete complex consistent with a stepwise pathway in which secretin oligomerization defines sites of nanomachine biogenesis.
Phytochrome is a multidomain dimeric red light photoreceptor that utilizes a chromophore-binding domain (CBD), a PHY domain, and an output module to induce cellular changes in response to light. A promising biotechnology tool emerged when a structure-based substitution at Asp-207 was shown to be an infrared fluorophore that uses a biologically available tetrapyrrole chromophore. We report multiple crystal structures of this D207H variant of the Deinococcus radiodurans CBD, in which His-207 is observed to form a hydrogen bond with either the tetrapyrrole A-ring oxygen or the Tyr-263 hydroxyl. Based on the implications of this duality for fluorescence properties, Y263F was introduced and shown to have stronger fluorescence than the original D207H template. Our structures are consistent with the model that the Y263F change prevents a red light-induced far-red light absorbing phytochrome chromophore configuration. With the goal of decreasing size and thereby facilitating use as a fluorescent tag in vivo, we also engineered a monomeric form of the CBD. Unexpectedly, photoconversion was observed in the monomer despite the lack of a PHY domain. This observation underscores an interplay between dimerization and the photochemical properties of phytochrome and suggests that the monomeric CBD could be used for further studies of the photocycle. The D207H substitution on its own in the monomer did not result in fluorescence, whereas Y263F did. Combined, the D207H and Y263F substitutions in the monomeric CBD lead to the brightest of our variants, designated Wisconsin infrared phytofluor (Wi-Phy).
Quasiracemic crystallization has been used to obtain high-resolution structures of two variants of the villin headpiece subdomain (VHP) that contain a pentafluorophenylalanine (F(5)Phe) residue in the hydrophobic core. In each case, the crystal contained the variant constructed from l-amino acids and the native sequence constructed from d-amino acids. We were motivated to undertake these studies by reports that racemic proteins crystallize more readily than homochiral forms and the prospect that quasiracemic crystallization would enable us to determine whether a polypeptide containing a noncanonical residue can closely mimic the tertiary structure of the native sequence. The results suggest that quasiracemic crystallization may prove to be generally useful for assessing mimicry of naturally evolved protein folding patterns by polypeptides that contain unnatural side-chain or backbone subunits.
Virulence factor regulator (Vfr) enhances Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenicity through its role as a global transcriptional regulator. The crystal structure of Vfr shows that it is a winged-helix DNA-binding protein like its homologue cyclic AMP receptor protein (CRP). In addition to an expected primary cyclic AMP-binding site, a second ligand-binding site is nestled between the N-terminal domain and the C-terminal helix-turn-helix domain. Unlike CRP, Vfr is a symmetric dimer in the absence of DNA. Removal of seven disordered N-terminal residues of Vfr prevents the growth of P. aeruginosa.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa utilizes the type II secretion machinery to transport virulence factors through the outer membrane into the extracellular space. Five proteins in the type II secretion system share sequence homology with pilin subunits of type IV pili and are called the pseudopilins. The major pseudopilin XcpT(G) assembles into an intraperiplasmic pilus and is thought to act in a piston-like manner to push substrates through an outer membrane secretin. The other four minor pseudopilins, XcpU(H), XcpV(I), XcpW(J) and XcpX(K), play less well defined roles in pseudopilus formation. It was recently discovered that these four minor pseudopilins form a quaternary complex that is presumed to initiate the formation of the pseudopilus and to localize to its tip. Here, the structure of XcpW(J) was refined to 1.85â
Phytochromes are environmental sensors, historically thought of as red/far-red photoreceptors in plants. Their photoperception occurs through a covalently linked tetrapyrrole chromophore, which undergoes a light-dependent conformational change propagated through the protein to a variable output domain. The phytochrome composition is modular, typically consisting of a PAS-GAF-PHY architecture for the N-terminal photosensory core. A collection of three-dimensional structures has uncovered key features, including an unusual figure-of-eight knot, an extension reaching from the PHY domain to the chromophore-binding GAF domain, and a centrally located, long α-helix hypothesized to be crucial for intramolecular signaling. Continuing identification of phytochromes in microbial systems has expanded the assigned sensory abilities of this family out of the red and into the yellow, green, blue, and violet portions of the spectrum. Furthermore, phytochromes acting not as photoreceptors but as redox sensors have been recognized. In addition, architectures other than PAS-GAF-PHY are known, thus revealing phytochromes to be a varied group of sensory receptors evolved to utilize their modular design to perceive a signal and respond accordingly. This review focuses on the structures of bacterial phytochromes and implications for signal transmission. We also discuss the small but growing set of bacterial phytochromes for which a physiological function has been ascertained.
Type IV pili are bacterial extracellular filaments that can be retracted to create force and motility. Retraction is accomplished by the motor protein PilT. Crystal structures of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilT with and without bound beta,gamma-methyleneadenosine-5'-triphosphate have been solved at 2.6 A and 3.1 A resolution, respectively, revealing an interlocking hexamer formed by the action of a crystallographic 2-fold symmetry operator on three subunits in the asymmetric unit and held together by extensive ionic interactions. The roles of two invariant carboxylates, Asp Box motif Glu163 and Walker B motif Glu204, have been assigned to Mg(2+) binding and catalysis, respectively. The nucleotide ligands in each of the subunits in the asymmetric unit of the beta,gamma-methyleneadenosine-5'-triphosphate-bound PilT are not equally well ordered. Similarly, the three subunits in the asymmetric unit of both structures exhibit differing relative conformations of the two domains. The 12 degrees and 20 degrees domain rotations indicate motions that occur during the ATP-coupled mechanism of the disassembly of pili into membrane-localized pilin monomers. Integrating these observations, we propose a three-state "Ready, Active, Release" model for the action of PilT.
Preorganization is shown to endow a protein with extraordinary conformational stability. This preorganization is achieved by installing side-chain substituents that impose stereoelectronic and steric effects that restrict main-chain torsion angles. Replacing proline residues in (ProProGly)(7) collagen strands with 4-fluoroproline and 4-methylproline leads to the most stable known triple helices, having T ( m ) values that are increased by > 50 degrees C. Differential scanning calorimetry data indicate an entropic basis to the hyperstability, as expected from an origin in preorganization. Structural data at a resolution of 1.21 A reveal a prototypical triple helix with insignificant deviations to its main chain, even though 2/3 of the residues are nonnatural. Thus, preorganization of a main chain by subtle changes to side chains can confer extraordinary conformational stability upon a protein without perturbing its structure.
The flavoenzyme uridine 5'-diphosphate galactopyranose mutase (UGM or Glf) catalyzes the interconversion of UDP-galactopyranose and UDP-galactofuranose. The latter is a key building block for cell wall construction in numerous pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mechanistic studies of UGM suggested a novel role for the flavin, and we previously provided evidence that the catalytic mechanism proceeds through a covalent flavin-galactose iminium. Here, we describe 2.3 and 2.5 A resolution X-ray crystal structures of the substrate-bound enzyme in oxidized and reduced forms, respectively. In the latter, C1 of the substrate is 3.6 A from the nucleophilic flavin N5 position. This orientation is consistent with covalent catalysis by flavin.
Galactofuranose (Galf) residues are present in cell wall glycoconjugates of numerous pathogenic microbes. Uridine 5'-diphosphate (UDP) Galf, the biosynthetic precursor of Galf-containing glycoconjugates, is produced from UDP-galactopyranose (UDP-Galp) by the flavoenzyme UDP-galactopyranose mutase (UGM). The gene encoding UGM (glf) is essential for the viability of pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and this finding underscores the need to understand how UGM functions. Considerable effort has been devoted to elucidating the catalytic mechanism of UGM, but progress has been hindered by a lack of structural data for an enzyme-substrate complex. Such data could reveal not only substrate binding interactions but how UGM can act preferentially on two very different substrates, UDP-Galp and UDP-Galf, yet avoid other structurally related UDP sugars present in the cell. Herein, we describe the first structure of a UGM-ligand complex, which provides insight into the catalytic mechanism and molecular basis for substrate selectivity. The structure of UGM from Klebsiella pneumoniae bound to the substrate analog UDP-glucose (UDP-Glc) was solved by X-ray crystallographic methods and refined to 2.5 A resolution. The ligand is proximal to the cofactor, a finding that is consistent with a proposed mechanism in which the reduced flavin engages in covalent catalysis. Despite this proximity, the glucose ring of the substrate analog is positioned such that it disfavors covalent catalysis. This orientation is consistent with data indicating that UDP-Glc is not a substrate for UGM. The relative binding orientations of UDP-Galp and UDP-Glc were compared using saturation transfer difference NMR. The results indicate that the uridine moiety occupies a similar location in both ligand complexes, and this relevant binding mode is defined by our structural data. In contrast, the orientations of the glucose and galactose sugar moieties differ. To understand the consequences of these differences, we derived a model for the productive UGM-substrate complex that highlights interactions that can contribute to catalysis and substrate discrimination.
Many receptors undergo ligand-induced conformational changes to initiate signal transduction. Periplasmic binding proteins (PBPs) are bacterial receptors that exhibit dramatic conformational changes upon ligand binding. These proteins mediate a wide variety of fundamental processes including transport, chemotaxis, and quorum sensing. Despite the importance of these receptors, no PBP antagonists have been identified and characterized. In this study, we identify 3-O-methyl-d-glucose as an antagonist of glucose/galactose-binding protein and demonstrate that it inhibits glucose chemotaxis in E. coli. Using small-angle X-ray scattering and X-ray crystallography, we show that this antagonist acts as a wedge. It prevents the large-scale domain closure that gives rise to the active signaling state. Guided by these results and the structures of open and closed glucose/galactose-binding protein, we designed and synthesized an antagonist composed of two linked glucose residues. These findings provide a blueprint for the design of new bacterial PBP inhibitors. Given the key role of PBPs in microbial physiology, we anticipate that PBP antagonists will have widespread uses as probes and antimicrobial agents.
The sterol carrier protein-2 like 3 gene (AeSCP-2L3), a new member of the SCP-2 protein family, is identified from the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. The predicted molecular weight of AeSCP-2L3 is 13.4 kDa with a calculated pI of 4.98. AeSCP-2L3 transcription occurs in the larval feeding stages and the mRNA levels decrease in pupae and adults. The highest levels of AeSCP-2L3 gene expression are found in the body wall, and possibly originated in the fat body. This is the first report of a mosquito SCP-2-like protein with prominent expression in tissue other than the midgut. The X-ray protein crystal structure of AeSCP-2L3 reveals a bound C16 fatty acid whose acyl tail penetrates deeply into a hydrophobic cavity. Interestingly, the ligand-binding cavity is slightly larger than previously described for AeSCP-2 (Dyer et al. J Biol Chem 278:39085-39091, 2003) and AeSCP-2L2 (Dyer et al. J Lipid Res M700460-JLR200, 2007). There are also an additional 10 amino acids in SCP-2L3 that are not present in other characterized mosquito SCP-2s forming an extended loop between beta 3 and beta 4. Otherwise, the protein backbone is exceedingly similar to other SCP-2 and SCP-2-like proteins. In contrast to this observed high structural homology of members in the mosquito SCP2 family, the amino acid sequence identity between the members is less than 30%. The results from structural analysis imply that there have been evolutionary constraints that favor the SCP-2 C(alpha) backbone fold while the specificity of ligand binding can be altered.
Bacterial infections targeting the bloodstream lead to a wide array of devastating diseases such as septic shock and meningitis. To study this crucial type of infection, its specific environment needs to be taken into account, in particular the mechanical forces generated by the blood flow. In a previous study using Neisseria meningitidis as a model, we observed that bacterial microcolonies forming on the endothelial cell surface in the vessel lumen are remarkably resistant to mechanical stress. The present study aims to identify the molecular basis of this resistance. N. meningitidis forms aggregates independently of host cells, yet we demonstrate here that cohesive forces involved in these bacterial aggregates are not sufficient to explain the stability of colonies on cell surfaces. Results imply that host cell attributes enhance microcolony cohesion. Microcolonies on the cell surface induce a cellular response consisting of numerous cellular protrusions similar to filopodia that come in close contact with all the bacteria in the microcolony. Consistent with a role of this cellular response, host cell lipid microdomain disruption simultaneously inhibited this response and rendered microcolonies sensitive to blood flow-generated drag forces. We then identified, by a genetic approach, the type IV pili component PilV as a triggering factor of plasma membrane reorganization, and consistently found that microcolonies formed by a pilV mutant are highly sensitive to shear stress. Our study shows that bacteria manipulate host cell functions to reorganize the host cell surface to form filopodia-like structures that enhance the cohesion of the microcolonies and therefore blood vessel colonization under the harsh conditions of the bloodstream.
A growing number of proteins have been shown to adopt knotted folds. Yet the biological roles and biophysical properties of these knots remain poorly understood. We used protein engineering and atomic force microscopy to explore the single-molecule mechanics of the figure-eight knot in the chromophore-binding domain of the red/far-red photoreceptor, phytochrome. Under load, apo phytochrome unfolds at forces of approximately 47 pN, whereas phytochrome carrying its covalently bound tetrapyrrole chromophore unfolds at approximately 73 pN. These forces are not unusual in mechanical protein unfolding, and thus the presence of the knot does not automatically indicate a superstable protein. Our experiments reveal a stable intermediate along the mechanical unfolding pathway, reflecting the sequential unfolding of two distinct subdomains in phytochrome, potentially the GAF and PAS domains. For the first time (to the best of our knowledge), our experiments allow a direct determination of knot size under load. In the unfolded chain, the tightened knot is reduced to 17 amino acids, resulting in apparent shortening of the polypeptide chain by 6.2 nm. Steered molecular-dynamics simulations corroborate this number. Finally, we find that covalent phytochrome dimers created for these experiments retain characteristic photoreversibility, unexpectedly arguing against a dramatic rearrangement of the native GAF dimer interface upon photoconversion.
Variable subregions within the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat displayed by African trypanosomes are predicted sites for T- and B-cell recognition. Hypervariable subregion 1 (HV-1) is localized to an internal amphipathic alpha helix in VSG monomers and may have evolved due to selective pressure by host T-cell responses to epitopes within this subregion. The prediction of T-cell receptor-reactive sites and major histocompatibility complex class II binding motifs within the HV-1 subregion, coupled with the conservation of amino acid residues in other regions of the molecule sufficient to maintain secondary and tertiary VSG structure, prompted us to test the hypothesis that Th cells may preferentially recognize HV-1 subregion peptides. Thus, we examined the fine specificity of VSG-specific T-cell lines, T-cell hybridomas, and Th cells activated during infection. Our results demonstrate that T-cell epitopes are distributed throughout the N-terminal domain of VSG but are not clustered exclusively within HV-1 or other hypervariable subregions. In contrast, T-cell-reactive sites were not detected within the relatively conserved C-terminal domain of VSG. Overall, this study is the first to dissect the fine specificity of T-cell responses to the trypanosome VSG and suggests that evolution of a conserved HV-1 region may be unrelated to selective pressures exerted by host T-cell responses. This study also demonstrates that T cells do not recognize the relatively invariant C-terminal region of the VSG molecule during infection, suggesting that it could serve as a potential subunit vaccine to provide variant cross-specific immunity for African trypanosomiasis.
The ability of phytochromes (Phy) to act as photointerconvertible light switches in plants and microorganisms depends on key interactions between the bilin chromophore and the apoprotein that promote bilin attachment and photointerconversion between the spectrally distinct red light-absorbing Pr conformer and far red light-absorbing Pfr conformer. Using structurally guided site-directed mutagenesis combined with several spectroscopic methods, we examined the roles of conserved amino acids within the bilin-binding domain of Deinococcus radiodurans bacteriophytochrome with respect to chromophore ligation and Pr/Pfr photoconversion. Incorporation of biliverdin IXalpha (BV), its structure in the Pr state, and its ability to photoisomerize to the first photocycle intermediate are insensitive to most single mutations, implying that these properties are robust with respect to small structural/electrostatic alterations in the binding pocket. In contrast, photoconversion to Pfr is highly sensitive to the chromophore environment. Many of the variants form spectrally bleached Meta-type intermediates in red light that do not relax to Pfr. Particularly important are Asp-207 and His-260, which are invariant within the Phy superfamily and participate in a unique hydrogen bond matrix involving the A, B, and C pyrrole ring nitrogens of BV and their associated pyrrole water. Resonance Raman spectroscopy demonstrates that substitutions of these residues disrupt the Pr to Pfr protonation cycle of BV with the chromophore locked in a deprotonated Meta-R(c)-like photoconversion intermediate after red light irradiation. Collectively, the data show that a number of contacts contribute to the unique photochromicity of Phy-type photoreceptors. These include residues that fix the bilin in the pocket, coordinate the pyrrole water, and possibly promote the proton exchange cycle during photoconversion.
We developed the three-dimensional visualization software, Tonal Interface to MacroMolecules or TIMMol, for studying atomic coordinates of protein structures. Key features include audio tones indicating x, y, z location, identification of the cursor location in one-dimensional and three-dimensional space, textual output that can be easily linked to speech or Braille output, and the ability to scroll along the main chain backbone of a protein structure. This program was initially designed for visually impaired users, and it already has shown its effectiveness in helping a blind researcher study X-ray crystal structure data. Subsequently, TIMMol has been enhanced with a graphical display to act as a bridge to ease communication between sighted and visually impaired users as well as to serve users with spatial visualization difficulties. We performed a pilot study to assess the efficacy of the program in conveying three-dimensional information about proteins with and without graphical output to a general scientific audience. Attitudes regarding using TIMMol were assessed using Rasmol, a common visualization package, for comparison. With the use of text and tones exclusively, a majority of users were able to identify specific secondary structure elements, three-dimensional relationships among atoms, and atoms coordinating a ligand. In addition, a majority of users saw benefits in using TIMMol and would recommend it to those having difficulty with standard tools.
Mosquito sterol carrier protein-2 (AeSCP-2) and sterol carrier protein-2-like2 (AeSCP-2L2) are members of the SCP-2 protein family with similar expression profiles in the mosquito life cycle. In an effort to understand how lipids can be transported by different SCP-2 proteins, the three-dimensional crystal structure of AeSCP-2L2 was solved at 1.7 A resolution. AeSCP-2L2 forms a dimer and binds three fatty acids, one of which resides in a position within the internal cavity at a right angle to the others. This first report of ligand-bound dimerized protein in the SCP-2 protein family indicates that the family has a much more divergent mode of interaction with ligands than previously reported. The potential function of AeSCP-2L2 was investigated via in vivo incorporation of [(3)H]cholesterol and [3H]palmitic acid. Overexpression of AeSCP-2L2 in mosquito cells leads to an increased uptake of free fatty acid, whereas knockdown of AeSCP-2L2 in adult females decreases the accumulation of free fatty acid in the fat body from a blood meal. In contrast, overexpression or knockdown of AeSCP-2L2 has no effect on cholesterol uptake. Our results suggest that the main function of AeSCP-2L2 is as a general intracellular fatty acid carrier, as opposed to having a dedicated role in cholesterol transport.
Type IV pili (Tfp) are widespread filamentous bacterial organelles that mediate multiple virulence-related phenotypes. They are composed mainly of pilin subunits, which are processed before filament assembly by dedicated prepilin peptidases. Other proteins processed by these peptidases, whose molecular nature and mode of action remain enigmatic, play critical roles in Tfp biology. We have performed a detailed structure/function analysis of one such protein, PilX from Neisseria meningitidis, which is crucial for formation of bacterial aggregates and adhesion to human cells. The x-ray crystal structure of PilX reveals the alpha/beta roll fold shared by all pilins, and we show that this protein colocalizes with Tfp. These observations suggest that PilX is a minor, or low abundance, pilin that assembles within the filaments in a similar way to pilin. Deletion of a PilX distinctive structural element, which is predicted to be exposed on the filament surface, abolishes aggregation and adhesion. Our results support a model in which surface-exposed motifs in PilX subunits stabilize bacterial aggregates against the disruptive force of pilus retraction and illustrate how a minor pilus component can enhance the functional properties of pili of rather simple composition and structure.
PilE is the primary subunit of type IV pili from Neisseria gonorrhoeae and contains a surface-exposed hypervariable region thought to be one feature of pili that has prevented development of a pilin-based vaccine. We have created a three-dimensional structure-based antigen by replacing the hypervariable region of PilE with an aspartate-glutamine linker chosen from the sequence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilA. We then characterized murine immune responses to this novel protein to determine if conserved PilE regions could serve as a vaccine candidate. The control PilE protein elicited strong T-cell-dependent B-cell responses that are specific to epitopes in both the hypervariable deletion and control proteins. In contrast, the hypervariable deletion protein was unable to elicit an immune response in mice, suggesting that in the absence of the hypervariable region, the conserved regions of PilE alone are not sufficient for antibody production. Further analysis of these PilE proteins with suppressor cell assays showed that neither suppresses T- or B-cell responses, and flow cytometry experiments suggested that they do not exert suppressor effects by activating T regulatory cells. Our results show that in the murine model, the hypervariable region of PilE is required to activate immune responses to pilin, whereas the conserved regions are unusually nonimmunogenic. In addition, we show that both hypervariable and conserved regions of pilin are not suppressive, suggesting that PilE does not cause the decrease in T-cell populations observed during gonococcal cervicitis.
D-Glucose/D-Galactose-binding protein (GGBP) mediates chemotaxis toward and active transport of glucose and galactose in a number of bacterial species. GGBP, like other periplasmic binding proteins, can exist in open (ligand-free) and closed (ligand-bound) states. We report a 0.92 angstroms resolution structure of GGBP from Escherichia coli in the glucose-bound state and the first structure of an open, unbound form of GGBP (at 1.55 angstroms resolution). These structures vary in the angle between the two structural domains; the observed difference of 31 degrees arises from torsion angle changes in a three-segment hinge. A comparison with the closely related periplasmic receptors, ribose- and allose-binding proteins, shows that the GGBP hinge residue positions that undergo the largest conformational changes are different. Furthermore, the high-quality data collected for the atomic resolution glucose-bound structure allow for the refinement of specific hydrogen atom positions, the assignment of alternate side chain conformations, the first description of CO(2) trapped after radiation-induced decarboxylation, and insight into the role of the exo-anomeric effect in sugar binding. Together, these structures provide insight into how the hinge-bending movement of GGBP facilitates ligand binding, transport, and signaling.
Phytochromes are red/far red light photochromic photoreceptors that direct many photosensory behaviors in the bacterial, fungal, and plant kingdoms. They consist of an N-terminal domain that covalently binds a bilin chromophore and a C-terminal region that transmits the light signal, often through a histidine kinase relay. Using x-ray crystallography, we recently solved the first three-dimensional structure of a phytochrome, using the chromophore-binding domain of Deinococcus radiodurans bacterial phytochrome assembled with its chromophore, biliverdin IXalpha. Now, by engineering the crystallization interface, we have achieved a significantly higher resolution model. This 1.45A resolution structure helps identify an extensive buried surface between crystal symmetry mates that may promote dimerization in vivo. It also reveals that upon ligation of the C3(2) carbon of biliverdin to Cys(24), the chromophore A-ring assumes a chiral center at C2, thus becoming 2(R),3(E)-phytochromobilin, a chemistry more similar to that proposed for the attached chromophores of cyanobacterial and plant phytochromes than previously appreciated. The evolution of bacterial phytochromes to those found in cyanobacteria and higher plants must have involved greater fitness using more reduced bilins, such as phycocyanobilin, combined with a switch of the attachment site from a cysteine near the N terminus to one conserved within the cGMP phosphodiesterase/adenyl cyclase/FhlA domain. From analysis of site-directed mutants in the D. radiodurans phytochrome, we show that this bilin preference was partially driven by the change in binding site, which ultimately may have helped photosynthetic organisms optimize shade detection. Collectively, these three-dimensional structural results better clarify bilin/protein interactions and help explain how higher plant phytochromes evolved from prokaryotic progenitors.
PilT is a hexameric ATPase required for bacterial type IV pilus retraction and surface motility. Crystal structures of ADP- and ATP-bound Aquifex aeolicus PilT at 2.8 and 3.2 A resolution show N-terminal PAS-like and C-terminal RecA-like ATPase domains followed by a set of short C-terminal helices. The hexamer is formed by extensive polar subunit interactions between the ATPase core of one monomer and the N-terminal domain of the next. An additional structure captures a nonsymmetric PilT hexamer in which approach of invariant arginines from two subunits to the bound nucleotide forms an enzymatically competent active site. A panel of pilT mutations highlights the importance of the arginines, the PAS-like domain, the polar subunit interface, and the C-terminal helices for retraction. We present a model for ATP binding leading to dramatic PilT domain motions, engagement of the arginine wire, and subunit communication in this hexameric motor. Our conclusions apply to the entire type II/IV secretion ATPase family.
Type IV pili are long, flexible filaments that extend from the surface of Gram-negative bacteria and are formed by the polymerization of pilin subunits. This review focuses on the structural information available for each pilin subclass, type IVa and type IVb, highlighting the contributions crystal and nuclear magnetic resonance structures have made in understanding pilus function and assembly. In addition, the type II secretion pseudopilus subunit structure and helical assembly is compared to that of the type IV pilus. The pilin subunits adopt an alphabeta-roll fold formed by the hydrophobic packing of the C-terminal half of a long alpha-helix against an antiparallel beta-sheet. The conserved N-terminal half of the same alpha-helix, as well as two sequence- and structurally-variable regions, protrude from this globular head domain. Filament models have a hydrophobic core formed by the signature long alpha-helices, with variable regions at the filament surface.
Phytochromes are red/far-red light photoreceptors that direct photosensory responses across the bacterial, fungal and plant kingdoms. These include photosynthetic potential and pigmentation in bacteria as well as chloroplast development and photomorphogenesis in plants. Phytochromes consist of an amino-terminal region that covalently binds a single bilin chromophore, followed by a carboxy-terminal dimerization domain that often transmits the light signal through a histidine kinase relay. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of the chromophore-binding domain of Deinococcus radiodurans phytochrome assembled with its chromophore biliverdin in the Pr ground state. Our model, refined to 2.5 A resolution, reaffirms Cys 24 as the chromophore attachment site, locates key amino acids that form a solvent-shielded bilin-binding pocket, and reveals an unusually formed deep trefoil knot that stabilizes this region. The structure provides the first three-dimensional glimpse into the photochromic behaviour of these photoreceptors and helps to explain the evolution of higher plant phytochromes from prokaryotic precursors.
PilT is a hexameric ATPase required for type IV pilus retraction in gram-negative bacteria. Retraction of type IV pili mediates intimate attachment to and signaling in host cells, surface motility, biofilm formation, natural transformation, and phage sensitivity. We investigated the in vivo and in vitro roles of each amino acid of the distinct, highly conserved C-terminal AIRNLIRE motif in PilT. Substitution of amino acids A288, I289, L292, and I293 as well as a double substitution of R290 and R294 abolished Pseudomonas aeruginosa PilT function in vivo, as measured by a loss of surface motility and phage sensitivity. When introduced into purified Aquifex aeolicus PilT, substitutions in the AIRNLIRE motif did not disrupt ATPase activity or oligomerization. In contrast, a K136Q substitution in the broadly conserved nucleotide binding motif prevented PilT function in vivo as well as in vitro. We propose that the AIRNLIRE motif forms an amphipathic alpha helix which transmits signals between a surface-exposed protein interaction site and the ATPase core of PilT, and we recognize a potential functional homology in other type II secretion ATPases.
PilT is a biological motor required for the retraction of bacterial type IV pili. Nesseria gonorrhoeae PilT has been purified and its ultrastructure has been examined by freeze-etch electron microscopy, revealing a 115 A outer diameter, 15-35 A inner diameter ring. Aquifex aeolicus PilT crystals were obtained in a primitive hexagonal space group (unit-cell parameters a = b = 107.3, c = 68.5 A) and diffract to a minimum Bragg spacing of 2.8 A when PilT is co-crystallized with adenine nucleotides. Initial phases to 3.5 A resolution have been determined by multiwavelength anomalous dispersion and density modification. Resulting electron-density maps show a hexameric A. aeolicus PilT ring 105 A wide by 55 A high, with an inner cavity that varies in shape and width from 20 to 40 A over the height of the complex. Both PilT ultrastructures are very similar to type II and type IV secretion ATPases in overall shape, size and assembly.
Pilin assembly into type IV pili is required for virulence by bacterial pathogens that cause diseases such as cholera, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and meningitis. Crystal structures of soluble, N-terminally truncated pilin from Vibrio cholera toxin-coregulated pilus (TCP) and full-length PAK pilin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa reveal a novel TCP fold, yet a shared architecture for the type IV pilins. In each pilin subunit a conserved, extended, N-terminal alpha helix wrapped by beta strands anchors the structurally variable globular head. Inside the assembled pilus, characterized by cryo-electron microscopy and crystallography, the extended hydrophobic alpha helices make multisubunit contacts to provide mechanical strength and flexibility. Outside, distinct interactions of adaptable heads contribute surface variation for specificity of pilus function in antigenicity, motility, adhesion, and colony formation.
Bacterial surface motility works by retraction of surface-attached type IV pili. This retraction requires the PilT protein, a member of a large family of putative NTPases from type II and IV secretion systems. In this study, the PilT homologue from the thermophilic eubacterium Aquifex aeolicus was cloned, overexpressed, and purified. A. aeolicus PilT was shown to be a thermostable ATPase with a specific activity of 15.7 nmol of ATP hydrolyzed/min/mg of protein. This activity was abolished when a conserved lysine in the nucleotide-binding motif was altered. The substrate specificity was low; UTP, CTP, ATP, GTP, dATP, and dGTP served as substrates, UTP having the highest activity of these in vitro. Based on sedimentation equilibrium and size exclusion chromatography, PilT was identified as a approximately equal 5- to 6-subunit oligomer. Potential implications of the NTPase activity of PilT in pilus retraction are discussed.
Macrophages and neutrophils protect animals from microbial infection in part by issuing a burst of toxic superoxide radicals when challenged. To counteract this onslaught, many Gram-negative bacterial pathogens possess periplasmic Cu,Zn superoxide dismutases (SODs), which act on superoxide to yield molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. We have solved the X-ray crystal structure of the Cu,Zn SOD from Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, a major porcine pathogen, by molecular replacement at 1.9 A resolution. The structure reveals that the dimeric bacterial enzymes form a structurally homologous class defined by a water-mediated dimer interface, and share with all Cu,Zn SODs the Greek-key beta-barrel subunit fold with copper and zinc ions located at the base of a deep loop-enclosed active-site channel. Our structure-based sequence alignment of the bacterial enzymes explains the monomeric nature of at least two of these, and suggests that there may be at least one additional structural class for the bacterial SODs. Two metal-mediated crystal contacts yielded our C222(1) crystals, and the geometry of these sites could be engineered into proteins recalcitrant to crystallization in their native form. This work highlights structural differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic Cu,Zn SODs, as well as similarities and differences among prokaryotic SODs, and lays the groundwork for development of antimicrobial drugs that specifically target periplasmic Cu,Zn SODs of bacterial pathogens.
Understanding the structural biology of type IV pili, fibres responsible for the virulent attachment and motility of numerous bacterial pathogens, requires a detailed understanding of the three-dimensional structure and chemistry of the constituent pilin subunit. X-ray crystallographic refinement of Neisseria gonorrhoeae pilin against diffraction data to 2.6 A resolution, coupled with mass spectrometry of peptide fragments, reveals phosphoserine at residue 68. Phosphoserine is exposed on the surface of the modelled type IV pilus at the interface of neighbouring pilin molecules. The site-specific mutation of serine 68 to alanine showed that the loss of the phosphorylation alters the morphology of fibres examined by electron microscopy without a notable effect on adhesion, transformation, piliation or twitching motility. The structural and chemical characterization of protein phosphoserine in type IV pilin subunits is an important indication that this modification, key to numerous regulatory aspects of eukaryotic cell biology, exists in the virulence factor proteins of bacterial pathogens. These O-linked phosphate modifications, unusual in prokaryotes, thus merit study for possible roles in pilus biogenesis and modulation of pilin chemistry for optimal in vivo function.
We have recently proposed a computational model of the N. gonorrhoeae pilus fiber based on the high resolution X-ray crystal structure of the component protein pilin, combined with available biophysical and genetic data [Parge et al. (1995) Nature 378, 32-38]. In parallel, we have used anti-peptide antibodies to distinguish buried and exposed regions of pilin within the assembled fiber [Forest et al. (1996) Infect. Immun. 64, 644-652]. This mini-review addresses the properties of the current pilus model and the locations of end-exposed epitopes. The fiber forms a three-layered structure of coiled conserved alpha helices surrounded by beta-sheet, with the hypervariable region as the most highly exposed portion. Overall the pilus model developed from diffraction and antibody mapping is expected to be representative of type-4 pili with general implications for type-4 assembly, function, and interactions with other proteins and cell membranes.
The relationship between the sequence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae pilin and its quaternary assembly into pilus fibers was studied with a set of site-directed antibody probes and by mapping the specificities of antipilus antisera with peptides. Buried and exposed peptides in assembled pili were identified by competitive immunoassays and immunoelectron microscopy with polyclonal antibodies raised against 11 peptides spanning the pilin sequence. Pili did not compete significantly with pilin subunits for binding to antibodies against residues 13 to 31 (13-31) and 18-36. Pilus fibers competed well with pilin protein subunits for binding to antibodies raised against peptides 37-56, 58-78, 110-120, 115-127, 122-139, and 140-159 and competed weakly for antibodies against residues 79-93 and 94-108. Antibodies to sequence-conserved residues 37-56 and to semiconserved residues 94-108 preferentially bound pilus ends as shown by immunoelectron microscopy. The exposure of pilus regions to the immune system was tested by peptide mapping of antiserum specificities against sets of overlapping peptides representing all possible hexameric or octameric peptides from the N. gonorrhoeae MS11 pilin sequence. The immunogenicity of exposed peptides incorporating semiconserved residues 49-56 and 121-126 was revealed by strong, consistent antigenic reactivity to these regions measured in antipilus sera from rabbits, mice, and human and in sera from human volunteers with gonorrhea. The conservation and variation of antigenic responses among these three species clarify the relevance of immunological studies of other species to the human immune response against pathogens. Overall, our results explain the extreme conservation of the entire N-terminal one-third of the pilin protein by its dominant role in pilus assembly: hydrophobic residues 1-36 are implicated in buried lateral contacts, and polar residues 37-56 are implicated in longitudinal contacts within the pilus fiber.
The crystallographic structure of Neisseria gonorrhoeae pilin, which assembles into the multifunctional pilus adhesion and virulence factor, reveals an alpha-beta roll fold with a striking 85 A alpha-helical spine and an O-linked disaccharide. Key residues stabilize interactions that allow sequence hypervariability, responsible for pilin's celebrated antigenic variation, within disulphide region beta-strands and connections. Pilin surface shape, hydrophobicity and sequence variation constrain pilus assembly to the packing of flat subunit faces against alpha 1 helices. Helical fibre assembly is postulated to form a core of coiled alpha 1 helices banded by beta-sheet, leaving carbohydrate and hypervariable sequence regions exposed to solvent.