[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A key step in many chromatin-related processes is the recognition of histone post-translational modifications by effector modules such as bromodomains and chromo-like domains of the Royal family. Whereas effector-mediated recognition of single post-translational modifications is well characterized, how the cell achieves combinatorial readout of histones bearing multiple modifications is poorly understood. One mechanism involves multivalent binding by linked effector modules. For example, the tandem bromodomains of human TATA-binding protein-associated factor-1 (TAF1) bind better to a diacetylated histone H4 tail than to monoacetylated tails, a cooperative effect attributed to each bromodomain engaging one acetyl-lysine mark. Here we report a distinct mechanism of combinatorial readout for the mouse TAF1 homologue Brdt, a testis-specific member of the BET protein family. Brdt associates with hyperacetylated histone H4 (ref. 7) and is implicated in the marked chromatin remodelling that follows histone hyperacetylation during spermiogenesis, the stage of spermatogenesis in which post-meiotic germ cells mature into fully differentiated sperm. Notably, we find that a single bromodomain (BD1) of Brdt is responsible for selectively recognizing histone H4 tails bearing two or more acetylation marks. The crystal structure of BD1 bound to a diacetylated H4 tail shows how two acetyl-lysine residues cooperate to interact with one binding pocket. Structure-based mutagenesis that reduces the selectivity of BD1 towards diacetylated tails destabilizes the association of Brdt with acetylated chromatin in vivo. Structural analysis suggests that other chromatin-associated proteins may be capable of a similar mode of ligand recognition, including yeast Bdf1, human TAF1 and human CBP/p300 (also known as CREBBP and EP300, respectively). Our findings describe a new mechanism for the combinatorial readout of histone modifications in which a single effector module engages two marks on a histone tail as a composite binding epitope.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.
[show abstract][hide abstract] 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.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The trimeric influenza virus polymerase, comprising subunits PA, PB1 and PB2, is responsible for transcription and replication of the segmented viral RNA genome. Using a novel library-based screening technique called expression of soluble proteins by random incremental truncation (ESPRIT), we identified an independently folded C-terminal domain from PB2 and determined its solution structure by NMR. Using green fluorescent protein fusions, we show that both the domain and the full-length PB2 subunit are efficiently imported into the nucleus dependent on a previously overlooked bipartite nuclear localization sequence (NLS). The crystal structure of the domain complexed with human importin alpha5 shows how the last 20 residues unfold to permit binding to the import factor. The domain contains three surface residues implicated in adaptation from avian to mammalian hosts. One of these tethers the NLS-containing peptide to the core of the domain in the unbound state.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: High-throughput screening methodologies are already used in structural biology to define efficient protein crystallization and expression conditions. Recently, screening approaches have been extended to the optimization of genetic constructs for improved soluble protein expression. With similarities to the directed evolution strategies used in protein engineering, a target gene encoding a poorly expressed protein is mutated by truncation, fragmentation or point mutation. Rare clones with improved protein expression characteristics are then isolated from the random library using a phenotypic screen or selection. This article reviews the progress in this field and provides a general overview of relevant mutation methods, screens and selections.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protein microarrays have many potential applications in high-throughput analysis of protein function. However, simple, reproducible, and robust methods for array fabrication are required. Here we discuss the background to different routes to array fabrication and describe in detail one approach in which the purification and immobilization procedures are combined into a single step, dramatically simplifying the array fabrication process. We illustrate this approach by reference to the creation of an array of p53 variants, and discuss methods for assay and data analysis on such arrays.
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 02/2005; 310:197-216.