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Department of NanoBiophotonics
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Department of NMR-based Structural Biology
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Department of Theoretical and Computational Biophysics
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    ABSTRACT: The Escherichia coli UraA H+-uracil symporter is a member of the nucleobase/ascorbate transporter (NAT) family of proteins, and is responsible for the proton-driven uptake of uracil. Multiscale molecular dynamics simulations of the UraA symporter in phospholipid bilayers consisting of: 1) 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC); 2) 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (POPE); and 3) a mixture of 75% POPE, 20% 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol (POPG); and 5% 1-palmitoyl 2-oleoyl-diphosphatidylglycerol/cardiolipin (CL) to mimic the lipid composition of the bacterial inner membrane, were performed using the MARTINI coarse-grained force field to self-assemble lipids around the crystal structure of this membrane transport protein, followed by atomistic simulations. The overall fold of the protein in lipid bilayers remained similar to the crystal structure in detergent on the timescale of our simulations. Simulations were performed in the absence of uracil, and resulted in a closed state of the transporter, due to relative movement of the gate and core domains. Anionic lipids, including POPG and especially CL, were found to associate with UraA, involving interactions between specific basic residues in loop regions and phosphate oxygens of the CL head group. In particular, three CL binding sites were identified on UraA: two in the inner leaflet and a single site in the outer leaflet. Mutation of basic residues in the binding sites resulted in the loss of CL binding in the simulations. CL may play a role as a "proton trap" that channels protons to and from this transporter within CL-enriched areas of the inner bacterial membrane.
    PLoS Computational Biology 03/2015; 11(3):e1004123. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004123
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    ABSTRACT: Fatty acid (FA) metabolism is deregulated in several human diseases including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cancers. Therefore, FA-metabolic enzymes are potential targets for drug therapy, although the consequence of these treatments must be precisely evaluated at the organismal and cellular levels. In healthy organism, synthesis of triacylglycerols (TAGs)-composed of three FA units esterified to a glycerol backbone-is increased in response to dietary sugar. Saturation in the storage and synthesis capacity of TAGs is associated with type 2 diabetes progression. Sugar toxicity likely depends on advanced-glycation-end-products (AGEs) that form through covalent bounding between amine groups and carbonyl groups of sugar or their derivatives α-oxoaldehydes. Methylglyoxal (MG) is a highly reactive α-oxoaldehyde that is derived from glycolysis through a non-enzymatic reaction. Glyoxalase 1 (Glo1) works to neutralize MG, reducing its deleterious effects. Here, we have used the power of Drosophila genetics to generate Fatty acid synthase (FASN) mutants, allowing us to investigate the consequence of this deficiency upon sugar-supplemented diets. We found that FASN mutants are lethal but can be rescued by an appropriate lipid diet. Rescued animals do not exhibit insulin resistance, are dramatically sensitive to dietary sugar and accumulate AGEs. We show that FASN and Glo1 cooperate at systemic and cell-autonomous levels to protect against sugar toxicity. We observed that the size of FASN mutant cells decreases as dietary sucrose increases. Genetic interactions at the cell-autonomous level, where glycolytic enzymes or Glo1 were manipulated in FASN mutant cells, revealed that this sugar-dependent size reduction is a direct consequence of MG-derived-AGE accumulation. In summary, our findings indicate that FASN is dispensable for cell growth if extracellular lipids are available. In contrast, FA-synthesis appears to be required to limit a cell-autonomous accumulation of MG-derived-AGEs, supporting the notion that MG is the most deleterious α-oxoaldehyde at the intracellular level.
    PLoS Genetics 02/2015; 11(2):e1004995. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004995
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    ABSTRACT: A number of potentially bioactive molecules can be found in nature. In particular, marine organisms are a valuable source of bioactive compounds. The activity of an α-galactosylceramide was first discovered in 1993 via screening of a Japanese marine sponge (Agelas mauritanius). Very rapidly, a synthetic glycololipid analogue of this natural molecule was discovered, called KRN7000. Associated with the CD1d protein, this α-galactosylceramide 1 (KRN7000) interacts with the T-cell antigen receptor to form a ternary complex that yields T helper (Th) 1 and Th2 responses with opposing effects. In our work, we carried out molecular dynamics simulations (11.5 µs in total) involving eight different ligands (conducted in triplicate) in an effort to find out correlation at the molecular level, if any, between chemical modulation of 1 and the orientation of the known biological response, Th1 or Th2. Comparative investigations of human versus mouse and Th1 versus Th2 data have been carried out. A large set of analysis tools was employed including free energy landscapes. One major result is the identification of a specific conformational state of the sugar polar head, which could be correlated, in the present study, to the biological Th2 biased response. These theoretical tools provide a structural basis for predicting the very different dynamical behaviors of α-glycosphingolipids in CD1d and might aid in the future design of new analogues of 1.
    PLoS Computational Biology 11/2014; 10(11):e1003902. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003902


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    Am Faßberg 11, 37077, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • Head of Institution
    Gregor Eichele
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Top publications last week by downloads

Molecular cell 07/2009; 34(5):580-90. DOI:10.1016/j.molcel.2009.04.030
Assay and Drug Development Technologies 10/2014; 12(8). DOI:10.1089/adt.2014.601

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