Nicoleta J Economou

Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, United States

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Publications (7)45.85 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Tyrocidine A, one of the first antibiotics ever to be discovered, is a cyclic decapeptide that binds to membranes of target bacteria, disrupting their integrity. It is active against a broad spectrum of Gram-positive organisms, and has recently engendered interest as a potential scaffold for development of new drugs to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. We present here the X-ray crystal structure of tyrocidine A at a resolution of 0.95Å. The structure reveals that tyrocidine forms an intimate and highly amphipathic homodimer made up of four beta strands that associate into a single, highly curved antiparallel beta sheet. We used surface plasmon resonance and potassium efflux assays to demonstrate that tyrocidine binds tightly to mimetics of bacterial membranes with an apparent dissociation constant (KD) of 10μM, and efficiently permeabilizes bacterial cells at concentrations equal to and below the KD. Using variant forms of tyrocidine in which the fluorescent probe p-cyano-phenylalanine had been inserted on either the polar or apolar face of the molecule, we performed fluorescence quenching experiments, using both water-soluble and membrane-embedded quenchers. The quenching results, together with the structure, strongly support a membrane association model in which the convex, apolar face of tyrocidine's beta sheet is oriented toward the membrane interior, while the concave, polar face is presented to the aqueous phase.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 02/2014; · 4.66 Impact Factor
  • Nicoleta J Economou, Simon Cocklin, Patrick J Loll
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    ABSTRACT: Bacitracin is a metalloantibiotic agent that is widely used as a medicine and feed additive. It interferes with bacterial cell-wall biosynthesis by binding undecaprenyl-pyrophosphate, a lipid carrier that serves as a critical intermediate in cell wall production. Despite bacitracin's broad use, the molecular details of its target recognition have not been elucidated. Here we report a crystal structure for the ternary complex of bacitracin A, zinc, and a geranyl-pyrophosphate ligand at a resolution of 1.1 Å. The antibiotic forms a compact structure that completely envelopes the ligand's pyrophosphate group, together with flanking zinc and sodium ions. The complex adopts a highly amphipathic conformation that offers clues to antibiotic function in the context of bacterial membranes. Bacitracin's efficient sequestration of its target represents a previously unseen mode for the recognition of lipid pyrophosphates, and suggests new directions for the design of next-generation antimicrobial agents.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Multidrug-resistant bacterial infections are commonly treated with glycopeptide antibiotics such as teicoplanin. This drug inhibits bacterial cell-wall biosynthesis by binding and sequestering a cell-wall precursor: a D-alanine-containing peptide. A carrier-protein strategy was used to crystallize the complex of teicoplanin and its target peptide by fusing the cell-wall peptide to either MBP or ubiquitin via native chemical ligation and subsequently crystallizing the protein-peptide-antibiotic complex. The 2.05 Å resolution MBP-peptide-teicoplanin structure shows that teicoplanin recognizes its ligand through a combination of five hydrogen bonds and multiple van der Waals interactions. Comparison of this teicoplanin structure with that of unliganded teicoplanin reveals a flexibility in the antibiotic peptide backbone that has significant implications for ligand recognition. Diffraction experiments revealed an X-ray-induced dechlorination of the sixth amino acid of the antibiotic; it is shown that teicoplanin is significantly more radiation-sensitive than other similar antibiotics and that ligand binding increases radiosensitivity. Insights derived from this new teicoplanin structure may contribute to the development of next-generation antibacterials designed to overcome bacterial resistance.
    Acta Crystallographica Section D Biological Crystallography 04/2013; 69(Pt 4):520-33. · 12.67 Impact Factor
  • Acta Crystallographica Section D. 09/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Many large natural product antibiotics act by specifically binding and sequestering target molecules found on bacterial cells. We have developed a new strategy to expedite the structural analysis of such antibiotic-target complexes, in which we covalently link the target molecules to carrier proteins, and then crystallize the entire carrier-target-antibiotic complex. Using native chemical ligation, we have linked the Lys-D-Ala-D-Ala binding epitope for glycopeptide antibiotics to three different carrier proteins. We show that recognition of this peptide by multiple antibiotics is not compromised by the presence of the carrier protein partner, and use this approach to determine the first-ever crystal structure for the new therapeutic dalbavancin. We also report the first crystal structure of an asymmetric ristocetin antibiotic dimer, as well as the structure of vancomycin bound to a carrier-target fusion. The dalbavancin structure reveals an antibiotic molecule that has closed around its binding partner; it also suggests mechanisms by which the drug can enhance its half-life by binding to serum proteins, and be targeted to bacterial membranes. Notably, the carrier protein approach is not limited to peptide ligands such as Lys-D-Ala-D-Ala, but is applicable to a diverse range of targets. This strategy is likely to yield structural insights that accelerate new therapeutic development.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 03/2012; 134(10):4637-45. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human interleukin-5 receptor α (IL5Rα) is a glycoprotein that contains four N-glycosylation sites in the extracellular region. Previously, we found that enzymatic deglycosylation of IL5Rα resulted in complete loss of IL5 binding. To localize the functionally important carbohydrate moieties, we employed site-directed mutagenesis at the N-glycosylation sites (Asn(15), Asn(111), Asn(196), and Asn(224)). Because Asn-to-Gln mutagenesis caused a significant loss of structural integrity, we used diverse mutations to identify stability-preserving changes. We also rationally designed mutations at and around the N-glycosylation sites based on sequence alignment with mouse IL5Rα and other cytokine receptors. These approaches were most successful at Asn(15), Asn(111), and Asn(224). In contrast, any replacement at Asn(196) severely reduced stability, with the N196T mutant having a reduced binding affinity for IL5 and diminished biological activity because of the lack of cell surface expression. Lectin inhibition analysis suggested that the carbohydrate at Asn(196) is unlikely involved in direct ligand binding. Taking this into account, we constructed a stable variant, with triple mutational deglycosylation (N15D, I109V/V110T/N111D, and L223R/N224Q). The re-engineered protein retained Asn(196) while the other three glycosylation sites were eliminated. This mostly deglycosylated variant had the same ligand binding affinity and biological activity as fully glycosylated IL5Rα, thus demonstrating a unique role for Asn(196) glycosylation in IL5Rα function. The results suggest that unique carbohydrate groups in multiglycosylated receptors can be utilized asymmetrically for function.
    Biochemistry 08/2011; 50(35):7546-56. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Propofol is the most widely used injectable general anesthetic. Its targets include ligand-gated ion channels such as the GABA(A) receptor, but such receptor-channel complexes remain challenging to study at atomic resolution. Until structural biology methods advance to the point of being able to deal with systems such as the GABA(A) receptor, it will be necessary to use more tractable surrogates to probe the molecular details of anesthetic recognition. We have previously shown that recognition of inhalational general anesthetics by the model protein apoferritin closely mirrors recognition by more complex and clinically relevant protein targets; here we show that apoferritin also binds propofol and related GABAergic anesthetics, and that the same binding site mediates recognition of both inhalational and injectable anesthetics. Apoferritin binding affinities for a series of propofol analogs were found to be strongly correlated with the ability to potentiate GABA responses at GABA(A) receptors, validating this model system for injectable anesthetics. High resolution x-ray crystal structures reveal that, despite the presence of hydrogen bond donors and acceptors, anesthetic recognition is mediated largely by van der Waals forces and the hydrophobic effect. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate that the ligands undergo considerable fluctuations about their equilibrium positions. Finally, apoferritin displays both structural and dynamic responses to anesthetic binding, which may mimic changes elicited by anesthetics in physiologic targets like ion channels.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2009; 284(36):24176-84. · 4.65 Impact Factor