Darren J Hart

Unit of Virus Host Cell Interactions, Grenoble, Rhône-Alpes, France

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Publications (22)174.64 Total impact

  • [show abstract] [hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Mammalian Rif1 is a key regulator of DNA replication timing, double-stranded DNA break (DSB) repair and replication fork restart. Dissecting the molecular functions of Rif1 is essential in order to understand how it regulates such diverse processes. However, Rif1 is a large protein that lacks well-defined functional domains and is predicted to be largely intrinsically disordered; these features have hampered recombinant expression of Rif1 and subsequent functional characterization. Here we applied ESPRIT, an in vitro evolution-like approach to identify high yielding soluble fragments encompassing conserved regions I and II (CRI and CRII) at the C-terminal region of murine Rif1. NMR analysis showed CRI to be intrinsically disordered, while CRII is partially folded. CRII binds cruciform DNA with high selectivity and micromolar affinity and thus represents a functional DNA binding domain. Mutational analysis revealed an α-helical region of CRII to be important for cruciform DNA binding and identified critical residues. Thus, we present the first structural study of the mammalian Rif1, identifying a domain that directly links its function to DNA binding. The high specificity of Rif1 for cruciform structures is significant given the role of this key protein in regulating origin firing and DNA repair.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 03/2014; · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • Darren J Hart, Geoffrey S Waldo
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    ABSTRACT: Genetic engineering of constructs to improve solubility or stability is a common approach, but it is often unclear how to obtain improvements. When the domain composition of a target is poorly understood, or if there are insufficient structure data to guide sited directed mutagenesis, long iterative phases of subcloning or mutation and expression often prove unsuccessful despite much effort. Random library approaches can offer a solution to this problem and involve construction of large libraries of construct variants that are analysed via screens or selections for the desired phenotype. Huge improvements in construct behaviour can be achieved rapidly with no requirement for prior knowledge of the target. Here we review the development of these experimental strategies and recent successes.
    Current Opinion in Structural Biology 04/2013; · 8.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The first cell-penetrating peptide that activates protein phosphatase-1 (PP1) by disrupting a subset of PP1 complexes in living cells has been developed. Activated PP1 rapidly dephosphorylates its substrates, counteracting kinase activity inside cells. Activation of PP1 can thus be a novel approach to study PP1 function and to counteract Ser/Thr kinase activity under pathologically increased kinase signaling.
    Angewandte Chemie International Edition 09/2012; 51(40):10054-9. · 13.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The human genome encodes six isoforms of importin α that show greater than 60% sequence similarity and remarkable substrate specificity. The isoform importin α5 can bind phosphorylated cargos such as STAT1 and Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigen 1, as well as the influenza virus polymerase subunit PB2. In this work, we have studied the interaction of the nucleoporin Nup50 with importin α5. We show that the first 47 residues of Nup50 bind to the C terminus of importin α5 like a "clip," stabilizing the closed conformation of ARM 10. In vitro, Nup50 binds with high affinity either to empty importin α5 or to a preassembled complex of importin α5 bound to the C-terminal domain of the import cargo PB2, resulting in a trimeric complex. By contrast, PB2 can only bind with high affinity to importin α5 in the absence of Nup50. This suggests that Nup50 primary function may not be to actively displace the import cargo from importin α5 but rather to prevent cargo rebinding in preparation for recycling. This is the first evidence for a nucleoporin modulating the import reaction by directly altering the three-dimensional structure of an import adaptor.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2011; 287(3):2022-31. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sporulation in Bacillus subtilis begins with an asymmetric cell division producing two genetically identical cells with different fates. SpoIIE is a membrane protein that localizes to the polar cell division sites where it causes FtsZ to relocate from mid-cell to form polar Z-rings. Following polar septation, SpoIIE establishes compartment-specific gene expression in the smaller forespore cell by dephosphorylating the anti-sigma factor antagonist SpoIIAA, leading to the release of the RNA polymerase sigma factor σ(F) from an inhibitory complex with the anti-sigma factor SpoIIAB. SpoIIE therefore couples morphological development to differential gene expression. Here, we determined the crystal structure of the phosphatase domain of SpoIIE to 2.6 Å spacing, revealing a domain-swapped dimer. SEC-MALLS (size-exclusion chromatography with multi-angle laser light scattering) analysis however suggested a monomer as the principal form in solution. A model for the monomer was derived from the domain-swapped dimer in which 2 five-stranded β-sheets are packed against one another and flanked by α-helices in an αββα arrangement reminiscent of other PP2C-type phosphatases. A flap region that controls access of substrates to the active site in other PP2C phosphatases is diminished in SpoIIE, and this observation correlates with the presence of a single manganese ion in the active site of SpoIIE in contrast to the two or three metal ions present in other PP2C enzymes. Mapping of a catalogue of mutational data onto the structure shows a clustering of sites whose point mutation interferes with the proper coupling of asymmetric septum formation to sigma factor activation and identifies a surface involved in intramolecular signaling.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 11/2011; 415(2):343-58. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: When expression or crystallisation of a protein target in its wild-type full-length form proves problematic, a common strategy is to divide it into subconstructs comprising one or more domains. Rational construct design is not always successful, especially with targets for which there are few similar sequences to generate multiple sequence alignments. Even when this is possible, expression constructs may still fail to yield soluble protein, commonly expressing insolubly or at unusable yields. To address this, several new methods have been described that borrow concepts from the field of directed evolution whereby a random library is generated encompassing construct diversity; this is then screened to identify soluble constructs empirically. Here, we review progress in this area.
    Methods 06/2011; 55(1):38-43. · 3.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we present ORF-selector ESPRIT, a 9-fold enhanced version of our technology for screening incremental truncation libraries to identify soluble high yielding constructs of challenging proteins. Gene fragments are truncated at both termini to access internal domains and the resulting reading frame problem is addressed by an unbiased, intein-based open reading frame selection yielding only in-frame DNA inserts. This enriched library is then subcloned into a standard high-level expression plasmid where tens of thousands of constructs can be assayed in a two-step process using colony- and liquid-handling robots to isolate rare highly expressing clones useful for production of multi milligram quantities of purifiable proteins. The p85α protein was used to benchmark the system resulting in isolation of all known domains, either alone or in tandem. The human kinase IKK1 was then screened resulting in purification of a predicted internal domain. This strategy provides an integrated, facile route to produce soluble proteins from challenging and poorly understood target genes at quantities compatible with structural biology, screening applications and immunisation studies. The high genetic diversity that can be sampled opens the way to study more diverse systems including multisubunit complexes.
    Journal of Structural Biology 04/2011; 175(2):189-97. · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Structural and biophysical studies of protein complexes require multi-milligram quantities of soluble material. Subunits are often unstable when expressed separately so co-expression strategies are commonly employed since in vivo complex formation can provide stabilising effects. Defining constructs for subunit co-expression experiments is difficult if the proteins are poorly understood. Even more problematic is when subunit polypeptide chains co-fold since individually they do not have predictable domains. We have developed CoESPRIT, a modified version of the ESPRIT random library construct screen used previously on single proteins, to express soluble protein complexes. A random library of target constructs is screened against a fixed bait protein to identify stable complexes. In a proof-of-principle study, C-terminal fragments of the influenza polymerase PB2 subunit containing folded domains were isolated using importin alpha as bait. Separately, a C-terminal fragment of the PB1 subunit was used as bait to trap N-terminal fragments of PB2 resulting in co-folded complexes. Subsequent expression of the target protein without the bait indicates whether the target is independently stable, or co-folds with its partner. This highly automated method provides an efficient strategy for obtaining recombinant protein complexes at yields compatible with structural, biophysical and functional studies.
    PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(2):e16261. · 3.73 Impact Factor
  • Stephane Boivin, Darren J Hart
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    ABSTRACT: In the adaptation of avian viruses to mammalian hosts, mutations in the viral polymerase, notably in the PB2 subunit, play an important role. A PB2 C-terminal domain rich in putative host adaptation residues has been shown to bind importin α nuclear import receptors. Adaptation has been proposed to involve binding of PB2 to importins of the new host. To date PB2-importin complexes have been characterized semiquantitatively with no precise measurement of binding parameters. To investigate the effects of adaptive mutations on importin interaction and selectivity, surface plasmon resonance was used to compare the binding rate constants and affinities of avian H5N1 and human H3N2 PB2 C-terminal variants with importin isoforms human α 1, 3, 5 and 7, and avian α 1. Using purified proteins eliminates host environment effects and permits measurement of intrinsic affinities and rates of complex formation and dissociation. Two effects were observed: first, adaptive mutations D701N, R702K, and S714R in the nuclear localization signal domain increased 2-4-fold the association rates with avian and human importins; second, measurement of different structural forms of the PB2 C terminus demonstrated that the upstream 627 domain reduced binding affinity, consistent with a steric clash predicted from crystal structures. From these kinetic data, structural analyses, and the data of others, a model is proposed in which an increase in charged surface residues during host adaptation increases the association rate of PB2 to cytoplasmic importins and where the C-terminal 627-nuclear localization signal domain may reorganize upon importin binding, consistent with a role in active polymerase assembly.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/2011; 286(12):10439-48. · 4.65 Impact Factor
  • Antiviral Research - ANTIVIR RES. 01/2011; 90(2).
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    ABSTRACT: SpoIIE is a dual function protein that plays important roles during sporulation in Bacillus subtilis. It binds to the tubulin-like protein FtsZ causing the cell division septum to relocate from mid-cell to the cell pole, and it dephosphorylates SpoIIAA phosphate leading to establishment of differential gene expression in the two compartments following the asymmetric septation. Its 872 residue polypeptide contains a multiple-membrane spanning sequence at the N-terminus and a PP2C phosphatase domain at the C-terminus. The central segment that binds to FtsZ is unlike domains of known structure or function, moreover the domain boundaries are poorly defined and this has hampered the expression of soluble fragments of SpoIIE at the levels required for structural studies. Here we have screened over 9000 genetic constructs of spoIIE using a random incremental truncation library approach, ESPRIT, to identify a number of soluble C-terminal fragments of SpoIIE that were aligned with the protein sequence to map putative domains and domain boundaries. The expression and purification of three fragments were optimised, yielding multimilligram quantities of the PP2C phosphatase domain, the putative FtsZ-binding domain and a larger fragment encompassing both these domains. All three fragments are monomeric and the PP2C domain-containing fragments have phosphatase activity.
    Protein Engineering Design and Selection 11/2010; 23(11):817-25. · 2.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During viral replication, herpesviruses package their DNA into the procapsid by means of the terminase protein complex. In human cytomegalovirus (herpesvirus 5), the terminase is composed of subunits UL89 and UL56. UL89 cleaves the long DNA concatemers into unit-length genomes of appropriate length for encapsidation. We used ESPRIT, a high-throughput screening method, to identify a soluble purifiable fragment of UL89 from a library of 18,432 randomly truncated ul89 DNA constructs. The purified protein was crystallized and its three-dimensional structure was solved. This protein corresponds to the key nuclease domain of the terminase and shows an RNase H/integrase-like fold. We demonstrate that UL89-C has the capacity to process the DNA and that this function is dependent on Mn(2+) ions, two of which are located at the active site pocket. We also show that the nuclease function can be inactivated by raltegravir, a recently approved anti-AIDS drug that targets the HIV integrase.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2010; 107(37):16078-83. · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The heterotrimeric RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of influenza viruses catalyzes RNA replication and transcription activities in infected cell nuclei. The nucleotide polymerization activity is common to both replication and transcription processes, with an additional cap-snatching function being employed during transcription to steal short 5'-capped RNA primers from host mRNAs. Cap-binding, endonuclease, and polymerase activities have long been studied biochemically, but structural studies on the polymerase and its subunits have been hindered by difficulties in producing sufficient quantities of material. Recently, because of heightened effort and advances in expression and crystallization technologies, a series of high resolution structures of individual domains have been determined. These shed light on intrinsic activities of the polymerase, including cap snatching, subunit association, and nucleocytoplasmic transport, and open up the possibility of structure-guided development of new polymerase inhibitors. Furthermore, the activity of influenza polymerase is highly host- and cell type-specific, being dependent on the identity of a few key amino acid positions in the different subunits, especially in the C-terminal region of PB2. New structures demonstrate the surface exposure of these residues, consistent with ideas that they might modulate interactions with host-specific factors that enhance or restrict activity. Recent proteomic and genome-wide interactome and RNA interference screens have suggested the identities of some of these potential regulators of polymerase function.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 09/2010; 285(37):28411-7. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Expression of sufficient quantities of soluble protein for structural biology and other applications is often a very difficult task, especially when multimilligram quantities are required. In order to improve yield, solubility or crystallisability of a protein, it is common to subclone shorter genetic constructs corresponding to single- or multi-domain fragments. However, it is not always clear where domain boundaries are located, especially when working on novel targets with little or no sequence similarity to other proteins. Several methods have been described employing aspects of directed evolution to the recombinant expression of challenging proteins. These combine the construction of a random library of genetic constructs of a target with a screening or selection process to identify solubly expressing protein fragments. Here we review several datasets from the ESPRIT (Expression of Soluble Proteins by Random Incremental Truncation) technology to provide a view on its capabilities. Firstly, we demonstrate how it functions using the well-characterised NF-kappaB p50 transcription factor as a model system. Secondly, application of ESPRIT to the challenging PB2 subunit of influenza polymerase has led to several novel atomic resolution structures; here we present an overview of the screening phase of that project. Thirdly, analysis of the human kinase TBK1 is presented to show how the ESPRIT technology rapidly addresses the compatibility of challenging targets with the Escherichia coli expression system.
    Journal of Structural Biology 03/2010; 172(1):66-74. · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The influenza polymerase transcribes and replicates the viral RNA genome within the context of a ribonucleoprotein complex that has been hitherto remarkably intractable to structural analysis. In the last two years, crystal structures of independent domains covering roughly half of the heterotrimeric polymerase have been determined. These include the cap-binding and endonuclease domains, critical for the unique cap-snatching mechanism of mRNA transcription, and the major inter-subunit interfaces. In addition, a cryo-electron microscopy structure of the entire ribonucleoprotein complex has been determined opening the way to the construction of a quasi-atomic model of the influenza replication machinery. These results provide the first detailed structure-function insights into polymerase assembly, transcription and host adaptation and will have an impact on anti-influenza drug design.
    Current Opinion in Structural Biology 02/2010; 20(1):104-13. · 8.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDACs) leads to growth arrest, differentiation, or apoptosis of tumor cell lines, suggesting HDACs as promising targets for cancer therapy. At present, only one HDAC inhibitor (HDACi) is used in therapy: suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA). Here, we describe the synthesis and biological evaluation of a new series of compounds derived from SAHA by substituting short alkyl chains at various positions of the phenyl ring. Such modifications induced variable effects ranging from partial loss of activity to increased potency. Through molecular modeling, we describe a possible interaction between HDAC7 proline 809, a residue that is strictly conserved within class 2 enzymes only, and the amide group of HDACi, while nuclear magnetic resonance experiments indicated that dimethyl m-substitution may stabilize the inhibitor in the active site. Our data provide novel information on the structure-activity relationship of HDACi and suggest new ways for developing second generation SAHA-like molecules.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 02/2010; 53(5):1937-50. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Highly pathogenic strains of Helicobacter pylori use a type IV secretion system to inject the CagA protein into human gastric cells. There, CagA associates with the inner side of the membrane and is tyrosine-phosphorylated at EPIYA motifs by host kinases. The phosphorylation triggers a series of interactions between CagA and human proteins that result in a dramatic change of cellular morphology. Structural and functional analyses of the protein have proved difficult, due to the proteolytically sensitive nature of the recombinant protein. To circumvent these difficulties, we applied ESPRIT, a library-based construct screening method, to generate a comprehensive set of 5'-randomly deleted gene fragments. Screening of 18 432 constructs for soluble expression resulted in a panel of 40 clones, which were further investigated by large-scale purification. Two constructs of approximately 25 and 33 kDa were particularly soluble and were purified to near homogeneity. CagA fragments larger than 40 kDa were prone to heavy proteolysis at the C-terminus, with a favoured cleavage site near the first EPIYA motif. Thus, these well-expressed recombinant constructs isolated are likely to be similar to those observed following natural proteolysis in human cells, and open the way for structural and functional studies requiring large amounts of purified material.
    FEBS Journal 03/2009; 276(3):816-24. · 4.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The influenza virus polymerase, a heterotrimer composed of three subunits, PA, PB1 and PB2, is responsible for replication and transcription of the eight separate segments of the viral RNA genome in the nuclei of infected cells. The polymerase synthesizes viral messenger RNAs using short capped primers derived from cellular transcripts by a unique 'cap-snatching' mechanism. The PB2 subunit binds the 5' cap of host pre-mRNAs, which are subsequently cleaved after 10-13 nucleotides by the viral endonuclease, hitherto thought to reside in the PB2 (ref. 5) or PB1 (ref. 2) subunits. Here we describe biochemical and structural studies showing that the amino-terminal 209 residues of the PA subunit contain the endonuclease active site. We show that this domain has intrinsic RNA and DNA endonuclease activity that is strongly activated by manganese ions, matching observations reported for the endonuclease activity of the intact trimeric polymerase. Furthermore, this activity is inhibited by 2,4-dioxo-4-phenylbutanoic acid, a known inhibitor of the influenza endonuclease. The crystal structure of the domain reveals a structural core closely resembling resolvases and type II restriction endonucleases. The active site comprises a histidine and a cluster of three acidic residues, conserved in all influenza viruses, which bind two manganese ions in a configuration similar to other two-metal-dependent endonucleases. Two active site residues have previously been shown to specifically eliminate the polymerase endonuclease activity when mutated. These results will facilitate the optimisation of endonuclease inhibitors as potential new anti-influenza drugs.
    Nature 03/2009; 458(7240):914-8. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding how avian influenza viruses adapt to human hosts is critical for the monitoring and prevention of future pandemics. Host specificity is determined by multiple sites in different viral proteins, and mutation of only a limited number of these sites can lead to inter-species transmission. Several of these sites have been identified in the viral polymerase, the best characterised being position 627 in the PB2 subunit. Efficient viral replication at the relatively low temperature of the human respiratory tract requires lysine 627 rather than the glutamic acid variant found systematically in avian viruses. However, the molecular mechanism by which any of these host specific sites determine host range are unknown, although adaptation to host factors is frequently evoked. We used ESPRIT, a library screening method, to identify a new PB2 domain that contains a high density of putative host specific sites, including residue 627. The X-ray structure of this domain (denoted the 627-domain) exhibits a novel fold with the side-chain of Lys627 solvent exposed. The structure of the K627E mutated domain shows no structural differences but the charge reversal disrupts a striking basic patch on the domain surface. Five other recently proposed host determining sites of PB2 are also located on the 627-domain surface. The structure of the complete C-terminal region of PB2 comprising the 627-domain and the previously identified NLS-domain, which binds the host nuclear import factor importin alpha, was also determined. The two domains are found to pack together with a largely hydrophilic interface. These data enable a three-dimensional mapping of approximately half of PB2 sites implicated in cross-species transfer onto a single structural unit. Their surface location is consistent with roles in interactions with other viral proteins or host factors. The identification and structural characterization of these well-defined PB2 domains will help design experiments to elucidate the effects of mutations on polymerase-host factor interactions.
    PLoS Pathogens 09/2008; 4(8):e1000136. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Influenza virus mRNAs are synthesized by the trimeric viral polymerase using short capped primers obtained by a 'cap-snatching' mechanism. The polymerase PB2 subunit binds the 5' cap of host pre-mRNAs, which are cleaved after 10-13 nucleotides by the PB1 subunit. Using a library-screening method, we identified an independently folded domain of PB2 that has specific cap binding activity. The X-ray structure of the domain with bound cap analog m(7)GTP at 2.3-A resolution reveals a previously unknown fold and a mode of ligand binding that is similar to, but distinct from, other cap binding proteins. Binding and functional studies with point mutants confirm that the identified site is essential for cap binding in vitro and cap-dependent transcription in vivo by the trimeric polymerase complex. These findings clarify the nature of the cap binding site in PB2 and will allow efficient structure-based design of new anti-influenza compounds inhibiting viral transcription.
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 06/2008; 15(5):500-6. · 11.90 Impact Factor