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    ABSTRACT: Sodium/proton (Na(+)/H(+)) antiporters, located at the plasma membrane in every cell, are vital for cell homeostasis. In humans, their dysfunction has been linked to diseases, such as hypertension, heart failure and epilepsy, and they are well-established drug targets. The best understood model system for Na(+)/H(+) antiport is NhaA from Escherichia coli, for which both electron microscopy and crystal structures are available. NhaA is made up of two distinct domains: a core domain and a dimerization domain. In the NhaA crystal structure a cavity is located between the two domains, providing access to the ion-binding site from the inward-facing surface of the protein. Like many Na(+)/H(+) antiporters, the activity of NhaA is regulated by pH, only becoming active above pH 6.5, at which point a conformational change is thought to occur. The only reported NhaA crystal structure so far is of the low pH inactivated form. Here we describe the active-state structure of a Na(+)/H(+) antiporter, NapA from Thermus thermophilus, at 3 Å resolution, solved from crystals grown at pH 7.8. In the NapA structure, the core and dimerization domains are in different positions to those seen in NhaA, and a negatively charged cavity has now opened to the outside. The extracellular cavity allows access to a strictly conserved aspartate residue thought to coordinate ion binding directly, a role supported here by molecular dynamics simulations. To alternate access to this ion-binding site, however, requires a surprisingly large rotation of the core domain, some 20° against the dimerization interface. We conclude that despite their fast transport rates of up to 1,500 ions per second, Na(+)/H(+) antiporters operate by a two-domain rocking bundle model, revealing themes relevant to secondary-active transporters in general.
    Nature 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Recent studies have highlighted the importance of assessing the robustness of putative biomarkers identified from experimental data. This has given rise to the concept of stable biomarkers, which are ones that are consistently identified regardless of small perturbations to the data. Since stability is not by itself a useful objective, we present a number of strategies that combine assessments of stability and predictive performance in order to identify biomarkers that are both robust and diagnostically useful. Moreover, by wrapping these strategies around logistic regression classifiers regularized by the elastic net penalty, we are able to assess the effects of correlations between biomarkers upon their perceived stability. We use a synthetic example to illustrate the properties of our proposed strategies. In this example, we find that: (i) assessments of stability can help to reduce the number of false-positive biomarkers, although potentially at the cost of missing some true positives; (ii) combining assessments of stability with assessments of predictive performance can improve the true positive rate; and (iii) correlations between biomarkers can have adverse effects on their stability and hence must be carefully taken into account when undertaking biomarker discovery. We then apply our strategies in a proteomics context to identify a number of robust candidate biomarkers for the human disease HTLV1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP).
    Journal of computational biology: a journal of computational molecular cell biology 08/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Bacterial response regulators can regulate the expression of genes that confer antibiotic resistance; they contain a receiver and an effector domain and their ability to bind DNA is based on the dimerization state. This is triggered by phosphorylation of the receiver domain by a kinase. However, even in the absence of phosphorylation response regulators can exist in equilibrium between monomers and dimers with phosphorylation shifting the equilibrium towards the dimer form. We have determined the crystal structure of the unphosphorylated dimeric BaeR from Escherichia coli. The dimer interface is formed by a domain swap at the receiver domain. In comparison with the unphosphorylated dimeric PhoP from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, BaeR displays an asymmetry of the effector domains.
    Protein Science 07/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Coarse-grained protein structure models offer increased efficiency in structural modeling, but these must be coupled with fast and accurate methods to revert to a full-atom structure. Here, we present a novel algorithm to reconstruct mainchain models from C traces. This has been parameterized by fitting Gaussian mixture models (GMMs) to short backbone fragments centered on idealized peptide bonds. The method we have developed is statistically significantly more accurate than several competing methods, both in terms of RMSD values and dihedral angle differences. The method produced Ramachandran dihedral angle distributions that are closer to that observed in real proteins and better Phaser molecular replacement log-likelihood gains. Amino acid residue sidechain reconstruction accuracy using SCWRL4 was found to be statistically significantly correlated to backbone reconstruction accuracy. Finally, the PD2 method was found to produce significantly lower energy full-atom models using Rosetta which has implications for multiscale protein modeling using coarse-grained models. A webserver and C++ source code is freely available for noncommercial use from: http://www.sbg.bio.ic.ac.uk/phyre2/PD2_ca2main/. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Journal of Computational Chemistry 05/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Moment approximation methods are gaining increasing attention for their use in the approximation of the stochastic kinetics of chemical reaction systems. In this paper we derive a general moment expansion method for any type of propensities and which allows expansion up to any number of moments. For some chemical reaction systems, more than two moments are necessary to describe the dynamic properties of the system, which the linear noise approximation is unable to provide. Moreover, also for systems for which the mean does not have a strong dependence on higher order moments, moment approximation methods give information about higher order moments of the underlying probability distribution. We demonstrate the method using a dimerisation reaction, Michaelis-Menten kinetics and a model of an oscillating p53 system. We show that for the dimerisation reaction and Michaelis-Menten enzyme kinetics system higher order moments have limited influence on the estimation of the mean, while for the p53 system, the solution for the mean can require several moments to converge to the average obtained from many stochastic simulations. We also find that agreement between lower order moments does not guarantee that higher moments will agree. Compared to stochastic simulations, our approach is numerically highly efficient at capturing the behaviour of stochastic systems in terms of the average and higher moments, and we provide expressions for the computational cost for different system sizes and orders of approximation. We show how the moment expansion method can be employed to efficiently quantify parameter sensitivity. Finally we investigate the effects of using too few moments on parameter estimation, and provide guidance on how to estimate if the distribution can be accurately approximated using only a few moments.
    The Journal of Chemical Physics 05/2013; 138(17):174101.
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    ABSTRACT: Many biological, physical, and social interactions have a particular dependence on where they take place; e.g., in living cells, protein movement between the nucleus and cytoplasm affects cellular responses (i.e., proteins must be present in the nucleus to regulate their target genes). Here we use recent developments from dynamical systems and chemical reaction network theory to identify and characterize the key-role of the spatial organization of eukaryotic cells in cellular information processing. In particular, the existence of distinct compartments plays a pivotal role in whether a system is capable of multistationarity (multiple response states), and is thus directly linked to the amount of information that the signaling molecules can represent in the nucleus. Multistationarity provides a mechanism for switching between different response states in cell signaling systems and enables multiple outcomes for cellular-decision making. We combine different mathematical techniques to provide a heuristic procedure to determine if a system has the capacity for multiple steady states, and find conditions that ensure that multiple steady states cannot occur. Notably, we find that introducing species localization can alter the capacity for multistationarity, and we mathematically demonstrate that shuttling confers flexibility for and greater control of the emergence of an all-or-nothing response of a cell.
    Biophysical Journal 04/2013; 104(8):1824-31.
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Thermostabilisation by mutagenesis is one method which has facilitated the determination of high resolution structures of the adenosine A2A receptor (A2A R). Sets of mutations were identified which both thermostabilised the receptor and resulted in preferential agonist (Rag23 mutant) or antagonist (Rant5 and Rant21) binding forms as assessed by radioligand binding analysis. While the ligand binding profiles of these mutants are known the effects these mutations have on receptor activation and downstream signaling are less well characterised. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Here we have investigated the effects of the thermostabilising mutations on receptor activation using a yeast cell growth assay. The assay employs an engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae, MMY24, which couples receptor activation to cell growth. KEY RESULTS: Analysis of the receptor activation profile revealed that the WT A2A R had considerable constitutive activity. In contrast the Rag23, Rant5 and Rant21 thermostabilised mutants all exhibited no constitutive activity. While the preferentially antagonist binding mutants Rant5 and Rant21 showed a complete lack of agonist-induced activity, the Rag23 mutant showed high levels of agonist-induced receptor activity. Further analysis using a mutant intermediate between Rag23 and WT indicated that the loss of constitutive activity observed in the agonist responsive mutants was not due to reduced G-protein coupling. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: The loss of constitutive activity may be an important feature of these thermostabilised GPCRs. In addition, the constitutively active and agonist-induced active conformations of the A2A R are distinct.
    British Journal of Pharmacology 03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The reversible photoswitching between the 'on' and 'off' states of the fluorescent protein Dronpa involves photoisomerization as well as protein side-chain rearrangements, but the process of interconversion remains poorly characterized. Here we use time-resolved infrared measurements to monitor the sequence of these structural changes, but also of proton transfer events, which are crucial to the development of spectroscopic contrast. Light-induced deprotonation of the chromophore phenolic oxygen in the off state is a thermal ground-state process, which follows ultrafast (9 ps) trans-cis photoisomerization, and so does not involve excited-state proton transfer. Steady-state infrared difference measurements exclude protonation of the imidazolinone nitrogen in both the on and off states. Pump-probe infrared measurements of the on state reveal a weakening of the hydrogen bonding between Arg66 and the chromophore C=O, which could be central to initiating structural rearrangement of Arg66 and His193 coinciding with the low quantum yield cis-trans photoisomerization.
    Nature Communications 02/2013; 4:1461.
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    ABSTRACT: Natural transformation is a dominant force in bacterial evolution by promoting horizontal gene transfer. This process may have devastating consequences, such as the spread of antibiotic resistance or the emergence of highly virulent clones. However, uptake and recombination of foreign DNA are most often deleterious to competent species. Therefore, model naturally transformable Gram-negative bacteria, including the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, have evolved means to preferentially take up homotypic DNA containing short and genus-specific sequence motifs. Despite decades of intense investigations, the DNA uptake sequence receptor in Neisseria species has remained elusive. We show here, using a multidisciplinary approach combining biochemistry, molecular genetics, and structural biology, that meningococcal type IV pili bind DNA through the minor pilin ComP via an electropositive stripe that is predicted to be exposed on the filaments surface and that ComP displays an exquisite binding preference for DNA uptake sequence. Our findings illuminate the earliest step in natural transformation, reveal an unconventional mechanism for DNA binding, and suggest that selective DNA uptake is more widespread than previously thought.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Bacteria have evolved several secretion machineries to bring about transport of various virulence factors, nutrients, nucleic acids and cell-surface appendages that are essential for their pathogenesis. T4S (Type IV secretion) systems are versatile secretion systems found in various Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and in few archaea. They are large multisubunit translocons secreting a diverse array of substrates varying in size and nature from monomeric proteins to nucleoprotein complexes. T4S systems have evolved from conjugation machineries and are implicated in antibiotic resistance gene transfer and transport of virulence factors in Legionella pneumophila causing Legionnaires' disease, Brucella suis causing brucellosis and Helicobacter pylori causing gastroduodenal diseases. The best-studied are the Agrobacterium tumefaciens VirB/D4 and the Escherichia coli plasmid pKM101 T4S systems. Recent structural advances revealing the cryo-EM (electron microscopy) structure of the core translocation assembly and high-resolution structure of the outer-membrane pore of T4S systems have made paradigm shifts in the understanding of T4S systems. The present paper reviews the advances made in biochemical and structural studies and summarizes our current understanding of the molecular architecture of this mega-assembly.
    Biochemical Society Transactions 02/2013; 41(1):17-28.
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