Hongjun Zhou

University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States

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Publications (16)64.1 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The histidine kinase, CheA, couples environmental stimuli to changes in bacterial swimming behavior, converting a sensory signal to a chemical signal in the cytosol via autophosphorylation. The kinase activity is regulated in the platform of chemotaxis signaling complexes formed by CheW, chemoreceptors, and the regulatory domain of CheA. Our previous computational and mutational studies have revealed that two interdomain linkers play important roles in CheA's enzymatic activity. Of the two linkers, one that connects the dimerization and ATP-binding domains is essential for both basal autophosphorylation and activation of the kinase. However, the mechanistic role of this linker remains unclear, given that it is far from the autophosphorylation reaction center (the ATP binding site). Here we investigate how this interdomain linker is coupled to CheA's enzymatic activity. Using modern nuclear magnetic resonance techniques, we find that by interacting with the catalytic domain, the interdomain linker initiates long-range structural and dynamic changes directed towards the catalytic center of the autophosphorylation reaction. Subsequent biochemical assays define the functional relevance of these NMR based observations. These findings extend our understanding of the chemotaxis signal transduction pathway.
    Biochemistry 01/2014; · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bacterial chemotaxis is one of the best studied signal transduction pathways. CheW is a scaffold protein that mediates the association of the chemoreceptors and the CheA kinase in a ternary signaling complex. The effects of replacing conserved Arg62 of CheW with other residues suggested that the scaffold protein plays a more complex role than simply binding its partner proteins. Although R62A CheW had essentially the same affinity for chemoreceptors and CheA, cells expressing the mutant protein are impaired in chemotaxis. Using a combination of molecular dynamics simulations (MD), NMR spectroscopy, and circular dichroism (CD), we addressed the role of Arg62. Here we show that Arg62 forms a salt bridge with another highly conserved residue, Glu38. Although this interaction is unimportant for overall protein stability, it is essential to maintain the correct alignment of the chemoreceptor and kinase binding sites of CheW. Computational and experimental data suggest that the role of the salt bridge in maintaining the alignment of the two partner binding sites is fundamental to the function of the signaling complex but not to its assembly. We conclude that a key feature of CheW is to maintain the specific geometry between the two interaction sites required for its function as a scaffold.
    PLoS Computational Biology 11/2013; 9(11):e1003337. · 4.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A quantitative understanding of how conformational transitions contribute to enzyme catalysis and specificity remains a fundamental challenge. A suite of biophysical approaches was used to reveal several transient states of the enzyme-substrate complexes of the model DNA cytosine methyltransferase M.HhaI. Multidimensional, transverse relaxation-optimized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments show that M.HhaI has the same conformation with noncognate and cognate DNA sequences. The high-affinity cognatelike mode requires the formation of a subset of protein-DNA interactions that drive the flipping of the target base from the helix to the active site. Noncognate substrates lacking these interactions undergo slow base flipping, and fluorescence tracking of the catalytic loop corroborates the NMR evidence of a loose, nonspecific binding mode prior to base flipping and subsequent closure of the catalytic loop. This slow flipping transition defines the rate-limiting step for the methylation of noncognate sequences. Additionally, we present spectroscopic evidence of an intermediate along the base flipping pathway that has been predicted but never previously observed. These findings provide important details of how conformational rearrangements are used to balance specificity with catalytic efficiency.
    Biochemistry 02/2013; · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The binding of the soluble cytoplasmic protein FliG to the transmembrane protein FliF is one of the first interactions in the assembly of the bacterial flagellum. Once established, this interaction is integral in keeping the flagellar cytoplasmic ring, responsible for both transmission of torque and control of the rotational direction of the flagellum, anchored to the central transmembrane ring on which the flagellum is assembled. Here we isolate and characterize the interaction between the N-terminal domain of Thermotoga maritima FliG (FliG(N)) and peptides corresponding to the conserved C-terminal portion of T. maritima FliF. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and other techniques, we show that the last ~40 amino acids of FliF (FliF(C)) interact strongly (upper bound K(d) in the low nanomolar range) with FliG(N). The formation of this complex causes extensive conformational changes in FliG(N). We find that T. maritima FliG(N) is homodimeric in the absence of the FliF(C) peptide but forms a heterodimeric complex with the peptide, and we show that this same change in oligomeric state occurs in full-length T. maritima FliG, as well. We relate previously observed phenotypic effects of FliF(C) mutations to our direct observation of binding. Lastly, on the basis of NMR data, we propose that the primary interaction site for FliF(C) is located on a conserved hydrophobic patch centered along helix 1 of FliG(N). These results provide new detailed information about the bacterial flagellar motor and support efforts to understand the cytoplasmic ring's precise molecular structure and mechanism of rotational switching.
    Biochemistry 06/2012; 51(25):5052-60. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the bacterial chemotaxis two-component signaling system, the histidine-containing phosphotransfer domain (the "P1" domain) of CheA receives a phosphoryl group from the catalytic domain (P4) of CheA and transfers it to the cognate response regulator (RR) CheY, which is docked by the P2 domain of CheA. Phosphorylated CheY then diffuses into the cytoplasm and interacts with the FliM moiety of the flagellar motors, thereby modulating the direction of flagellar rotation. Structures of various histidine phosphotransfer domains (HPt) complexed with their cognate RR domains have been reported. Unlike the Escherichia coli chemotaxis system, however, these systems lack the additional domains dedicated to binding to the response regulators, and the interaction of an HPt domain with an RR domain in the presence of such a domain has not been examined on a structural basis. In this study, we used modern nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to construct a model for the interaction of the E. coli CheA P1 domain (HPt) and CheY (RR) in the presence of the CheY-binding domain, P2. Our results indicate that the presence of P2 may lead to a slightly different relative orientation of the HPt and RR domains versus those seen in such complex structures previously reported.
    Biochemistry 04/2012; 51(18):3786-98. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The basic structural unit of the signaling complex in bacterial chemotaxis consists of the chemotaxis kinase CheA, the coupling protein CheW, and chemoreceptors. These complexes play an important role in regulating the kinase activity of CheA and in turn controlling the rotational bias of the flagellar motor. Although individual three-dimensional structures of CheA, CheW, and chemoreceptors have been determined, the interaction between chemoreceptor and CheW is still unclear. We used nuclear magnetic resonance to characterize the interaction modes of chemoreceptor and CheW from Thermotoga maritima. We find that chemoreceptor binding surface is located near the highly conserved tip region of the N-terminal helix of the receptor, whereas the binding interface of CheW is placed between the β-strand 8 of domain 1 and the β-strands 1 and 3 of domain 2. The receptor-CheW complex shares a similar binding interface to that found in the "trimer-of-dimers" oligomer interface seen in the crystal structure of cytoplasmic domains of chemoreceptors from Escherichia coli. Based on the association constants inferred from fast exchange chemical shifts associated with receptor-CheW titrations, we estimate that CheW binds about four times tighter to its first binding site of the receptor dimer than to its second binding site. This apparent anticooperativity in binding may reflect the close proximity of the two CheW binding surfaces near the receptor tip or further, complicating the events at this highly conserved region of the receptor. This work describes the first direct observation of the interaction between chemoreceptor and CheW.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 12/2011; 415(4):759-67. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The bacterial histidine autokinase CheA contains a histidine phosphotransfer (Hpt) domain that accepts a phosphate from the catalytic domain and donates the phosphate to either target response regulator protein, CheY or CheB. The Hpt domain forms a helix-bundle structure with a conserved four-helix bundle motif and a variable fifth helix. Observation of two nearly equally populated conformations in the crystal structure of a Hpt domain fragment of CheA from Thermotoga maritima containing only the first four helices suggests more mobility in a tightly packed helix bundle structure than previously thought. In order to examine how the structures of Hpt domain homologs may differ from each other particularly in the conformation of the last helix, and whether an alternative conformation exists in the intact Hpt domain in solution, we have solved a high-resolution, solution structure of the CheA Hpt from T. maritima and characterized the backbone dynamics of this protein. The structure contains a four-helix bundle characteristic of histidine phosphotransfer domains. The position and orientation of the fifth helix resembles those in known Hpt domain crystal and solution structures in other histidine kinases. The alternative conformation that was reported in the crystal structure of the CheA Hpt from T. maritima missing the fifth helix is not detected in the solution structure, suggesting a role for the fifth helix in providing stabilizing forces to the overall structure.
    Journal of Biomolecular NMR 09/2011; 51(1-2):49-55. · 2.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The uropathogenic Escherichia coli colonize the host body by attaching themselves to the epithelial cells through the pyelonephritis-associated pili (pap). The expression of the papBA operon is regulated under a reversible phase-variation mechanism, which partitions the population of cells into those that express the pap and others that do not. The two phases of pap expression are the direct consequences of the two distinct DNA-binding modes exhibited by leucine-responsive regulatory protein (Lrp) in the pap promoter region. In the phase-OFF cells, Lrp occupies the binding sites proximal to the transcription start, blocking transcription initiation. In the phase-ON cells, Lrp occupies the binding sites distal to the transcription start and is thought to promote the CAP (catabolite gene activation protein)-directed transcription initiation. Lrp binds to the proximal binding sites more tightly than to the distal sites, and the switching from phase-OFF to phase-ON requires a local co-regulator, PapI. Here, we used PapI and an isolated DNA-binding domain construct of Lrp to show that there is a DNA co-recognition mechanism by which both proteins acquire enhanced affinity to the distal pap site DNA, to which neither of them binds to an appreciable extent without the other. Also, examination of the binding properties of the Lrp DNA-binding domain presented here led us to propose a new sequence alignment of the six pap Lrp-binding sites. New insights into the design of sequences regulating the pap phase variation as revealed by the pap Lrp-binding site sequences are thus defined and discussed.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 02/2011; 409(3):311-32. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CDK5/p35 is a cyclin-dependent kinase essential for normal neuron function. Proteolysis of the p35 subunit in vivo results in CDK5/p25 that causes neurotoxicity associated with a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Whereas the mechanism by which conversion of p35 to p25 leads to toxicity is unknown, there is common belief that CDK5/p25 is catalytically hyperactive compared to CDK5/p35. Here, we have compared the steady-state kinetic parameters of CDK5/p35 and CDK5/p25 towards both histone H1, the best known substrate for both enzymes, and the microtubule-associated protein, tau, a physiological substrate whose in vivo phosphorylation is relevant to Alzheimer's disease. We show that the kinetics of both enzymes are the same towards either substrate in vitro. Furthermore, both enzymes display virtually identical kinetics towards individual phosphorylation sites in tau monitored by NMR. We conclude that conversion of p35 to p25 does not alter the catalytic efficiency of the CDK5 catalytic subunit by using histone H1 or tau as substrates, and that neurotoxicity associated with CDK5/p25 is unlikely attributable to CDK5 hyperactivation, as measured in vitro.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2010; 107(7):2884-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Enzymatic sequence-specific DNA modification involves multiple poorly understood intermediates. DNA methyltransferases like M.HhaI initially bind nonspecific DNA and then selectively bind and modify a unique sequence. High-resolution NMR was used to map conformational changes occurring in M.HhaI upon binding nonspecific DNA, a one base pair altered noncognate DNA sequence, and both hemimethylated and unmethylated cognate DNA sequences. Comparisons with previous NMR studies of the apoenzyme and enzyme-cofactor complex provide snapshots of the pathway to sequence-specific complex formation. Dramatic chemical shift perturbations reaching many distal sites within the protein are detected with cognate DNA, while much smaller changes are observed upon nonspecific and noncognate DNA binding. A cooperative rather than stepwise transition from a nonspecific to a cognate complex is revealed. Furthermore, switching from unmethylated to hemimethylated cognate DNA involves detectable protein conformational changes 20-30 A away from the methyl group, indicating high protein sensitivity and plasticity to DNA modification.
    Biochemistry 08/2009; 48(33):7807-16. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CheA-short interacts with CheZ to localize CheZ to cell poles. The fifth helical region (residues 112 to 133) from the phosphotransfer domain of CheA interacts with CheZ and becomes ordered and helical, although it lacks a stable fold in the CheA fragment comprising residues 98 to 150 alone. One CheA molecule binds to one CheZ dimer.
    Journal of bacteriology 07/2009; 191(18):5842-4. · 3.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The high-resolution structures of nearly all the proteins that comprise the bacterial flagellar motor switch complex have been solved; yet a clear picture of the switching mechanism has not emerged. Here, we used NMR to characterize the interaction modes and solution properties of a number of these proteins, including several soluble fragments of the flagellar motor proteins FliM and FliG, and the response-regulator CheY. We find that activated CheY, the switch signal, binds to a previously unidentified region of FliM, adjacent to the FliM–FliM interface. We also find that activated CheY and FliG bind with mutual exclusivity to this site on FliM, because their respective binding surfaces partially overlap. These data support a model of CheY-driven motor switching wherein the binding of activated CheY to FliM displaces the carboxy-terminal domain of FliG (FliGC) from FliM, modulating the FliGC–MotA interaction, and causing the motor to switch rotational sense as required for chemotaxis.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 01/2009; · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the intracellular accumulation of the neurofibrillary tangles comprised mainly of the microtubule-associated protein, tau. A critical aspect of understanding tangle formation is to understand the transition of soluble monomeric tau into mature fibrils by characterizing the structure of intermediates along the aggregation pathway. We have carried out multidimensional NMR studies on a C-terminal fragment of human tau (tau (187)) to gain structural insight into the aggregation process. To specifically monitor intermolecular interaction between tau molecules in solution, we combined (15)N- and (14)N-labeled tau, the latter of which was modified with a paramagnetic nitroxide spin label (MTSL). Paramagnetic relaxation enhancement (PRE) of (15)N-tau by interaction with MTSL- (14)N-tau allowed identification of low molecular weight oligomers of tau (187) that formed in response to heparin-induced aggregation. Two regions, VQIINK (280) and VQIVYK (311), were exclusively broadened by MTSL located at varied positions in the tau molecule. We propose that soluble oligomers of tau (187) are generated via intermolecular interactions at these motifs triggered by heparin addition. However, the associated line broadening at these motifs cannot be due to interaction between tau (187) and heparin directly. Instead, these specific interactions necessarily occur between tau molecules and are intermolecular in nature. Our data support the idea that VQIINK (280) and VQIVYK (311) are the major, if not sole, critical regions that directly mediate intermolecular contact between tau molecules during the early phases of aggregation.
    Biochemistry 08/2008; 47(28):7393-404. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The bacterial DNA cytosine methyltransferase M.HhaI sequence-specifically modifies DNA in an S-adenosylmethionine dependent reaction. The enzyme stabilizes the target cytosine (GCGC) into an extrahelical position, with a concomitant large movement of an active site loop involving residues 80-99. We used multidimensional, transverse relaxation-optimized NMR experiments to assign nearly 80% of all residues in the cofactor-bound enzyme form, providing a basis for detailed structural and dynamical characterization. We examined details of the previously unknown effects of the cofactor binding with M.HhaI in solution. Addition of the cofactor results in numerous structural changes throughout the protein, including those decorating the cofactor binding site, and distal residues more than 30 A away. The active site loop is involved in motions both on a picosecond to nanosecond time scale and on a microsecond to millisecond time scale and is not significantly affected by cofactor binding except for a few N-terminal residues. The cofactor also affects residues near the DNA binding cleft, suggesting a role for the cofactor in regulating DNA interactions. The allosteric properties we observed appear to be closely related to the significant amount of dynamics and dynamical changes in response to ligand binding detected in the protein.
    Biochemistry 07/2007; 46(24):7261-8. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pyelonephritis-associated pili (pap) allow uropathogenic Escherichia coli to bind to epithelial cells and play an important role in urinary tract infection. Expression of pap is controlled by a phase-variation mechanism, based on the two distinct heritable states that are the result of adenine N6-methylation in either of the two GATC sequences in its regulatory region. The methylation status of these two sequences is sensed by the action of two proteins, Lrp and PapI, and they play a central role in determining pap gene expression in both phase-ON and phase-OFF cells. We used modern NMR techniques to determine the solution structure and backbone dynamics of PapI. We found its overall fold resembles closely that of the winged helix-turn-helix family of DNA-binding proteins. We determined that PapI possesses its own DNA-binding activity, albeit non-sequence-specific, independent of Lrp. PapI appears to bind to DNA with a K(d) in the 10 microM range. Possible mechanisms by which PapI might participate in the regulation of the pap operon are discussed in light of these new findings.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 02/2007; 365(4):1130-42. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Regulating the activity of the histidine autokinase CheA is a central step in bacterial chemotaxis. The CheA autophosphorylation reaction minimally involves two CheA domains, denoted P1 and P4. The kinase domain (P4) binds adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and orients the gamma phosphate for phosphotransfer to a reactive histidine on the phosphoacceptor domain (P1). Three-dimensional triple-resonance experiments allowed sequential assignments of backbone nuclei from P1 and P4 domains as well as the P4 assignments within a larger construct, P3P4, which includes the dimerization domain P3. We have used nuclear magnetic resonance chemical-shift-perturbation mapping to define the interaction of P1 and P3P4 from the hyperthermophile Thermotoga maritima. The observed chemical-shift changes in P1 upon binding suggest that the P1 domain is bound by interactions on the side opposite the histidine that is phosphorylated. The observed shifts in P3P4 upon P1 binding suggest that P1 is bound at a site distinct from the catalytic site on P4. These results argue that the P1 domain is not bound in a mode that leads to productive phosphate transfer from ATP at the catalytic site and imply the presence of multiple binding modes. The binding mode observed may be regulatory or it may reflect the binding mode needed for effective transfer of the histidyl phosphate of P1 to the substrate proteins CheY and CheB. In either case, this work describes the first direct observation of the interaction between P1 and P4 in CheA.
    Biochemistry 09/2006; 45(31):9509-17. · 3.38 Impact Factor