[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nuclease colicins bind their target receptor BtuB in the outer membrane of sensitive Escherichia coli cells in the form of a high-affinity complex with their cognate immunity proteins. The release of the immunity protein from the colicin complex is a prerequisite for cell entry of the colicin and occurs via a process that is still relatively poorly understood. We have previously shown that an energy input in the form of the cytoplasmic membrane proton motive force is required to promote immunity protein (Im9) release from the colicin E9/Im9 complex and colicin cell entry. We report here that engineering rigidity in the structured part of the colicin translocation domain via the introduction of disulfide bonds prevents immunity protein release from the colicin complex. Reduction of the disulfide bond by the addition of DTT leads to immunity protein release and resumption of activity. Similarly, the introduction of a disulfide bond in the DNase domain previously shown to abolish channel formation in planar bilayers also prevented immunity protein release. Importantly, all disulfide bonds, in the translocation as well as the DNase domain, also abolished the biological activity of the Im9-free colicin E9, the reduction of which led to a resumption of activity. Our results show, for the first time, that conformational flexibility in the structured translocation and DNase domains of a nuclease colicin is essential for immunity protein release, providing further evidence for the hypothesis that global structural rearrangement of the colicin molecule is required for disassembly of this high-affinity toxin-immunity protein complex prior to outer membrane translocation.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Porins are β-barrel outer-membrane proteins through which small solutes and metabolites diffuse that are also exploited during cell death. We have studied how the bacteriocin colicin E9 (ColE9) assembles a cytotoxic translocon at the surface of Escherichia coli that incorporates the trimeric porin OmpF. Formation of the translocon involved ColE9's unstructured N-terminal domain threading in opposite directions through two OmpF subunits, capturing its target TolB on the other side of the membrane in a fixed orientation that triggers colicin import. Thus, an intrinsically disordered protein can tunnel through the narrow pores of an oligomeric porin to deliver an epitope signal to the cell to initiate cell death.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Colicins are protein antibiotics synthesised by Escherichia coli strains to target and kill related bacteria. To prevent host suicide, colicins are inactivated by binding to immunity proteins. Despite their high avidity (K(d)≈fM, lifetime ≈4 days), immunity protein release is a pre-requisite of colicin intoxication, which occurs on a timescale of minutes. Here, by measuring the dynamic force spectrum of the dissociation of the DNase domain of colicin E9 (E9) and immunity protein 9 (Im9) complex using an atomic force microscope we show that application of low forces (<20 pN) increases the rate of complex dissociation 10(6)-fold, to a timescale (lifetime ≈10 ms) compatible with intoxication. We term this catastrophic force-triggered increase in off-rate a trip bond. Using mutational analysis, we elucidate the mechanism of this switch in affinity. We show that the N-terminal region of E9, which has sparse contacts with the hydrophobic core, is linked to an allosteric activator region in E9 (residues 21-30) whose remodelling triggers immunity protein release. Diversion of the force transduction pathway by the introduction of appropriately positioned disulfide bridges yields a force resistant complex with a lifetime identical to that measured by ensemble techniques. A trip switch within E9 is ideal for its function as it allows bipartite complex affinity, whereby the stable colicin:immunity protein complex required for host protection can be readily converted to a kinetically unstable complex whose dissociation is necessary for cellular invasion and competitor death. More generally, the observation of two force phenotypes for the E9:Im9 complex demonstrates that force can re-sculpt the underlying energy landscape, providing new opportunities to modulate biological reactions in vivo; this rationalises the commonly observed discrepancy between off-rates measured by dynamic force spectroscopy and ensemble methods.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A Biochemical Society Focused Meeting on bacteriocins was held at the University of Nottingham on 16-18 July 2012 to mark the retirement of Professor Richard James and honour a scientific career of more than 30 years devoted to an understanding of the biology of colicins, bacteriocins produced by Escherichia coli. This meeting was the third leg of a triumvirate of symposia that included meetings at the Île de Bendor, France, in 1991 and the University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K., in 1998, focused on bringing together leading experts in basic and applied bacteriocin research. The symposium which attracted 70 attendees consisted of 18 invited speakers and 22 selected oral communications spread over four themes: (i) Role of bacteriocins in bacterial ecology, (ii) Mode of action of bacteriocins, (ii) Mechanisms of bacteriocin import across the cell envelope, and (iv) Biotechnological and biomedical applications of bacteriocins. Speakers and poster presenters travelled from around the world, including the U.S.A., Japan, Asia and Europe, to showcase the latest developments in their scientific research.
Biochemical Society Transactions 12/2012; 40(6):1433-7. · 2.59 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We are investigating how protein bacteriocins import their toxic payload across the Gram-negative cell envelope, both as a means of understanding the translocation process itself and as a means of probing the organization of the cell envelope and the function of the protein machines within it. Our work focuses on the import mechanism of the group A endonuclease (DNase) colicin ColE9 into Escherichia coli, where we combine in vivo observations with structural, biochemical and biophysical approaches to dissect the molecular mechanism of colicin entry. ColE9 assembles a multiprotein 'translocon' complex at the E. coli outer membrane that triggers entry of the toxin across the outer membrane and the simultaneous jettisoning of its tightly bound immunity protein, Im9, in a step that is dependent on the protonmotive force. In the present paper, we focus on recent work where we have uncovered how ColE9 assembles its translocon complex, including isolation of the complex, and how this leads to subversion of a signal intrinsic to the Tol-Pal assembly within the periplasm and inner membrane. In this way, the externally located ColE9 is able to 'connect' to the inner membrane protonmotive force via a network of protein-protein interactions that spans the entirety of the E. coli cell envelope to drive dissociation of Im9 and initiate entry of the colicin into the cell.
Biochemical Society Transactions 12/2012; 40(6):1475-9. · 2.59 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How proteins achieve high-affinity binding to a specific protein partner while simultaneously excluding all others is a major biological problem that has important implications for protein design. We report the crystal structure of the ultra-high-affinity protein-protein complex between the endonuclease domain of colicin E2 and its cognate immunity (Im) protein, Im2 (K(d)∼10(-)(15) M), which, by comparison to previous structural and biophysical data, provides unprecedented insight into how high affinity and selectivity are achieved in this model family of protein complexes. Our study pinpoints the role of structured water molecules in conjoining hotspot residues that govern stability with residues that control selectivity. A key finding is that a single residue, which in a noncognate context massively destabilizes the complex through frustration, does not participate in specificity directly but rather acts as an organizing center for a multitude of specificity interactions across the interface, many of which are water mediated.
Journal of Molecular Biology 03/2012; 417(1-2):79-94. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The unfolded ensemble in aqueous solution represents the starting point of protein folding. Characterisation of this species is often difficult since the native state is usually predominantly populated at equilibrium. Previous work has shown that the four-helix protein, Im7 (immunity protein 7), folds via an on-pathway intermediate. While the transition states and folding intermediate have been characterised in atomistic detail, knowledge of the unfolded ensemble under the same ambient conditions remained sparse. Here, we introduce destabilising amino acid substitutions into the sequence of Im7, such that the unfolded state becomes predominantly populated at equilibrium in the absence of denaturant. Using far- and near-UV CD, fluorescence, urea titration and heteronuclear NMR experiments, we show that three amino acid substitutions (L18A-L19A-L37A) are sufficient to prevent Im7 folding, such that the unfolded state is predominantly populated at equilibrium. Using measurement of chemical shifts, (15)N transverse relaxation rates and sedimentation coefficients, we show that the unfolded species of L18A-L19A-L37A deviates significantly from random-coil behaviour. Specifically, we demonstrate that this unfolded species is compact (R(h)=25 Å) relative to the urea-denatured state (R(h)≥30 Å) and contains local clusters of hydrophobic residues in regions that correspond to the four helices in the native state. Despite these interactions, there is no evidence for long-range stabilising tertiary interactions or persistent helical structure. The results reveal an unfolded ensemble that is conformationally restricted in regions of the polypeptide chain that ultimately form helices I, II and IV in the native state.
Journal of Molecular Biology 02/2012; 416(2):300-18. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: TolB and Pal are members of the Tol-Pal system that spans the cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria and contributes to the stability and integrity of the bacterial outer membrane (OM). Lipoylated Pal is tethered to the OM and binds the β-propeller domain of periplasmic TolB, which, as recent evidence suggests, disengages TolB from its interaction with other components of the Tol system in the inner membrane. Antibacterial nuclease colicins such as colicin E9 (ColE9) also bind the β-propeller domain of TolB in order to catalyze their translocation across the bacterial OM. In contrast to Pal, however, colicin binding to TolB promotes its interaction with other components of the Tol system. Here, through a series of pre-steady-state kinetic experiments utilizing fluorescence resonance energy transfer pairs within the individual protein-protein complexes, we establish the kinetic basis for such 'competitive recruitment' by the TolB-binding epitope (TBE) of ColE9. Surprisingly, the 16-residue disordered ColE9 TBE associates more rapidly with TolB than Pal, a folded 13-kDa protein. Moreover, we demonstrate that calcium ions, which bind within the confines of the TolB β-propeller domain tunnel and are known to increase the affinity of the TolB-ColE9 complex, do not exert their influence through long-range electrostatic effects, as had been predicted, but through short-range effects that slow the dissociation rate of ColE9 TBE from its complex with TolB. Our study demonstrates that an intrinsically disordered protein undergoing binding-induced folding can compete effectively with a globular protein for a common target by associating more rapidly than the globular protein.
Journal of Molecular Biology 01/2012; 418(5):269-80. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is more than 80 years since Gratia first described 'a remarkable antagonism between two strains of Escherichia coli'. Shown subsequently to be due to the action of proteins (or peptides) produced by one bacterium to kill closely related species with which it might be cohabiting, such bacteriocins have since been shown to be commonplace in the internecine warfare between bacteria. Bacteriocins have been studied primarily from the twin perspectives of how they shape microbial communities and how they penetrate bacteria to kill them. Here, we review the modes of action of a family of bacteriocins that cleave nucleic acid substrates in E. coli, known collectively as nuclease colicins, and the specific immunity (inhibitor) proteins that colicin-producing organisms make in order to avoid committing suicide. In a process akin to targeting in mitochondria, nuclease colicins engage in a variety of cellular associations in order to translocate their cytotoxic domains through the cell envelope to the cytoplasm. As well as informing on the process itself, the study of nuclease colicin import has also illuminated functional aspects of the host proteins they parasitize. We also review recent studies where nuclease colicins and their immunity proteins have been used as model systems for addressing fundamental problems in protein folding and protein-protein interactions, areas of biophysics that are intimately linked to the role of colicins in bacterial competition and to the import process itself.
Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics 11/2011; 45(1):57-103. · 11.88 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bacteriocins are selective protein antibiotics that bind and kill specific bacterial species, the best studied of which are the colicins that target Escherichia coli. Colicins tend to parasitize cell envelope systems that are important for cell viability under nutrient-limited conditions or environmental stress. In this chapter, we review how in conjunction with other biophysical methods and structural information, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) has been used to investigate how colicins enter E. coli cells. In particular, we summarize current understanding of the thermodynamics of outer membrane receptor binding and how this has been linked to biological function. We also summarize thermodynamic investigations using ITC that have helped elucidate the mechanisms by which colicins bind and parasitize proteins in the periplasm, forming protein-protein interactions that ultimately trigger translocation across the outer membrane. Our review focuses on the two major cytotoxic classes of colicin that have been the subject of intense investigation, pore-forming toxins, and nonspecific endonucleases (DNases). DNase colicin-producing E. coli avoid committing suicide through the production of a small antidote protein known as the immunity (Im) protein, with the Im protein only released once cell-entry is initiated. Exosite binding by Im proteins has driven an evolutionary arms race among colicin-producing bacteria whereby markedly different colicin DNase-Im protein interaction specificities have evolved without impacting on cytotoxicity. Extensive investigations have shown that homologous colicin DNase-Im protein complexes have K(d)s, for cognate and noncognate complexes, that vary by 10-orders of magnitude, essentially matching the entire spectrum of binding affinities seen for protein-protein interactions in biology. Hence, this system has proved to be a powerful model for investigating the thermodynamics of specificity in protein-protein interactions, with ITC being the principal tool. We review this literature and point to how the thermodynamic information that has been generated complements various other kinetic and structural data.
Methods in enzymology 01/2011; 488:123-45. · 1.90 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Colicins are folded protein toxins that face the formidable task of translocating across one or both of the Escherichia coli cell membranes in order to induce cell death. This translocation is achieved by parasitizing host proteins. There has been much recent progress in our understanding of the early stages of colicin entry, including the binding of outer-membrane nutrient transporters and porins and the subsequent recruitment of periplasmic and inner-membrane proteins that, together, trigger translocation. As well as providing insights into how these toxins enter cells, these studies have highlighted some surprising similarities in the modes of action of the systems that colicins subvert.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The porins OmpF and OmpC are trimeric β-barrel proteins with narrow channels running through each monomer that exclude molecules > 600 Da while mediating the passive diffusion of small nutrients and metabolites across the Gram-negative outer membrane (OM). Here, we elucidate the mechanism by which an entire soluble protein domain (> 6 kDa) is delivered through the lumen of such porins. Following high-affinity binding to the vitamin B(12) receptor in Escherichia coli, the bacteriocin ColE9 recruits OmpF or OmpC using an 83-residue intrinsically unstructured translocation domain (IUTD) to deliver a 16-residue TolB-binding epitope (TBE) in the center of the IUTD to the periplasm where it triggers toxin entry. We demonstrate that the IUTD houses two OmpF-binding sites, OBS1 (residues 2-18) and OBS2 (residues 54-63), which flank the TBE and bind with K(d)s of 2 and 24 μM, respectively, at pH 6.5 and 25 ºC. We show the two OBSs share the same binding site on OmpF and that the colicin must house at least one of them for antibiotic activity. Finally, we report the structure of the OmpF-OBS1 complex that shows the colicin bound within the porin lumen spanning the membrane bilayer. Our study explains how colicins exploit porins to deliver epitope signals to the bacterial periplasm and, more broadly, how the inherent flexibility and narrow cross-sectional area of an IUP domain can endow it with the ability to traverse a biological membrane via the constricted lumen of a β-barrel membrane protein.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2010; 107(50):21412-7. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The trans-envelope Tol complex of Gram-negative bacteria is recruited to the septation apparatus during cell division where it is involved in stabilizing the outer membrane. The last gene in the tol operon, ybgF, is highly conserved, yet does not seem to be required for Tol function. We have addressed this anomaly by characterizing YbgF from Escherichia coli and its interaction with TolA, which, based on previous yeast two-hybrid data, is the only known physical link between YbgF and the Tol system. We show that the stable YbgF trimer undergoes a marked change in oligomeric state on binding TolA, forming a one-to-one complex with the Tol protein. Through a combination of pull-down assays, deletion analysis, and isothermal titration calorimetry, we map the TolA-YbgF interface to the C-terminal tetratricopeptide repeat domain of YbgF and 31 residues at the C-terminal end of TolA domain II (TolA(280-313)). We show that TolB, which binds TolA domain III close to the YbgF binding site, has no impact on the YbgF-TolA association. We also report the crystal structures of the two component domains of YbgF, the N-terminal coiled coil from E. coli YbgF, which forms a stable trimer and controls the oligomeric status of YbgF, and the monomeric tetratricopeptide repeat domain from Xanthomonas campestris YbgF, which is also able to trimerize. Although the coiled coil is not directly involved in TolA binding, we demonstrate that the regular hydrophilic patterning of its otherwise hydrophobic core is a prerequisite for the TolA-induced oligomeric-state transition of YbgF. We postulate that rather than YbgF affecting Tol function, it is the change in YbgF oligomeric status (with an accompanying change in its function) that likely explains the necessity for tight co-regulation of the ybgF and tol genes in Gram-negative bacteria.
Journal of Molecular Biology 10/2010; 403(2):270-85. · 3.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The toxin colicin E3 targets the 30S subunit of bacterial ribosomes and cleaves a phosphodiester bond in the decoding center. We present the crystal structure of the 70S ribosome in complex with the cytotoxic domain of colicin E3 (E3-rRNase). The structure reveals how the rRNase domain of colicin binds to the A site of the decoding center in the 70S ribosome and cleaves the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) between A1493 and G1494. The cleavage mechanism involves the concerted action of conserved residues Glu62 and His58 of the cytotoxic domain of colicin E3. These residues activate the 16S rRNA for 2' OH-induced hydrolysis. Conformational changes observed for E3-rRNase, 16S rRNA and helix 69 of 23S rRNA suggest that a dynamic binding platform is required for colicin E3 binding and function.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The tetratricopeptide repeat (TPR) motif is a protein-protein interaction module that acts as an organizing centre for complexes regulating a multitude of biological processes. Despite accumulating evidence for the formation of TPR oligomers as an additional level of regulation there is a lack of structural and solution data explaining TPR self-association. In the present work we characterize the trimeric TPR-containing protein YbgF, which is linked to the Tol system in Gram-negative bacteria. By subtracting previously identified TPR consensus residues required for stability of the fold from residues conserved across YbgF homologs, we identified residues involved in oligomerization of the C-terminal YbgF TPR domain. Crafting these residues, which are located in loop regions between TPR motifs, onto the monomeric consensus TPR protein CTPR3 induced the formation of oligomers. The crystal structure of this engineered oligomer shows an asymmetric trimer where stacking interactions between the introduced tyrosines and displacement of the C-terminal hydrophilic capping helix, present in most TPR domains, are key to oligomerization. Asymmetric trimerization of the YbgF TPR domain and CTPR3Y3 leads to the formation of higher order oligomers both in the crystal and in solution. However, such open-ended self-association does not occur in full-length YbgF suggesting that the protein's N-terminal coiled-coil domain restricts further oligomerization. This interpretation is borne out in experiments where the coiled-coil domain of YbgF was engineered onto the N-terminus of CTPR3Y3 and shown to block self-association beyond trimerization. Our study lays the foundations for understanding the structural basis for TPR domain self-association and how such self-association can be regulated in TPR domain-containing proteins.
Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 07/2010; 78(9):2131-43. · 3.34 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: High-affinity, high-selectivity protein-protein interactions that are critical for cell survival present an evolutionary paradox: How does selectivity evolve when acquired mutations risk a lethal loss of high-affinity binding? A detailed understanding of selectivity in such complexes requires structural information on weak, noncognate complexes which can be difficult to obtain due to their transient and dynamic nature. Using NMR-based docking as a guide, we deployed a disulfide-trapping strategy on a noncognate complex between the colicin E9 endonuclease (E9 DNase) and immunity protein 2 (Im2), which is seven orders of magnitude weaker binding than the cognate femtomolar E9 DNase-Im9 interaction. The 1.77 A crystal structure of the E9 DNase-Im2 complex reveals an entirely noncovalent interface where the intersubunit disulfide merely supports the crystal lattice. In combination with computational alanine scanning of interfacial residues, the structure reveals that the driving force for binding is so strong that a severely unfavorable specificity contact is tolerated at the interface and as a result the complex becomes weakened through "frustration." As well as rationalizing past mutational and thermodynamic data, comparing our noncognate structure with previous cognate complexes highlights the importance of loop regions in developing selectivity and accentuates the multiple roles of buried water molecules that stabilize, ameliorate, or aggravate interfacial contacts. The study provides direct support for dual-recognition in colicin DNase-Im protein complexes and shows that weakened noncognate complexes are primed for high-affinity binding, which can be achieved by economical mutation of a limited number of residues at the interface.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2010; 107(22):10080-5. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ability of Escherichia coli to kill other E. coli using protein antibiotics known as colicins has been known for many years, but the mechanisms involved poorly understood. Recent progress has been rapid, however, particularly concerning events on either side of the outer membrane (OM). Structures of colicins bound to OM receptors have been determined and we have detailed mechanistic information on how colicins subvert the periplasmic complexes of TolQRAB/Pal or TonB/ExbB/ExbD to trigger cell entry. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Jakes and Finkelstein answer a long-standing problem concerning the uptake mechanism of the pore-forming colicin ColIa: How does the TonB box of the colicin cross the OM following high-affinity binding of ColIa to its primary receptor, the siderophore transporter Cir? Through a series of chimeric protein constructions tested for their activity against a range of mutants and in cell death protection assays, the authors come up with the surprising observation that following binding of ColIa to Cir it recruits another Cir protein as its OM translocator. Not only does this settle various conundrums in the literature, but the translocation mechanism that stems from their study will likely be applicable to many TonB-dependent colicins.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Tol system is a five-protein assembly parasitized by colicins and bacteriophages that helps stabilize the Gram-negative outer membrane (OM). We show that allosteric signalling through the six-bladed beta-propeller protein TolB is central to Tol function in Escherichia coli and that this is subverted by colicins such as ColE9 to initiate their OM translocation. Protein-protein interactions with the TolB beta-propeller govern two conformational states that are adopted by the distal N-terminal 12 residues of TolB that bind TolA in the inner membrane. ColE9 promotes disorder of this 'TolA box' and recruitment of TolA. In contrast to ColE9, binding of the OM lipoprotein Pal to the same site induces conformational changes that sequester the TolA box to the TolB surface in which it exhibits little or no TolA binding. Our data suggest that Pal is an OFF switch for the Tol assembly, whereas colicins promote an ON state even though mimicking Pal. Comparison of the TolB mechanism to that of vertebrate guanine nucleotide exchange factor RCC1 suggests that allosteric signalling may be more prevalent in beta-propeller proteins than currently realized.
The EMBO Journal 09/2009; 28(18):2846-57. · 9.82 Impact Factor