John R Cort

William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, United States

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Publications (55)180.05 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Bacterial species in the Enterobacteriaceae typically contain multiple paralogues of a small domain of unknown function (DUF1471) from a family of conserved proteins also known as YhcN or BhsA/McbA. Proteins containing DUF1471 may have a single or three copies of this domain. Representatives of this family have been demonstrated to play roles in several cellular processes including stress response, biofilm formation, and pathogenesis. We have conducted NMR and X-ray crystallographic studies of four DUF1471 domains from Salmonella representing three different paralogous DUF1471 subfamilies: SrfN, YahO, and SssB/YdgH (two of its three DUF1471 domains: the N-terminal domain I (residues 21-91), and the C-terminal domain III (residues 244-314)). Notably, SrfN has been shown to have a role in intracellular infection by Salmonella Typhimurium. These domains share less than 35% pairwise sequence identity. Structures of all four domains show a mixed α+β fold that is most similar to that of bacterial lipoprotein RcsF. However, all four DUF1471 sequences lack the redox sensitive cysteine residues essential for RcsF activity in a phospho-relay pathway, suggesting that DUF1471 domains perform a different function(s). SrfN forms a dimer in contrast to YahO and SssB domains I and III, which are monomers in solution. A putative binding site for oxyanions such as phosphate and sulfate was identified in SrfN, and an interaction between the SrfN dimer and sulfated polysaccharides was demonstrated, suggesting a direct role for this DUF1471 domain at the host-pathogen interface.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dissimilatory reduction of sulfite is carried out by the siroheme enzyme DsrAB, with the involvement of the protein DsrC, which has two conserved redox-active cysteines. DsrC was initially believed to be a third subunit of DsrAB. Here, we report a study of the distribution of DsrC in cell extracts to show that, in the model sulfate reducer Desulfovibrio vulgaris, the majority of DsrC is not associated with DsrAB and is thus free to interact with other proteins. In addition, we developed a cysteine-labelling gel-shift assay to monitor the DsrC redox state and behaviour, and procedures to produce the different redox forms. The oxidized state of DsrC with an intramolecular disulfide bond, which is proposed to be a key metabolic intermediate, could be successfully produced for the first time by treatment with arginine.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 11/2013; · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Multiprotein complexes, rather than individual proteins, make up a large part of the biological macromolecular machinery of a cell. Understanding the structure and organization of these complexes is critical to understanding cellular function. Chemical cross-linking coupled with mass spectrometry is emerging as a complementary technique to traditional structural biology methods and can provide low-resolution structural information for a multitude of purposes, such as distance constraints in computational modeling of protein complexes. In this review, we discuss the experimental considerations for successful application of chemical cross-linking-mass spectrometry in biological studies and highlight three examples of such studies from the recent literature. These examples (as well as many others) illustrate the utility of a chemical cross-linking-mass spectrometry approach in facilitating structural analysis of large and challenging complexes.
    Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics 08/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Characterization of the mature protein complement in cells is crucial for a better understanding of cellular processes on a systems-wide scale. Toward this end, we used single-dimension ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography mass spectrometry to investigate the comprehensive "intact" proteome of the Gram-negative bacterial pathogen Salmonella Typhimurium. Top-down proteomics analysis revealed 563 unique proteins including 1,665 proteoforms generated by posttranslational modifications (PTMs), representing the largest microbial top-down dataset reported to date. We confirmed many previously recognized aspects of Salmonella biology and bacterial PTMs, and our analysis also revealed several additional biological insights. Of particular interest was differential utilization of the protein S-thiolation forms S-glutathionylation and S-cysteinylation in response to infection-like conditions versus basal conditions. This finding of a S-glutathionylation-to-S-cysteinylation switch in a condition-specific manner was corroborated by bottom-up proteomics data and further by changes in corresponding biosynthetic pathways under infection-like conditions and during actual infection of host cells. This differential utilization highlights underlying metabolic mechanisms that modulate changes in cellular signaling, and represents a report of S-cysteinylation in Gram-negative bacteria. Additionally, the functional relevance of these PTMs was supported by protein structure and gene deletion analyses. The demonstrated utility of our simple proteome-wide intact protein level measurement strategy for gaining biological insight should promote broader adoption and applications of top-down proteomics approaches.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Phage viruses that infect prokaryotes integrate their genome into the host chromosome; thus, microbial genomes typically contain genetic remnants of both recent and ancient phage infections. Often phage genes occur in clusters of atypical G+C content that reflect integration of the foreign DNA. However, some phage genes occur in isolation without other phage gene neighbors, probably resulting from horizontal gene transfer. In these cases, the phage gene product is unlikely to function as a component of a mature phage particle, and instead may have been co-opted by the host for its own benefit. The product of one such gene from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, STM3605, encodes a protein with modest sequence similarity to phage-like lysozyme (N-acetylmuramidase) but appears to lack essential catalytic residues that are strictly conserved in all lysozymes. Close homologs in other bacteria share this characteristic. The structure of the STM3605 protein was characterized by X-ray crystallography, and functional assays showed that it is a stable, folded protein whose structure closely resembles lysozyme. However, this protein is unlikely to hydrolyze peptidoglycan. Instead, STM3605 is presumed to have evolved an alternative function because it shows some lytic activity and partitions to micelles.
    Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics 04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus is a thermophilic, Gram-positive, non-spore forming, strictly anaerobic bacterium of interest in potential industrial applications, including the production of biofuels such as hydrogen or ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass through fermentation. High-resolution, solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a useful method for the identification and quantification of metabolites that result from growth on different substrates. NMR allows facile resolution of isomeric (identical mass) constituents and does not destroy the sample. RESULTS: Profiles of metabolites produced by the thermophilic cellulose-degrading bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus DSM 8903 strain following growth on different monosaccharides (D-glucose, D-mannose, L-arabinose, D-arabinose, D-xylose, L-fucose, and D-fucose) as carbon sources revealed several unexpected fermentation products, suggesting novel metabolic capacities and unexplored metabolic pathways in this organism. Both 1H and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy were used to determine intracellular and extracellular metabolite profiles. One dimensional 1H NMR spectral analysis was performed by curve fitting against spectral libraries provided in the Chenomx software; 2-D homonuclear and heteronuclear NMR experiments were conducted to further reduce uncertainties due to unassigned, overlapping, or poorly-resolved peaks. In addition to expected metabolites such as acetate, lactate, glycerol, and ethanol, several novel fermentation products were identified: ethylene glycol (from growth on D-arabinose), acetoin and 2,3-butanediol (from growth on D-glucose, L-arabinose, and D-xylose), and hydroxyacetone (from growth on D-mannose, L-arabinose, and D-xylose). Production of ethylene glycol from D-arabinose was particularly notable, with around 10% of the substrate carbon converted into this uncommon fermentation product. CONCLUSIONS: The present research shows that C. saccharolyticus, already of substantial interest due to its capability for biological ethanol and hydrogen production, has further metabolic potential for production of higher molecular weight compounds, such as acetoin and 2,3-butanediol, as well as hydroxyacetone and the uncommon fermentation product ethylene glycol. In addition, application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy facilitates identification of novel metabolites, which is instrumental for production of desirable bioproducts from biomass through microbial fermentation.
    Biotechnology for Biofuels 04/2013; 6(1):47. · 6.22 Impact Factor
  • Athena E Metaxas, John R Cort
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    ABSTRACT: The highly toxic plant alkaloid strychnine is often isolated in the form of the anion salt of its protonated tertiary amine. Here, we characterize the relative influence of different counterions on (1) H and (13) C chemical shifts in several strychnine salts in D2 O, methanol-d4 (CD3 OD), and chloroform-d (CDCl3 ) solvents. In organic solvents but not in water, substantial variation in chemical shifts of protons near the tertiary amine was observed among different salts. These secondary shifts reveal differences in the way each anion influences electronic structure within the protonated amine. The distributions of secondary shifts allow salts to be easily distinguished from each other as well as from the free base form. Slight concentration dependence in chemical shifts of some protons near the amine was observed for two salts in CDCl3 , but this effect is small compared with the influence of the counterion. Distinct chemical shifts in different salt forms of the same compound may be useful as chemical forensic signatures for source attribution and sample matching of alkaloids such as strychnine and possibly other organic acid and base salts. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry 03/2013; · 1.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chemical cross-linking of proteins followed by proteolysis and mass spectrometric analysis of the resulting cross-linked peptides provides powerful insight into the quaternary structure of protein complexes. Mixed-isotope cross-linking (a method for distinguishing intermolecular cross-links) was coupled with liquid chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry (LC-IMS-MS) to provide an additional separation dimension to the traditional cross-linking approach. This method produced multiplet m/z peaks that are aligned in the IMS drift time dimension and serve as signatures of intermolecular cross-linked peptides. We developed an informatics tool to use the amino acid sequence information inherent in the multiplet spacing for accurate identification of the cross-linked peptides. Because of the separation of cross-linked and non-cross-linked peptides in drift time, our LC-IMS-MS approach was able to confidently detect more intermolecular cross-linked peptides than LC-MS alone.
    Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry 03/2013; 24(3):444-9. · 3.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: CV_2116 is a small hypothetical protein of 82 amino acids from the Gram-negative coccobacillus Chromobacterium violaceum. A PSI-BLAST search using the CV_2116 sequence as a query identified only one hit (E = 2e(-07)) corresponding to a hypothetical protein OR16_04617 from Cupriavidus basilensis OR16, which failed to provide insight into the function of CV_2116. The CV_2116 gene was cloned into the p15TvLic expression plasmid, transformed into E. coli, and (13)C- and (15)N-labeled NMR samples of CV_2116 were overexpressed in E. coli and purified for structure determination using NMR spectroscopy. The resulting high-quality solution NMR structure of CV_2116 revealed a novel α + β fold containing two anti-parallel β-sheets in the N-terminal two-thirds of the protein and one α-helix in the C-terminal third of the protein. CV_2116 does not belong to any known protein sequence family and a Dali search indicated that no similar structures exist in the protein data bank. Although no function of CV_2116 could be derived from either sequence or structural similarity searches, the neighboring genes of CV_2116 encode various proteins annotated as similar to bacteriophage tail assembly proteins. Interestingly, C. violaceum exhibits an extensive network of bacteriophage tail-like structures that likely result from lateral gene transfer by incorporation of viral DNA into its genome (prophages) due to bacteriophage infection. Indeed, C. violaceum has been shown to contain four prophage elements and CV_2116 resides in the fourth of these elements. Analysis of the putative operon in which CV_2116 resides indicates that CV_2116 might be a component of the bacteriophage tail-like assembly that occurs in C. violaceum.
    International Journal of Molecular Sciences 12/2012; 13(6):7354-64. · 2.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The ribosome consists of small and large subunits each composed of dozens of proteins and RNA molecules. However, the functions of many of the individual protomers within the ribosome are still unknown. In this article, we describe the solution NMR structure of the ribosomal protein RP-L35Ae from the archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus. RP-L35Ae is buried within the large subunit of the ribosome and belongs to Pfam protein domain family PF01247, which is highly conserved in eukaryotes, present in a few archaeal genomes, but absent in bacteria. The protein adopts a six-stranded anti-parallel β-barrel analogous to the "tRNA binding motif" fold. The structure of the P. furiosus RP-L35Ae presented in this article constitutes the first structural representative from this protein domain family.
    Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 03/2012; 80(7):1901-6. · 3.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protein domain family YabP (PF07873) is a family of small protein domains that are conserved in a wide range of bacteria and involved in spore coat assembly during the process of sporulation. The 62-residue fragment of Dsy0195 from Desulfitobacterium hafniense, which belongs to the YabP family, exists as a homodimer in solution under the conditions used for structure determination using NMR spectroscopy. The structure of the Dsy0195 homodimer contains two identical 62-residue monomeric subunits, each consisting of five anti-parallel beta strands (β1, 23-29; β2, 31-38; β3, 41-46; β4, 49-59; β5, 69-80). The tertiary structure of the Dsy0195 monomer adopts a cylindrical fold composed of two beta sheets. The two monomer subunits fold into a homodimer about a single C2 symmetry axis, with the interface composed of two anti-parallel beta strands, β1-β1' and β5b-β5b', where β5b refers to the C-terminal half of the bent β5 strand, without any domain swapping. Potential functional regions of the Dsy0195 structure were predicted based on conserved sequence analysis. The Dsy0195 structure reported here is the first representative structure from the YabP family.
    Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics 09/2011; 12(3):175-9.
  • John R Cort, Paul J Alperin, Herman Cho
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    ABSTRACT: The highly toxic anticoagulant rodenticide brodifacoum is an organic compound that has two diastereomeric forms. In this paper, we consider the hypothesis that the relative population of the diastereomers is a characteristic of forensic value for the association or source attribution of specimens of brodifacoum. In general, the stereoisomer distribution in an organic compound depends on the reagents, conditions, and methods used for synthesis and purification, and may vary over time due to differential stabilities of the stereoisomers. The stereoisomer distribution may thus serve as an identifier of the production methods and history of samples and provide a basis for comparing recovered specimens. We refer to this novel approach for signature detection as stereoisomer distribution analysis or SDA. If the stereoisomers are diastereomers, quantitative determination of the diastereomer ratio in a specimen can be performed by a number of techniques, notably gas or liquid chromatography or nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. This paper describes an NMR spectroscopic analysis of ten commercial technical grade brodifacoum samples from distinct batches originating from three different sources. The results reveal detectable source-to-source and batch-to-batch variations in diastereomer ratios.
    Forensic science international 08/2011; 214(1-3):178-81. · 2.10 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human interferon-stimulated gene 15 protein (ISG15), also called ubiquitin cross-reactive protein (UCRP), is the first identified ubiquitin-like protein containing two ubiquitin-like domains fused in tandem. The active form of ISG15 is conjugated to target proteins via the C-terminal glycine residue through an isopeptide bond in a manner similar to ubiquitin. The biological role of ISG15 is strongly associated with the modulation of cell immune function, and there is mounting evidence suggesting that many viral pathogens evade the host innate immune response by interfering with ISG15 conjugation to both host and viral proteins in a variety of ways. Here we report nearly complete backbone (1)H(N), (15)N, (13)C', and (13)C(α), as well as side chain (13)C(β), methyl (Ile-δ1, Leu, Val), amide (Asn, Gln), and indole N-H (Trp) NMR resonance assignments for the 157-residue human ISG15 protein. These resonance assignments provide the basis for future structural and functional solution NMR studies of the biologically important human ISG15 protein.
    Biomolecular NMR Assignments 05/2011; 5(2):215-9. · 0.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: YbbR domains are widespread throughout Eubacteria and are expressed as monomeric units, linked in tandem repeats or cotranslated with other domains. Although the precise role of these domains remains undefined, the location of the multiple YbbR domain-encoding ybbR gene in the Bacillus subtilis glmM operon and its previous identification as a substrate for a surfactin-type phosphopantetheinyl transferase suggests a role in cell growth, division, and virulence. To further characterize the YbbR domains, structures of two of the four domains (I and IV) from the YbbR-like protein of Desulfitobacterium hafniense Y51 were solved by solution nuclear magnetic resonance and X-ray crystallography. The structures show the domains to have nearly identical topologies despite a low amino acid identity (23%). The topology is dominated by β-strands, roughly following a "figure 8" pattern with some strands coiling around the domain perimeter and others crossing the center. A similar topology is found in the C-terminal domain of two stress-responsive bacterial ribosomal proteins, TL5 and L25. Based on these models, a structurally guided amino acid alignment identifies features of the YbbR domains that are not evident from naïve amino acid sequence alignments. A structurally conserved cis-proline (cis-Pro) residue was identified in both domains, though the local structure in the immediate vicinities surrounding this residue differed between the two models. The conservation and location of this cis-Pro, plus anchoring Val residues, suggest this motif may be significant to protein function.
    Protein Science 02/2011; 20(2):396-405. · 2.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the (1)H, (13)C, and (15)N chemical shift assignments of both oxidized and reduced forms of an abundant periplasmic c-type cytochrome, designated ApcA, isolated from the acidophilic gram-negative facultatively anaerobic metal-reducing alphaproteobacterium Acidiphilium cryptum. These resonance assignments prove that ApcA is a monoheme cytochrome c (2) and the product of the Acry_2099 gene. An absence of resonance peaks in the NMR spectra for the 21N-terminal residues suggests that a predicted N-terminal signal sequence is cleaved. We also describe the preparation and purification of the protein in labeled form from laboratory cultures of A. cryptum growing on (13)C- and (15)N- labeled substrates.
    Biomolecular NMR Assignments 11/2010; 5(1):89-92. · 0.64 Impact Factor
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    Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 09/2010; 79(1):335-9. · 3.34 Impact Factor
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    Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics 09/2010; 79(1):340-4. · 3.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is a general need to develop more powerful and more robust methods for structural characterization of homodimers, homo-oligomers, and multiprotein complexes using solution-state NMR methods. In recent years, there has been increasing emphasis on integrating distinct and complementary methodologies for structure determination of multiprotein complexes. One approach not yet widely used is to obtain intermediate and long-range distance constraints from paramagnetic relaxation enhancements (PRE) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR)-based techniques such as double electron electron resonance (DEER), which, when used together, can provide supplemental distance constraints spanning to 10-70 A. In this Communication, we describe integration of PRE and DEER data with conventional solution-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods for structure determination of Dsy0195, a homodimer (62 amino acids per monomer) from Desulfitobacterium hafniense. Our results indicate that combination of conventional NMR restraints with only one or a few DEER distance constraints and a small number of PRE constraints is sufficient for the automatic NMR-based structure determination program CYANA to build a network of interchain nuclear Overhauser effect constraints that can be used to accurately define both the homodimer interface and the global homodimer structure. The use of DEER distances as a source of supplemental constraints as described here has virtually no upper molecular weight limit, and utilization of the PRE constraints is limited only by the ability to make accurate assignments of the protein amide proton and nitrogen chemical shifts.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 09/2010; 132(34):11910-3. · 11.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The single-stranded DNA constrained on graphene surface is effectively protected from enzymatic cleavage by DNase I. The anisotropy, fluorescence, NMR, and CD studies suggest that the single-stranded DNA is promptly adsorbed onto graphene forming strong molecular interactions. Furthermore, the constraint of DNA probe on graphene improves the specificity of its response to complementary DNA. These findings will promote the further application of graphene in biotechnology and biomedical fields.
    Small 06/2010; 6(11):1205-9. · 7.51 Impact Factor
  • Small 05/2010; 6(11). · 7.51 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

916 Citations
180.05 Total Impact Points


  • 2012
    • William Paterson University
      • Department of Chemistry
      Wayne, NJ, United States
  • 2010–2012
    • Miami University
      • Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
      Oxford, Ohio, United States
  • 2003–2011
    • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
      • Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
      New Brunswick, NJ, United States
  • 1999–2011
    • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
      • • Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate
      • • Biological Sciences Division
      • • Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
      Richland, WA, United States
  • 2008–2010
    • Washington State University
      Pullman, Washington, United States
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2002–2008
    • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2004
    • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
      New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States
  • 2002–2004
    • University of Toronto
      • Department of Medical Biophysics
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada